Get To Know Penn State Football Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz

Penn State football didn’t waste much time in locking up its successor for Brent Pry. Just under two weeks after Pry left Happy Valley for the head coaching job at Virginia Tech, the Nittany Lions brought in Manny Diaz to run the defense.

There’s no doubt Pry’s departure is a big loss for Penn State. He’s worked as a coach for the Nittany Lions since 2014 and began his tenure as defensive coordinator back in 2016. However, Diaz has plenty of experience on that side of the ball through his 24-year coaching career.

Diaz, who’s the son of former Miami mayor Manny Diaz, just finished his first-career stint as a head coach with the Hurricanes (not including an 18-day stop at Temple). He was promoted to the job in 2019 after spending three seasons as Miami’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach — the same group he’ll manage in Happy Valley.

The Hurricanes ended up with a 6-7 record for that 2019 season and a loss in the Independence Bowl, but it bounced back in 2020 with an 8-3 mark. This past season, Diaz’s group went 7-5 and even managed an upset over then-No. 17 Pitt. The low point of the campaign came when Miami lost 31-28 to a lowly Florida State team that finished this season 5-7.

Before he took the reins down in Coral Gables, Diaz led an impressive defense for three seasons. In 2016, he led a group that finished No. 20 in the nation in total defense and was a key part in a 9-4 season. The following year, Miami went 10-3 and made a run to the Orange Bowl thanks in large part to the defense. The group, which led the nation in sacks and was third in tackles for loss, became famous for the “Turnover Chain.” Diaz pioneered the idea for the impressive piece of jewelry to help fire up his group throughout the season.

Prior to his six-season stint in his native city, Diaz had a laundry list of stops as a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. He began by managing the defense and safeties group at Middle Tennessee in 2006 but shifted to linebackers in 2008. Diaz then came to Mississippi State for a season to take the same job and moved on to Texas for three seasons. He then spent one season at Louisiana Tech and one more again at Mississippi State before coming to Miami.

Diaz coached a number of talented defenses during that rise in the college football ranks, including a Middle Tennessee group that consistently finished near the top of the Sun Belt in several statistical categories. During his first season with Texas, the Longhorns led the Big 12 in total defense. Despite the strong start, his tenure in Austin came to an abrupt end after his group allowed a school record 550 rushing yards to BYU in 2013.

Before he began managing defenses, Diaz enjoyed coaching roles with his alma mater Florida State and NC State. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Seminoles in 1998 and took the same role for the Wolfpack before coaching safeties and linebackers.

Overall, the 47-year old Diaz has found success on the defensive side of the ball at just about every stop he’s made. He helped develop first-round NFL Draft picks in Gregory Rosseau and Jaelan Phillips over the course of his time at Miami, and now joins a Nittany Lion team that just sent two defenders to the first round in the most recent draft.

Diaz won’t coach Miami in the upcoming Sun Bowl against Washington State. However, Penn State hasn’t confirmed who will lead its defense in the Outback Bowl.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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