New Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz on ‘uncommon’ opportunity, coaching style and more

STATE UNIVERSITY – Manny Diaz called the week he started as head coach at Miami, Florida and ended as defensive coordinator at Penn State a “whirlwind,” but even losing his dream job, traveling up the East Coast and starting a new, unexpected chapter in his life, Diaz got to work straight away.

“I’ll tell you my first day on the job, you were the first video I put on,” Diaz told four-star La Salle College’s Abdul Carter in a video call during the Day ceremony. Penn State’s national signing on Wednesday. “And after about four games, I said, ‘Damn yeah, that’s exactly why I came to coach linebackers and defense at Penn State. So I’m grateful for all the hard work the staff have done to get you here. … We’re going to be great together.

Miami — which called Diaz’s “dream job” in its official team biography — fired the 47-year-old Diaz last Monday. Penn State announced that it hired Diaz to be its defensive coordinator and linebackers coach on Saturday. And on Wednesday, Diaz was in blue and white with her welcoming new colleagues to Penn State’s much-loved Class of 2022.

Read more: Meet the 23 Penn State players who signed on National Signing Day

It was Diaz’s first public appearance since being hired, and beyond his criticism of Carter, one of his future linebackers at Penn State, Diaz offered some insight into his expectations, style and more during from an interview with Penn State internal media during the program. signing day live stream. Diaz is scheduled to hold a press conference on Friday.

Penn State coach James Franklin contacted him midweek, Diaz said. Franklin was looking for a defensive coordinator to replace longtime defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry, who took over from Virginia Tech earlier this month. Pry had worked with Franklin for the past 11 seasons.

Despite everything that was going on in her life, Diaz knew what working at Penn State meant.

“Boy, the last week has been a whirlwind,” Diaz said. “The days, they all seem to run together, but that was – yeah, that was the middle of last week, and it was hard for me to figure out, ‘Hey, listen, when’s gonna go back in this thing?’ But coaching defense at Penn State, coaching linebackers at Penn State, that’s rare. [People] can work in this profession all their lives and would like the chance to coach here and especially coach defense and linebackers and the more we talked and what his vision was and how he operated and the values ​​he stood for, I think we found we were aligned. There was already a defensive lineup, and it ticked all the boxes.

Read more: Penn State adds 2022 Top 10 class on National Signing Day: ‘There are a lot of talented people in this class’

Earlier this month, Franklin said part of his criteria for replacing Pry would be finding a coordinator with a similar philosophy and plan to maximize the defensive talent currently on the roster and about to sign, like Carter. , McDonogh School (Md.) four-star Dani Dennis-Sutton, Ken Talley four-star Northeast, and Keon Wylie three-star Imhotep Charter.

Diaz, who served as defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee (2006-09), Mississippi State (2010, 2015), Texas (2011-13), Louisiana Tech (2014) and Miami (2016-18) on his resume, matches the Invoice .

“For me, the coaching style is: ‘What would you like as a player?’ You want a coach who supports you,” Diaz said. “You want a coach who is totally dedicated to maximizing your potential on and off the pitch, and then I like the defense to play the way I would like to see a defense play. We want to be fast, we want to be aggressive.

“Our job as coaches is to make sure that when they’re there they can really let their athletic ability shine, and that for me, that comes from having a great relationship with your players, and I think that always happens when they know you’re for them.I know we like to talk about coaches, but the players play and our job is to serve them and see them succeed.

Read more: Despite changing defensive coordinator, Penn State’s James Franklin is having a smooth signing day in 2022

Diaz said it only took 48 hours for State College to “see why this place is special and kinda unique, it’s different, and I think that’s cool.” And when the Penn State rookies were visiting last weekend, the new coach took the opportunity to wonder why they were going to sign to play for Franklin and the Nittany Lions.

And it turned out that their reasons weren’t much different, Diaz said.

“People,” Diaz said. “You want to be around great people, you want to be around like-minded people, and you want a chance to compete and win championships. As I’ve seen with the staff here and the players that we have, the players that we’re going to keep adding here – not just in this class, we’re already working on the next class and the class after – you want to have a chance to win and we have a chance to win here at Penn State.

Diaz already has his pitch for recruiting linebackers at the school known as “Linebacker U.” for its history of producing top players like Micah Parsons, Sean Lee, Paul Posluszny, LaVar Arrington and others.

“You want to be held to a high standard, don’t you?” Diaz said. “All great people, all champions want to be held to a really high standard. You mention loving playing linebacker, you’ve seen some of the greats that signed with us this morning. That’s a heavy shirt to put on. There’s a lot of expectation to coach linebackers, there’s a lot of expectation to play linebacker, and you want young men who strive for that.

Read more: Penn State’s James Franklin on Sean Clifford’s impact on his 2022 QB rookies: ‘I think Sean is a big part of that’

Diaz’s defense won’t make its debut until Sept. 3, when Penn State takes on Purdue on the road to open the season. For now, the infrastructure around the defensive coordinator – special teams coordinator / outside linebackers coach Joe Lorig, cornerbacks coach Terry M. Smith, defensive co-coordinator / safety coach Anthony Poindexter, coach of the defensive line John Scott Jr. – remains intact.

Things, of course, can change quickly at this time of year. Diaz saw this first hand.

Diaz was asked what was the biggest thing he learned in the past week. He called it a good question, and he took a moment to think about it. He’s a man who lost his dream job in a public and rather humiliating fashion, with the Miami powerhouse openly courting his replacement, Miami Cristobal of Oregon, as his fate hung in the balance.

Diaz returned to some of the recruiting ground that brought him back to Penn State: people.

“I think any time you have a transition and get a chance to meet new people, you think about all the relationships you have in this profession,” Diaz said. “These relationships don’t end, and I know people like to be cynical about college football sometimes, and then you come here and you see Coach Franklin, you see the staff, you see the relationships they have with their team with their former players, it’s really the bond that holds it all together. It’s about relationships, and I think you always have the opportunity to reflect on that when you’re in a moment of transition.

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Covers by Daniel Gallen Penn State for Penn Live. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter, instagram and Facebook. Follow Penn State’s PennLive coverage on Twitter, Facebook, instagram and Youtube.