CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Manny Diaz is rebranding Miami in 2019.
The first-year head coach and former defensive coordinator spoke Thursday about his blueprint for restoring the Hurricanes to prominence this season.
"We have to stop being known for having a team with a bunch of talented guys," Diaz told reporters during the Atlantic Coast Conference football kickoff in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Just sitting around talking about how talented we are doesn't win us any games. We've got to get back to being a bunch of hard-working guys. This is not my opinion. This is how Miami won in the past. This is what all the greats that, to me, own this program and our former players have told us repeatedly."
Diaz takes over for the recently retired Mark Richt, whose team slumped to 7-6 a year ago after a 10-win season in 2017.
After a brief 17-day stint with Temple before Richt's surprise retirement, Diaz returned to Miami, ready to reinvent the team he grew up watching.
"It's got to be a conscious choice," Diaz said of the process.
Unlike some programs with social media restrictions, Diaz is embracing Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as a recruiting tool.
"It's free access to our fan base. Free access to recruits. It is something where you get to set the message, right?" Diaz said. "Let's be very honest, the message at Miami was we had a bad December at Miami. We really did. We didn't finish our season off. We played very poorly in our bowl game. Recruiting was probably not going the way that we wanted it. So what do you want to do as a leader? What do you want to do as a staff? We have to reset. The one thing you can do now in this day and age, you can determine the temperature in the room, reset the weather. The easiest way to do that is through social media."
That said, Diaz knows there is more to building a program than just winning the hashtag war.
"As much fun as we've had on social media, that has helped alleviate some of the clouds that were on top of our program, what has been happening on the inside is real," Diaz said. "That's been what these guys have been doing with David Feeley, our strength and conditioning coach, while no one has been watching. There's no hashtag for what is going on on that field, in that weight room. I promise you, that will have a lot more to do with our success than the fun we're having on Twitter. But we'll still have fun on Twitter."
When Miami opens its season Aug. 24 against Florida in Orlando, Diaz will see a familiar face on the opposing sideline.
Diaz will face off against Dan Mullen, entering his second season as head coach of the Gators.
Mullen and Diaz twice worked together, when Diaz was Mullen's defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs in 2010 and 2015. Diaz sandwiched his time in Starkville between stints at Texas and Louisiana Tech.
"When Dan called, had the opportunity to bring me to Mississippi State the first time, I think we found we had a lot in common," Diaz said. "We think about the game in very similar ways. I think Mississippi State, in the whole history, they've won nine games, maybe six times, maybe seven. It could be seven. Two of the six or seven were the two years we were together at State. I think we worked together pretty well."
Mullen led the Gators to 10 wins last season, but the Hurricanes won the last time the former annual rivals played in 2013.
Success begins with trio of starting linebackers
Diaz said one strength of his team headed into this season is at linebacker.
The Hurricanes return all three starters -- Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud.
"Obviously, bringing back the oddity of having three starting linebackers who have started every game since their freshman year," Diaz said. "The ability to have that, those are the decision makers in the defense, the guys that have to make all the calls. They've seen it all in college football. They're not going to be tricked."
Diaz heaped particular praise upon Quarterman.
"As good of a player as Shaq is, he's going to be a great player this year because he's going to make the guys around him better," Diaz said.
Quarterman had a career-best 14 tackles for loss and finished with six sacks in 2018.
"First and foremost, it's awesome for us to be able to start together," the senior said of his classmates. "It rarely happens, you know. Especially for us to grow as close as we have from day one, being thrown in that fire with the trust of my coach over there. It's just been really great."
Quarterman said knowing that every play counts is the greatest takeaway from his time at Miami.
"Freshman year, I didn't know much about the innings and outings of football," he said. "I knew I could play hard. Before you have all the means to know about all the coverages, what the offense is trying to do to you, you knew how to play hard. From that year, that's what I learned. I'm going to play hard regardless, give all my effort."