Of all the coaching position changes that Miami head coach Manny Diaz made this offseason, perhaps the most important was his own.
In speaking with the media on Wednesday, Diaz confirmed what many had speculated when no defensive coordinator hire was announced after former DC Blake Baker left the program to become the linebackers coach at LSU.
“I’m going to be the defensive coordinator,” Diaz said. “And what I’ve done as defensive coordinator is what I’m going to do.”
Diaz plans to “go all in” with the defense and feels he will be able to do this because of his coaches and the maturity and understanding of his players.
“We’ve got a very experienced football team, we’ve got a team that knows me very well, so there’s not a concern of an offense-defense divide that all of a sudden you’re only the head coach for those guys on one side of the ball, which I think would have been the case if I’d have done this from the jump,” Diaz said. “With a guy like Rhett Lashlee, who certainly has done a great job with our offense, not just schematically, but handling that side of the ball and leading them. Our offensive leadership with D’Eriq [King], so many of the players that have come back, they understand. We just have a team that understands.”
Diaz said he will also heavily rely on the help of Todd Stroud, who will be handling administrative things. Stroud formerly served as an assistant head coach/defensive line coach for the Hurricanes from 2018-2020, but was moved to senior football advisor at the end of the 2020 season.
Although Wednesday was National Signing Day, all 21 members of the class of 2021 signed during the early signing period in December, so Diaz used Wednesday to introduce the new members of his defensive staff.
Travaris Robinson, a recruiting legend and Miami native, was hired as defensive backs coach. Commonly referred to as “T-Rob,” the 15-year college coach spent the past five seasons as the defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach at South Carolina. Robinson attended Coral Park High and was an all-SEC defensive back at Auburn from 2007-2010.
“I feel the tradition here,” Robinson said. “I felt like it was something I could really come in and help build upon. I think he’s doing it with the right people and bringing in the right kids.”
Jess Simpson was hired as assistant head coach/defensive line coach. Simpson served in the same role in the 2018 season for the Hurricanes and then left college football for the NFL, where he spent two seasons as the defensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons.
“Coming back here was an easy decision,” Simpson said. “Having a chance to go where somebody really wants you and having a chance to come back to a place where I was familiar with the scheme, with the people and with the place, when that was thrown out there, that wasn’t a hard decision for me and my family.”
Also hired to the defensive staff was Travis Williams, who will join the staff as the inside linebackers coach. Williams spent the last five seasons as the linebackers coach at his alma mater, Auburn, where he earned all-SEC honors in 2003 and 2004 as a linebacker.
“I’m blessed to be here,” Williams said. “I’m at ‘The U’. Growing up, understanding what this place is about, I’m blessed to be here. I’m excited. I’m so fired up to be here.”
Bob Shoop, a 32-year college coaching veteran, was hired as the defensive quality control coach. Shoop formerly was the head coach at Columbia University and most recently coached safeties at Michigan. He has served as the defensive coordinator at three Power Five programs.
“We found out very early on that philosophically we are aligned the same way,” Diaz said. “Bob is going to help us by, through his experience, being able to look at us through the 30,000 foot view-point. Another set of eyes. Bob will be able to work a week ahead of us.”
Rounding out the new additions to the defensive staff is cornerbacks coach DeMarcus Van Dyke. A 2010 UM graduate and third round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, Van Dyke spent the 2018 season as a defensive quality control analyst for the Hurricanes and an assistant director of recruiting in 2019.
“This is a dream come true. It’s exciting to be a part of this program,” Van Dyke said. “I think I can bring a lot to the table…my knowledge of the game, I played and my relationship with the kids, recruiting.”