In just a year’s time, the University of Miami’s defense has essentially gone from the outhouse to the penthouse.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
Diaz, a Miami native with quite the college football resume even though he has yet to celebrate his 45th birthday, did more in one season of leading the Canes’ defense than was done in the previous four years.
Because Diaz has “turned loose” his defensive players, more of them are living up to their potential – evident by Thursday’s news that more Canes have been added to college football award preseason watch lists.
The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) announced that UM junior defensive lineman Kendrick Norton, sophomore middle linebacker Shaquille Quarterman and senior defensive end Chad Thomas have been added to the Bronko Nagurski Award watch list.
The Nagurski Award goes to the player named college football’s best defensive player by the FWAA.
While Norton and Quarterman have been added to other watch lists over the past couple of days – both were added to the Chuck Bednarik watch list – it is the first such honor for Thomas.
Thomas, a Miami Booker T. Washington product, was one of the biggest benefactors of the Diaz’s new defensive philosophies – shown in the 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks he racked up this past season.
Making an award’s preseason watch list is just the latest “win” for Thomas. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive end is also a classically trained musician/producer and has been credited with producing hits songs for Miami-based Hip Hop artists Rick Ross and DJ Khaled.
Miami has had two players take home the Nagurski Trophy before – NFL Hall of Fame defensive lineman Warren Sapp won the award in 1994 and former Canes linebacker Dan Morgan earned the honor in 2000, the same year he also won the Bednarik Award.
Norton Added To Outland Trophy Watch List
It was also announced Thursday that Norton was added to the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, awarded to college football’s best interior lineman.
Offensive and defensive lineman are eligible to win the Outland, and it is regarded as one of college football’s most prestigious awards.
A 6-foot-3, 312-pound “traditional defensive tackle”, Norton has flashed high-end potential – especially under Diaz’s direction. Becoming a full-time starter in 2016, Norton improved in every statistical category – including total tackles (39), sacks (2) and tackles for loss (10).
Badgley Added To Groza Award Watch List
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission announced this week that University of Miami senior kicker Michael Badgley was added to the 2017 Lou Groza Place-Kicker Award watch list.
The Groza Award honors the nation’s top collegiate kicker.
Badgley earned third-team All-ACC honors this past season after connecting on 21 of 26 field goals. He also moved into third place on Miami’s all-time list for career field goals made (60) in 2016 after he set a new school record for field goals made in a season (25) in 2015.