Wednesday Q&A with Manny Diaz

Read on to see what defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is saying a few days before the team's final regular season game against Duke.

On the senior defensive backs

“We changed, in essence, the culture of the secondary, where we wanted to be defined by our toughness and our tackling. And the way that all of those guys have embraced that has really been as important as anything in the development of our defense because the plays that they’ve made that will be the hardest to replace aren’t the spectacular plays. Sometimes, it’s the unnoticed eight-yard gain, where you don’t do something right up front, the running back pops out of there and ‘wham,’ here comes the safety, gets the guy on the ground and it’s second down and two. In a game like that, it’s a throwaway; no one even pays attention to that. There are a lot of plays like that in college football, that they become touchdowns. [Miami running back] Mark Walton had two long touchdowns running through safeties last weekend [in the win at NC State]. You could argue that safety tackling was the difference in the game between the two teams. So, they’ve understood that if you have a good tackling secondary, it’s hard to score points against you, and we have not given up many points this year. And I think the secondary has a lot to say in that.”


On if he ever had any doubts in the spring about the team being good

“It’s not about doubts, but you just don’t know. You really don’t know what you have until you get into the games. You don’t know what you have and you really don’t know what the league has. Because sometimes you’re like, ‘I have a suspicion how good we are, but I really don’t know how good we will be in relation to the field that we have to play against.’ So, if anybody said they had an idea how good we’d be, they’d be lying. You’ve just got to get in the games and mix it up and find out. Certainly with three freshman linebackers, you had no idea what those guys would do.”


On his thoughts on the ACC

“I think it’s a very balanced league. I think it’s a league where everybody can beat everybody on any given day, and you see that. You see scores. The opponent that we’re going to play this week beat two teams that we haven’t beaten and played to within a score of Louisville. So, you see teams a lot of times that play their best games against the best competition. I think it’s a league that’s won by the team that’s consistently good. And I think that’s one of our challenges, to try to be the same team every week and not have ups and downs. Because if you play poorly in this league, you’ll be defeated by whomever you’re playing against.”


On if the defense is one or two recruiting classes away from having the depth he wants

“It’s probably two, realistically. Because when you’re still not able to redshirt and get those guys in your weight room—you’ve just got to think, when you’re talking about freshmen and sophomores, it’s not just the experience that they lack, it’s when you’re playing against older players. How many more times has that older player been on a squat rack since they’ve been in college? How many more times have they been through a walk-through? How many more times have they been through an offseason program? Realistically, we had no choice, though. No one has sympathy for us. So, we have to find a way to get a signing class now of guys that are ready to contribute early and then stack the ’18 class on top of that again with guys that want to come in here and hit the ground running.”

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