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Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. Illinois
Kickoff set for Noon CT on ESPN
LA Tech defeated Rice, 76-31, to claim the C-USA West Division title
Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz named former Texas and Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz in the same capacity with the Bulldogs on January 21, 2014.
Diaz brings an impressive resume that includes 14 years of experience and appearances in 12 bowl games. He was most recently the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Texas (2011-13), a team that showed vast improvement in run defense during his tenure.
Diaz inherits a defense that was the fourth most-improved unit in the country. Overall LA Tech ranked 63rd in the nation in total defense in 2013, allowing an average of 408.2 yards per game.
In 2012, Diaz guided a defense that allowed just 212.0 passing yards per game, despite playing in a Big 12 that featured five of the nation's top 10 passing offenses, while also leading the conference in both sacks and TFL. With the loss of both DE Jackson Jeffcoat and LB Jordan Hicks to injury, the unit steadily improved throughout the second half of the season, especially as Diaz's young linebacking unit was able to gain experience. Safety Kenny Vaccaro earned All-America honors from Pro Football Weekly, while DE Alex Okafor was named first-team All-Big 12 and won the CFPA Elite Defensive Lineman Trophy. Both were selected in the 2013 NFL Draft with Vaccaro in the first round and Okafor in the fourth.
During his first season at Texas, Diaz led the top defense in the Big 12 as the Longhorns ranked first in the conference in total defense, rushing defense and pass defense. Overall the unit ranked 11th nationally in total defense and was sixth against the run despite facing six offenses that ranked in the top 15 nationally. All 12 opponents were held to below their average total yards with eight managing more than 100 yards below the average and two over 200 yards less. Emmanuel Acho was a first team All-Big 12 selection and Keenan Robinson was a Butkus Award semifinalist. Acho and Robinson were both selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.
In 2010 with Mississippi State, Diaz guided a defense that ranked 22nd in the nation in scoring defense (19.9 ppg), 17th in rushing defense (214.9 ypg) and 17th in tackles for loss (7.0 pg). That was a dramatic turnaround for MSU from the season prior to his arrival. In 2009, the defense finished 71st in scoring defense, 62nd in rushing defense and 89th in TFL. Mississippi State also finished ranked 13th in red-zone defense (.73) and 22nd in turnovers forced (28) nationally in 2010.
The 2010 defense held seven opponents to 20 points or fewer, which includes only 17 points to Auburn, which had the nation's fourth-ranked scoring offense.
Mississippi State's nine wins in 2010 were the most for the school since a 10-2 record in 1999 and was just the second winning season for the program since 2001. The Bulldogs finished ranked No. 15/17, its highest final ranking since 1999 (No. 13/12). That is the only time MSU has ranked higher than 18th in the final polls since 1981.
Prior to Mississippi State, Diaz spent four seasons as defensive coordinator at MTSU. Diaz also coached linebackers for two years after mentoring the safeties during his first two years.
In four years under Diaz, the Middle Tennessee defense led its conference in sacks and tackles for loss twice, and finished no lower than third in the league in either category during his tenure. In 2009, the Blue Raiders finished second nationally in tackles for loss, stopping more than eight and a half plays per game behind the line of scrimmage. Diaz's defense also ranked sixth nationally in sacks that season, posting nearly three per game.
Also in 2009, Diaz tutored defensive end Chris McCoy who was tabbed the Sun Belt Conference co-Defensive Player of the Year. Overall, Diaz's unit produced 17 all-conference players during his time there and put up three of the top four fewest yards allowed averages at Middle Tennessee in its FBS era.
Before joining Middle Tennessee, Diaz played a major role for one of the country's top-ranked defenses by coaching safeties in 2004-05 and handling the linebackers in 2002-03 for NC State.
In 2005, the Wolfpack finished eighth nationally in total defense, sixth in third-down percentage, and 12th in scoring defense en route to a 7-5 record and a shutout win over South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Diaz spent the 2000 and 2001 seasons at NCSU as a graduate assistant working primarily with the linebackers. During that time, the Wolfpack went to two bowl games and became the first ACC team to beat FSU in Tallahassee.
Diaz, whose father recently concluded his second term as mayor of the City of Miami, began his coaching career at Florida State in 1998, working alongside defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews for two seasons. During his stint, the Seminoles won a National Championship in 1999 and were runners-up in 1998.
He worked at ESPN from 1995 to 1997 after earning his B.S. in communications from FSU, and in high school, he was a Miami Herald Honorable Mention All-Dade County Scholar-Athlete for football, basketball and baseball in 1991.
The Miami native is married to the former Stephanie Cerow and they have three sons, Colin, Gavin, and Manny.
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