The Hurricanes brought in new Head Coach Mark Richt to revitalize a program that has not had a 10-win season since 2003. A little more than a month into the job, Richt has already expunged all remnants of the previous regime. Not a single assistant coach from the Al Golden era remains on the team. The new staff assembled by Richt includes coaches who worked with him at the University of Georgia, a member of the famed Hurricanes 2001 national championship team and one of the top-position coaches in all of college football. Here’s a look at the new group of coaches tabbed by Richt.
Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach: Taking over the defense is Miami native Manny Diaz, replacing Mark D’Onofrio. Per the Palm Beach Post, Diaz will also replace Hurlie Brown as linebackers coach. Diaz brings with him 18 years of coaching experience and an aggressive 4-3 defense to the Canes. An attacking 4-3 scheme with four down linemen and three linebackers was a hallmark of the great Hurricanes teams of the 1980s and early 2000s. Diaz last spent the 2015 season at Mississippi State, where his group held opponents to 23.2 points per game, five points better than Miami this year.
“I’m not concerned about being tricky and all that kind of stuff,” Diaz said in a radio interview on WQAM on Tuesday. “We’ve got to stop the run at a much higher level … and just see who can be responsible for holding the point and attacking the line of scrimmage and make teams have to beat us left-handed.” This style is a total reverse of the defense run by D’Onofrio, which was a more reaction-based system. Stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback are the top priorities of this defense, so it’s paramount to have the defensive linemen capable of implementing the scheme.
Defensive Line Coach: That won’t be a problem with Craig Kuligowski replacing Randy Melvin. Coach “Kool” is arguably the top defensive line coach in the country and has the accolades to prove it. While at the University of Missouri for the last 15 seasons, Kuligowski coached 24 players to all-conference honors, 10 of them since 2010. He’s produced four first-round picks since 2009. The winners of the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013 and 2014? Both coached by Kuligowski. Miami has struggled recently on the defensive line despite possessing highly talented players. That shouldn’t be the case anymore with Kuligowski at the helm.
Safeties Coach: Ephraim Banda is in charge of Miami’s safeties. Banda spent the 2015 season as a defensive assistant under Diaz at Mississippi State. In 2015, the Bulldogs led the country in fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards allowed with just 24 for the season.
Cornerbacks Coach: Former Hurricane and member of the 2001 national championship team Mike Rumph will handle the team’s cornerbacks. Rumph spent the last three seasons coaching at Broward County powerhouse American Heritage High School in Plantation. Heritage won the state championship in 2013 and 2014, becoming the second school in Broward County history to win back-to-back titles. Coming in as one of the top local high school coaches, Rumph will further help Richt recruit the South Florida area. Rumph and Banda replace Paul Williams, who oversaw all defensive backs for Miami last season.
Co-offensive Coordinator and Running Backs Coach: Richt brought in Thomas Brown, who spent the 2015 season coaching running backs at Georgia, to oversee Miami’s running game. Brown replaces Tim “Ice” Harris, a local high school coaching legend, who spent the last two seasons at UM. Under Brown last season, sophomore Sony Michel, who played for Rumph at Heritage, became the 13th Bulldog to rush for more than 1,000 yards with 1,076 yards on the ground. In 2014, Brown coached Heisman Trophy runner-up Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin. Gordon ran for the second-most yards in the history of college football that season, finishing with 2,587 rushing yards and 32 total touchdowns. Richt will call the plays on offense, but Brown is his No. 2 on that side of the ball.
Quarterbacks Coach: Jon Richt, Mark Richt’s son, will serve as quarterbacks coach, according to the Palm Beach Post. Former offensive coordinator James Coley handled the quarterbacks last season. Jon Richt spent the 2015 season as an offensive assistant with the Buffalo Bills after spending a year as a quality control assistant at Georgia. Although Jon is the quarterbacks coach, Mark has stated since leaving Georgia that he wants to be more hands-on with his quarterbacks.
Wide Receivers Coach and Passing Game Coordinator: Florida native Ron Dugans will be in charge of wide receivers under Richt. Dugans takes over for former Cane Kevin Beard, a teammate of Rumph’s on the 2001 national championship squad. Dugans has 11 years of coaching experience, most recently spending the past two seasons at the University of South Florida. In 2014, wide receiver Andre Davis scored a then-school record seven touchdown catches for the Bulls. Prior to overseeing receivers at USF, Dugans spent three years as an assistant at Louisville, where he coached receiver DeVante Parker, the most recent first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins.
Offensive Line Coach: Stacy Searels replaces a legendary Cane, Art Kehoe, as offensive line coach. Searels previously coached offensive lines at Virginia Tech, Texas, Georgia and Louisiana State University. The former All-America offensive lineman at Auburn spent the 2007-10 seasons with Richt at Georgia.
Tight Ends Coach and Special Teams Coordinator: Another carryover from Georgia, Todd Hartley takes control of tight ends and special teams, the two groups previously handled by Larry Scott and Golden, respectively. Hartley previously served as the director of player personnel at Georgia. Before going to Georgia, Hartley served as safeties coach, tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator between the 2011 and 2013 seasons at Marshall University.
Featured image courtesy Kelly Price