CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Miami football team has a new head coach, but the Hurricanes still have their sights set on winning a Coastal Division crown this year.
Manny Diaz, who served as Miami’s defensive coordinator the past three seasons, has taken over for former boss Mark Richt.
“I believe in him,” Miami senior linebacker Shaquille Quarterman said Thursday at ACC football media days at a Charlotte hotel. “If I didn’t believe we could go further than we did this year, I wouldn’t have [come] back.
“That man is not rebuilding at all. He’s fueling. He’s fueling the program.”
Diaz is one of three new head coaches in the seven-team Coastal, along with North Carolina’s Mack Brown and Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins.
“If we get our team competing to the standard of the Miami Hurricanes, we should be in the mix to go to [the ACC title game in] Charlotte every year, starting this year,” Diaz said. “We’re not saying, ‘Well, if we do this, in three years, we’ll have a chance.’ If I went in the locker room right now and said, ‘I’m not sure that we can make it to Charlotte this year,’ our kids would start fighting me. Literally, we’d have a fight.
“But we’re not going to talk about it. We’re not going to be goal-based. We’re going to really, really dig into the how every day. … If our how gets the way we want it to get, generally speaking, you end up in nice places at the end of the year.
“We’re going to win by really, really working and really showing a lot of toughness. That’s the how. And that’s the how that was set before me. I didn’t decide that. Every coach that’s come through Miami that’s won big has won the same way.”
Miami won its lone Coastal crown just two years ago.
But Richt announced his retirement last December after the Hurricanes went only 7-6 overall and 4-4 in ACC play in his third year at the helm.
Diaz had actually left Richt’s staff last December to succeed Collins as the Temple coach, but Diaz returned to Miami later that month to replace Richt.
“I love that guy,” Quarterman said of Diaz. “When he got the [UM] job and he called me the next morning, I was ecstatic.”
The Lindy’s Sports preview magazine has picked Miami to win the Coastal, with Virginia Tech second and Virginia third. The magazine ranks Miami No. 19 in its preseason Top 25.
Street & Smith’s picked Virginia to win the Coastal, with Miami finishing second and Virginia Tech third.
Athlon Sports also picked UVa to win the Coastal, with the Hokies second and Miami third.
Brown is taking over a North Carolina squad that won just three games in 2017 and only two games last year.
“We’ve got to do a great job coaching. This isn’t on the players as much as it is on us,” Brown said. “We were brought in to get them more confident and get them to be in positions to win more games.”
Brown previously coached UNC from 1988-97 before leaving to take the reins at Texas.
Brown, who has spent the past five seasons as an ESPN analyst, is 67 years old.
“Honestly, that [age] was a concern,” UNC defensive back Myles Dorn said. “When we knew he was going to get hired, we knew he was older.
“But as soon as he stepped in, he … still has his youth. One thing that he mentioned was just being around young players and being around just the game, it keeps you young. It kept him young. He’s still hip to everything that we do.”
The Tar Heels will open the season against South Carolina in Charlotte on Aug. 31.
For UNC, it will be the first of 10 straight games against teams that played in bowl games last year, including Clemson.
“It’s South Carolina, then Miami, then Wake on the road. Then App. [State], who’s got 19 starters back. And then Clemson,” Brown said. “I got that far and I stopped.”
Duke will open the season against Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta on Aug. 31.
Alabama lost to Clemson in the College Football Playoff title game last season, ending its bid for a second straight national championship.
“I’ve always embraced big openers for the very reason that you see a significant change in your team, even in winter workouts and certainly spring ball,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “I believe in our camp, and I believe in our ability to get a team ready early.
“I’m a guy that’s been around, so we have a process. And we think we’ll be ready to play.”
Duke’s nonleague schedule also includes Notre Dame, which lost to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals last season.