Q&A with new Miami D-Coordinator (Part 1)

Mark D'Onofrio is Miami's new defensive coordinator and he talked about a number of things on Monday. Read on to see what he's saying.

On the expectations here:
This is who we have been. We are used to, at that time, we wanted to win a national championship, that's why you went to Penn State. There was no big ten, that was it. You were an independent and that was it. If you didn't win the national championship, then it was a tough season. That's what you wanted. I think we always seen ourselves this way, obviously, having ACC experience and being at Virginia certainly helped prior to going to Temple. The opportunity that we had at Temple, we felt was unique when no one else thought that it was unique. I had a chance to stay at Virginia as the defensive coordinator and I chose to go to Temple. A lot of people thought that I was crazy at that time. It was the 120th ranked defense out of 120. The same opportunity here. I had the chance to be the head coach at Temple, and I chose to be the defensive coordinator here. I never try to worry about the popular decision or whatever thought was the good move. I think that this is great and I am thrilled to be here. This is the type of place we expected it to be.

On blitzing:
I don't think you can ever blitz as much as you guys want. With everybody, why don't you blitz, why don't you blitz. I think that certainly a lot of it depends on personal. First and foremost. First you have to have the guys that can cover and you have to have the guys that can get them on the ground and have something pop up when you are aggressive. We mix it up. We put pressure, we'll mix up coverages, we played a lot of zone coverage, we played a lot of man coverage. Having the flexibility to get in and out of an odd front, we'll drop eight at a time so we can have max pressure, or we'll drop seven. I think you just have to mix it up, and I think you have to find spots where it's the right thing to do. I don't think that you can be blitz happy. One of the things that we pride ourselves on, is at the end of the day, scoring defense is the number one statistic and at the end of the day, you don't want to give up points. Whatever you do to get points down, at the end of the day, and not give up big plays or do those kinds of things, then that is the way you have to play. Obviously personal will dictate that.

On the personnel here:
I think right now as I look at the personal, I am excited about the guys that we have coming back. I think what we need to do is build depth. Depth that Miami should have. I think right now on defense, we don't have the stats that the University of Miami should have right now. I think that is going to be critical in this recruiting class and the next one going forward. We are going full speed ahead, and I think we have to get the depth and we have to continue to get the type of players that we want here to help us win an ACC championship. When we went to Temple in 2006, we had 53 scholarship players. It's all about player development. Who we have here, we will coach, and coach them to be better and the best they can be. I am proud of that. I think we will get our guys to play hard. I think they will play disciplined and I think they will tackle well. That will be a core of who we will be. Put them in the right position to make plays.

On the recruiting being different than at Temple:
It is. Wherever you are at you have to find your niche. At Temple our niche was a little bit different. We had to find more diamonds in the rough. We weren't competing with Miami and Penn State and the likes of those types of people, for recruits. At the same time, that was one thing that I was really proud of . I thought we had, starting out, our staff did a good job of evaluating players and developing players. I was going through a list the other day of the 2008-2009 season, on our defense at Temple. There are six players in the NFL, and there are probably going to be another 3 from the 2010 season that get drafted. That is a pretty good record, for kids that, I don't know if you pay attention at stars. If you look back, none of those guys were higher than 2 stars, and there are going to be 9 or 10 of them in a 3 year period that are going to be playing in the NFL. To me, that is all about player development. It is about finding the right guys that love the game, who want to learn, who want to work. Teach them the fundamentals, teach them how to get off blocks, how to tackle, learn how to prepare, learn situational football, all of those things. I am confident, now, being able to step up and recruit at a higher level, we will actually pull. From a top 25 defense here, and try to move higher. We went form 120th at Temple, and we got in the top 25 in 12 categories this year. That was something we are proud of. Obviously the stakes are higher now. I am anxious for The U.

On impressions so far at The U:
Well, I know that any transition is hard. And obviously this was a hard transition here. Any time that coaches are going out, and players that are staying on, that is a tough situation. I haven't been in that one, but I can imagine it being tough. I think the things that stood out to me are really at the core of who we want to be defensively. I think if you had a pyramid of what our goals would be on defense, on the very core is that we are going to play really really hard. We are going to finish. We are going to be physical, we are going to knock back piles, all eleven guys better be in the frame when we freeze it. That is where it starts, that has nothing to do with talent, that has nothing to do with talent. We want to play harder than they played the other day. I think we want to be disciplined. We can't have penalties. Obviously a lot of penalties in that game that led to touchdowns. We have to eliminate that. We have to tackle well. Tackle better than they did in that game. Those are things that you can talk about. Those can be your philosophy, but if you don't have plan to execute those, you are really not going to be able to get it done. Those are things we work on everyday, those are things we teach, those are things that Al makes a big emphasis on, as far as penalties are concerned. We tackle everyday. We are going to tackle every single day. At the end of the day, you can't play defense unless you tackle well. I think a lot of people get caught up in schemes, and all those other things, but at that core, they have to be fundamentally sound. That is where we are going to start. We are going to start with that foundation. Clean that up, because what I saw the other day, needs to be cleaned up. Based on how the season ended, and then get into the execution phases of stopping the run and third down defense, and redzone, and all of those things that we feel like we do a good job of teaching.


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