Diaz makes additional coaching changes, finalizes 2021 staff

Head Coach Manny Diaz smiles after Miami's win over Virginia at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL on Oct. 11, 2019.
Head Coach Manny Diaz smiles after Miami's win over Virginia at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL on Oct. 11, 2019. Photo credit: Josh Halper

Head coach Manny Diaz’s staff changes have been finalized as the Hurricanes move full steam ahead into 2021.

“We are excited to announce these staff hires as we work to improve all facets of our program on and off the field,” Diaz said in an official statement.

Defensive coordinator Blake Baker—who’s job security had been seen as shaky according to multiple sources after the 2020 season—will return in ‘21, but with a catch. Diaz will take over play calling duties from Baker, who will keep the title of defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach.

UM’s defensive rankings have slipped each year with Baker at the unit’s helm. Miami was ranked 2nd nationally in fewest yards per game allowed in the 2018 regular season, when Diaz was most recently defensive coordinator. Baker’s first season as coordinator saw the Canes slot 13th in the same category, while 2020 saw the program finish 65th .

“Blake will continue to run our defense and I will call the defensive plays on game days, which we feel is our best path to maximizing our strengths on that side of the ball,” said Diaz.

Jess Simpson, who was part of the stern ‘18 defense as defensive line coach, returns to the program in the same capacity. In 2019 and 2020, he filled the same role with the Atlanta Falcons. Simpson’s lone previous year with the Hurricanes saw defensive tackle Gerald Willis earn All-American honors after making 18 tackles for loss.

“[Simpson] is a proven defensive line coach at all levels who had great success with our defensive line in 2018 and we are thrilled to have him back at UM,” said Diaz.

DeMarcus Van Dyke will also join the coaching staff, serving as cornerbacks coach. Van Dyke—a former player at UM from 2007-10—is elevated into an on-field assistant after spending the past two years as assistant director of recruiting.

“[Van Dyke] is eager to take the next step in his coaching career and work in tandem with [defensive backs coach] Travaris [Robinson] with our defensive backs,” said Diaz.

Two former defensive assistants will move to off-field roles this offseason. Former cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph, himself a standout player on UM’s 2001 national championship team, will work in the program’s recruiting department. And former defensive line coach Todd Stroud will serve as UM’s senior football advisor, stepping away from his previous position to focus on his health.

“We also think it’s a tremendous asset to have Todd and Mike continue to work closely with our program. Overall, this is a staff that firmly believes in our vision and culture for Miami Football and we can’t wait to hit the ground running with our offseason program,” said Diaz.

Simpson and Van Dyke join incumbent assistants Baker and Jonathan Patke (special teams coordinator/outside linebackers) on the defensive staff for 2021, alongside Travaris Robinson, newly hired as defensive backs coach after serving as defensive coordinator at South Carolina for five seasons.

The offensive staff—led by offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee—remains unchanged this offseason. The Canes’ offense jumped from being ranked 98th in total yards per game in 2019 to 32nd in 2020 under Lashlee and quarterback D’Eriq King, who is also returning in 2021.

Miami opens the ‘21 season against defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 4 in Atlanta. Other non-conference foes include Appalachian State, Michigan State and Central Connecticut State. The Hurricanes are then scheduled to return to a regular eight-game Atlantic Coast Conference slate, alongside the remainder of the league’s teams.