As the temperatures begin to climb in Coral Gables, new Miami coach Manny Diaz is urging his football players to push themselves through offseason workouts that will make them stronger than last season and more competitive in the ACC.
Miami opened last season as a preseason top-10 team following a 10-win 2017 campaign that included the program's first ACC division crown and first appearance in the conference-championship game.
But the 2018 Hurricanes stumbled to a 7-6 record and then saw head coach Mark Richt surprisingly announce his retirement early in the offseason.
The Orlando Sentinel caught up with Diaz at the ACC spring meetings. Here are highlights of his remarks:
– Orlando Sentinel: What do you need to see out of your team this offseason?
– Manny Diaz: "This is going to be certainly the most important summer in the last four years at Miami. We've got to develop a backbone as a team. I don't know, for whatever reason, we didn't always play with a backbone last year. I know every coach would say this type of thing, but (we've got to build up) our resilience and our ability to never quit and never surrender. ... We've got to callous ourselves up and make us a lot harder to beat than we were in the past.
"And the way that's done and the way you create the bond, the glue and the toughness of your team, is in the summer when no one's watching.
"The running out in the heat and lifting and going through all those types of things, a lot of things that players have to take on their own. The throwing and catching that they can do when we're not there. The guys on offense need to take ownership of the new scheme. I think all three quarterbacks showed in the spring that they can play at a high level. Now which one is going to be the guy so the team can sort of follow behind those guys ... It's got to happen fast because with us playing Florida, we report a week earlier. Everyone is well aware of how urgent this summer is for us."
– OS: When do you start thinking about Florida?
– Diaz: "It works both ways. Certainly you're always thinking about them because it's an important game at the University of Miami, but the most important thing we need to think about is Miami. We need to get Miami as good as we can get it. Which I don't know how good that is now, but I know what we were was not playing up to our full capabilities. We're trying to get this thing maximized to a point where we're at least somewhat meeting our potential. We're going to think a lot more about Miami this summer than Florida or anybody else."
– OS: You had a competitive quarterback battle this spring. Is that something that's going to continue throughout the summer and into fall camp?
– Diaz: "I think there's no doubt. I think this summer, someone will make a move and then the locker room will have an idea but I would guess that in the first two weeks that we return for training camp that we'll probably have an idea as to who the guy is and go from there.
"Again, we felt like on Jan. 1, we did not have a guy on campus that was the guy and now we think that we might have three on campus that might be the guy, so we went from having a bad problem to a good problem. But someone still has to step up and take the job."