Jan. 21, 2014
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz confirmed national reports Tuesday that former Texas and Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has been hired in the same capacity with the Bulldogs.
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.
"I am very excited Manny Diaz is joining our staff," Holtz said. "He brings great experiences with a lot of success at a lot of different stops. He brings excitement, a passion for the game, plenty of experience and a reputation for success that precedes him. I look forward to working with him and welcome him to the LA Tech Family."
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. Steve Edmond finished second on the team with 103 tackles, while the LBs as a group recorded 30 TFL. 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.
The loss of three of the four top tacklers to graduation (Acho, Robinson and S Blake Gideon) left Diaz with a defense with just a pair of seniors (Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro) in the two-deep in 2012.
The unit, which lost three starters to season-ending injuries, was an improving group yielding an average of 330.4 yards over the final five games, a drop of more than 140 yards over the first seven contests. Okafor and Vaccaro went on to earn first team All-Big 12 honors.
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, and 14 points to a Michigan offense that entered the game averaging 34.3 ppg. Under Diaz, LB Chris White earned first-team All-SEC honors and was named Nagurski National Player of the Week following a game against Florida where the Bulldogs held the Gators to just seven points in Gainesville.
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. McCoy led the league and ranked sixth nationally in tackles for loss. Safety Jeremy Kellum and cornerbacks Alex Suber and Marcus Udell were also named first team all-SBC. Defensive end Jamari Lattimore along with linebackers Cam Robinson and Danny Carmichael earned second-team honors. 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. He also served as special teams coordinator and his kickoff return unit finished fifth nationally, while his punt return team blocked four kicks.
In his first year as safeties coach and special teams coordinator in 2004, N.C. State's defense finished the year as the top-ranked unit in the country in total defense by allowing just over 220 yards per game. The Wolfpack defense also held national powers Ohio State and Florida State to under 130 yards of total offense during the season. Diaz, who coached All-ACC performer and former New York Jet Andre Maddox, also had his punt return team block three kicks and take two returns for touchdowns.
Diaz handled the linebackers for N.C. State in 2002 and 2003. In 2003, the Wolfpack won the Tangerine Bowl and finished 7-5 with Diaz sharing play-calling duties for all 11 games. He also made all the defensive calls during the bowl win over Kansas.
In his first year as a full-time coach, Diaz helped the Wolfpack to one of their best seasons ever, finishing 11-3 and defeating Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. He shared in the play-calling duties, and N.C. State ended the year ranked 14th nationally in total defense and 10th in scoring defense. In back-to-back games against Florida State and Notre Dame, N.C. State did not allow an offensive touchdown.
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.
The Diaz hire is pending approval from the University of Louisiana System (ULS) Board of Supervisors.
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