Tag:Manny Diaz
Posted on: April 5, 2011 4:07 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 4:08 pm
 

WVU's Casteel under no illusions about new attack

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Say this for West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel: he's not under any illusions about the increased challenge of coaching a defense opposite the fast-paced aerial attack Dana Holgorsen will bring to Morgantown as the Mountaineers' new offensive mastermind:
[H]aving to replace seven starters is about as easy as it sounds.

Supporting an offense that is going to play with a tenacious tempo and try to ring up touchdowns and first downs at an alarming rate is far more demanding.

"Our challenge will be to play a good, solid defense around that," Casteel said, "and if you go and look at the numbers on the other side of the ball with some of the high-tempo offenses, usually ..."

He trailed off, but the point was clear. Elite offenses [and elite defenses] are oftentimes exclusive ...

"We're going to have to make sure we're able to get off the field on third down and able to create turnovers to get off the field," Casteel said.

Casteel is correct that defenses forced to keep up with offenses that take and then leave the field just as quickly typically don't fare as well as those that get more time on the sidelines. As the story from the Charleston Daily Mail points out, only one team that finished in the bottom 20 in FBS in time-of-possession (Syracuse*) also finished in the top 20 in total defense.

Some of that is sheer statistical inevitability -- shorter possessions equals more possessions equals more plays equals more total yards no matter what the quality of the defense -- and adjusting the metric to yards per-play shows that some units (like Oregon's, which improves from 34th to a tie for 11th) are better than total defense gives them credit for. But many of the defenses in the time-of-possession bottom 20 -- Michigan, Texas Tech, Houston -- were just-plain-bad, buckling under the strain of the extra snaps and time spent on the field. 

But if Casteel is right that those teams' experiences show that he has his work cut for him, here's the good news for both he and Mountaineer fans: even if his defense does take a sizable step back as his team's time-of-possession decreases, it won't matter so long as the offense puts those quick possessions to use. 

Consider the fates of some of the other members of that bottom 20 in time-of-possession: Oregon went 12-0 in the regular season and earned a national championship berth; San Diego State went 9-4 for their first winning season since 1998, with those four losses coming by a combined 15 points; Notre Dame shrugged off a massive exodus of offensive talent and major injury troubles to finish the season at 8-5 and on a four-game win streak; Holgorsen's Oklahoma State team went 11-2 in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Even your national champions at Auburn finished 75th in time-of-possession, a major reason they also checked in at a mediocre 55th in yards allowed per-play.

You get the point: if you've got a functioning high-tempo offense, all the defense has to do is keep its head above water (mainly by the third-down conversions and turnovers Casteel mentions; it's no surprise Oregon finished in the top 20 in both categories, is it?) to produce an extremely successful season. 

And so we won't blame Mountaineer fans for being excited about their new coaching marriage. Given both Holgorsen's and Casteel's track records, they should see both halves of that equation put into action sooner rather than later.

*That the Orange remained as successful as they were on defense even as the offense struggled to stay on the field is quite the testament to defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, who also enjoyed a successful stint at Stanford under no less a coaching authority than Jim Harbaugh. With Manny Diaz presumably locked up at Texas for the forseeable future, another solid year at Syracuse should make Shafer one of the hottest names on the defensive coordinating market next offseason.

Posted on: February 28, 2011 10:58 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: Mississippi State

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Mississippi State , who opens its practice this Friday, March 4.

Your spring practice question: the Bulldogs are going to have something of a new-look defense. So how does it look?

For most college football fans, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of the two-year Dan Mullen era in Starkville (well, if they don't think about how close Mullen came to landing Cam Newton) is the team's bruising, tricky spread-option rushing attack. Behind poor man's Tim Tebow Chris Relf at quarterback, a beefy and well-coached offensive line, and an assortment of physical running backs, the Bulldogs finished ninth in the nation in rushing in Mullen's first season and followed that up with a 16th-place finish in 2010. With the Bulldogs going over the 200-yard mark in eight of their last nine games and returning their top nine rushers -- most notably Relf and senior tailback Vick Ballard, whose late-season surge took him all the way to 20 rushing touchdowns, tying the aforementioned Mr. Newton for most in the SEC -- there won't be any reason not to expect the Bulldogs to boast one of the nation's best running games once again in 2011. And with Relf continuing to improve his touch and the Bulldog receiving corps returning virtually intact, the inconsistent passing game could offer enough balance to make State one of the most feared attacks in the SEC, if not the nation.

But for all of that, the not-so-dirty-secret of the Bulldogs' surprising run to their 9-4 2010 record was their defense. As directed by super-aggressive first-year coordinator Manny Diaz, the Bulldogs held potent attacks from Georgia to 12 points, Florida to 7, Michigan to 17, even Auburn to a season-low 17 ... all but the latter resulting in Bulldog wins. Leading the way was linebacker Chris White, who broke out of anonymity with 110 tackles, 15.5 tackles-for-loss, and six sacks--good enough to lead the team in all three categories. Wright was joined in the linebacking unit by fellow veterans K.J Wright and Emmanuel Gatling (142 combined tackles), with the defensive line anchored by dynamic end Pernell McPhee and his 10 tackles-for-loss. McPhee and White each landed on an All-SEC first-team (McPhee the coaches', White the AP's), the only two Bulldog defenders to earn all-league honors.

The biggest problem of the Bulldogs' spring? All of the names in the previous paragraph have moved on. White, Wright, Gatling, and McPhee were all seniors; Diaz left Starkville after just the one season, agreeing to a hefty raise to replace Will Muschamp as Texas's new defensive coordinator. State will go into 2011 with an entirely new starting linebacking corps, a big question mark at one defensive end spot, a secondary that limped to a 91st-place finish in pass defense a year ago, and in promoted former defensive line coach Chris Wilson, a first-time defensive coordinator trying to fill those holes.

That seems like a lot of potential problems, but the good news for Bulldog fans is that State does boast several potential answers. Wilson did serve as co- coordinator last season and after several quality years of position coaching two excellent coordinators in Oklahoma's Brent Venables and Diaz, should be as ready as he's going to get. If McPhee's absence might create problems on the ends, the Bulldogs should be rock-solid in the middle of the defensive line with their pair of impressive junior tackles, Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox. And if the secondary was a sore spot a year ago, there's still room for optimism with all four starters returning, including freshman All-SEC safety Nickoe Whitley.

The linebackers look like a potential dilemma no matter how you slice it. But if Wilson can cobble together a unit that shows some kind of promise this spring -- and the defensive backs continue to develop, and Boyd and Cox are as good as advertised, and Wilson appears to be well in command -- it's going to be tough keeping a lid on the Bulldogs' preseason hype. Opposite Relf and the Bulldog steamroller on the other side of the ball, the only thing standing between State and a potential emergence as the biggest threat in the SEC West to Alabama and LSU is a competent defense; if that defense looks likely this spring, the ceiling will be higher than it's been in Starkville in ages.
Posted on: February 15, 2011 10:47 am
 

Jerry Gray leaves 'Horns to become Titan DC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Mack Brown's wild ride of an offseason took another hairpin curve this past weekend.

We would explain, but the first three sentences of this Austin-American Statesman story do so so succinctly we'll let them do it:
On Jan. 17, Jerry Gray described returning to his alma mater to coach Texas ' defensive backs as "a dream come true."

It was a short-lived dream.

On Saturday, 25 days after he was hired as Duane Akina 's replacement, Gray accepted the position of defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans .

Gray's decision leaves Brown to hire his seventh new coach of this offseason, and arrived just as Brown began overseeing the annual Longhorn "junior days" recruiting extravaganza. The timing could be better.

But as we wrote when news of Gray's potential interest in the Titan's defensive coordinating position first surfaced, things overall could definitely be worse. Brown's already had to make two far more critical hires this offseason in naming his two coordinators, and by nearly everyone's account he aced that exam with Manny Diaz and Bryan Harsin. If Gray's absence doesn't help at junior days, it's also better he departs now rather either before this past Signing Day or before his absence becomes a dealbreaker for any prospects in the class of 2012. And without the pressure of Signing Day, Brown may also be able to take more time and make a better selection for the open position than he would otherwise; it's not like there will be any shortage of candidates to work for a program who'll pay their position coaches the $425,000 salary Gray was due to receive.

So Brown will be all right. (As will Gray, who'll no doubt regret the "dream come true" comment but made the decision -- between being a college position coach and NFL coordinator, at more than double the paycheck -- that any coach in his position would.) But it's also only fair to say that in the wake of Gray's defection, what must already feel like the longest offseason of Brown's Texas tenure just got that much longer.


Posted on: January 30, 2011 7:17 pm
 

Texas assistants raking in the dough

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A public records request has resulted in the release of salary information for Texas's nine assistant coaches , and to sum that information up in two words: they're buying.

Only 27 assistants nationwide earned $400,000 or more in 2010, but in 2011 more than half of Texas's staff -- co-offensive coordinators Major Applewhite and Bryan Harsin, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, offensive line coach Stacy Searels, and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray -- will meet that benchmark. Harsin's, Diaz's, and Applewhite's salaries would all rank in the top 15 among assistants nationwide last season. Searels' $425,000 per-year contract would have tied with him with Alabama's (since-retired) Joe Pendry as the FBS's highest-paid offensive line coach.

You get the point: the Longhorns are sparing no expense in the wake of last year's 5-7 disaster and the surprise departure of supposed head coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp. Depending on how well Harsin, Diaz, and the other new assistants perform, it's possible Muschamp's decision to leave for the Florida head coaching job could be a financial blessing in disguise; as the nation's highest-paid assistant a year ago with a salary of better than $900,000, Muschamp bidding Texas goodbye helped free up some of the cash that led the new assistants to sign with the 'Horns.

However you slice it, though, this kind of financial commitment shows that Mack Brown is not planning on meekly fading away after his 2010 catastrophe. He wanted a new, top-dollar staff to whisk away the stench of last year, and he convinced those in charge of the Texas purse-strings to give him that staff. No one can accuse him of shrugging his shoulders at last season, nor the Longhorns of being cheap.

Now Brown just needs to make sure no one can accuse him of wasting that money on another losing season, lest the catcalls continue that his salary is the money the 'Horns ought to be saving.

Posted on: January 20, 2011 3:51 pm
 

Coaching hires show Sun Belt still FBS's worst

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College football fans love to chatter about which of the 11 FBS conferences is best. They get much less excited to discuss which of them is worst, though for the few who do, this past bowl season provided some quality fodder when the two leagues generally considered the FBS's weakest -- the MAC and Sun Belt -- squared off in three different bowl games. The Sun Belt came out ahead 2-1, with Troy dominating Ohio and FIU winning a 34-32 barnburner over Toledo. (MAC champion Miami (Ohio) did cruise past Middle Tennessee State for the Midwestern league's victory in the MAC-SBC "Challenge.") Case closed?

Not even close. This week the College Football Blog reviewed all 22 (or 21, if you don't count Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia) new head coaching hires in our Headset Reset series , and that review turned up something interesting about the Sun Belt and the MAC: namely, that the MAC is making much stronger coaching hires.

First, look at the MAC's new coaches : two of them are coordinators from two of the 2010 Big Ten co-champions; one was the offensive coordinator and highest-ranking assistant for Urban Meyer's national-title winning program at Florida ; one was a longtime position coach and ace recruiter for Ohio State; and the "weakest" of the hires on paper, Ball State's Pete Lembo, is a 40-year-old coach with 10 years of successful head coaching experience on the FCS level already under his belt.

Contrast that with the Sun Belt's three choices: one a promotion from within the Arkansas State staff, one a potentially past-his-prime Florida position coach, the other the Mississippi State wide receivers coach.

All three of those hires could prove to be shrewd (it's not as if Dan McCarney and Mark Hudspeth don't have quality head coaching experience to draw on, and Hugh Freeze has been knocking on the door of his own head coaching gig for years). But if the MAC is to the Big Ten as the Sun Belt is to the SEC, then you'd have seen the SBC hiring the SEC equivalents of Don Treadwell or Dave Doeren (pictured at right), well-regarded college-first coordinators like Manny Diaz or John Chavis or Mike Bobo. That's not happening. In fact, the only 2010 SEC coordinator to take a head coaching job this offseason went to ... Temple.

(As an aside, this might also be an indication of the relative strength of the Big Ten and SEC; where SEC schools are willing to pay top dollar to retain their best assistants and keep them out of the clutches of smaller schools, the Big Ten watches the likes of Treadwell and Doeren walk away.)

The Sun Belt's bowl performance was nice. But until they show they can land the same caliber of coaching talent as their Midwestern counterparts (or, more easily, the WAC says its official goodbyes to Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii) they should continue to be regarded at the bottom of the FBS conference barrel.

Posted on: January 17, 2011 11:42 am
 

Report: Texas loses DBs coach Akina to Arizona

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Mack Brown must have known that after the staggering disappointment of his Texas team's 5-7 2010 season, it was going to take a lot of work to get the Longhorns back on track. But even he might not have known how much work there was really going to be.

First there was the defection of coach-in-not-waiting-any-longer Will Muschamp to Florida. Then came the departure of four other coaches who were not asked to return to the Longhorn staff by Brown. And now multiple outlets are reporting that longtime secondary coach Duane Akina will be leaving Austin after 10 seasons to take the same position at Arizona.

This report from the Houston Chronicle cites sources claiming that the deal had not been finalized just yet, but added that Brown was "not shocked" Akina might bolt to a school where he spent 14 seasons in the '80s and '90s. (CBS's own Bryan Fischer also reported that Akina was the only Texas assistant not wearing a Longhorn t-shirt at the recent American Football Coaches Association convention.) At this stage, all signs point towards Akina making the departure official ... oh, any minute now.

It's just one more headache for Brown as he tries to piece together his new staff. Four coaches have already been hired, including an impressive new pair of coordinators in Bryan Harsin and Manny Diaz, but the Longhorns still have no offensive line coach after both Auburn's Jeff Grimes and Oklahoma State's Bob Wickline told Brown "thanks, but no thanks." With Signing Day only days away and key recruits hanging in the balance (behind Grimes, Auburn has made a late charge for five-star tackle Christian Westerman), Brown now has to worry about finding not one but two coaches with most of the quality candidates already locked up.

Brown's handled worse, and with Harsin and Diaz in the fold, his most critical hires have already been completed in optimism-inspiring fashion. But until the last of the six new faces on staff are in place and their impact on the 'Horns 2011 recruiting class is decided, Brown's not going to sleep easy, and neither will Texas fans.

Posted on: January 6, 2011 3:07 pm
 

Miss. St. replaces Diaz with DL coach Wilson

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When Dan Mullen was in the market for a new defensive coordinator last offseason, he surprised many by plucking away then-nearly-unheard of coordinator from Middle Tennessee State named Manny Diaz. Diaz's highly impressive single season in Starkville got him hired away by Texas yesterday afternoon, but this time Mullen isn't getting nearly so creative in naming a replacement:


There's lots of reasons to think this decision will work out just fine; Wilson is due to step up to a coordinator's chair after several highly productive years coaching the defensive lines at both Oklahoma and State, and his promotion will give the Bulldogs desirable continuity both in their defensive game-planning and late-cycle recruiting (which, at the moment looks dramtically shakier following Diaz's exit). Also, obviously, Mullen ought to know better than anyone whether Wilson is coordinator material.

At the same time, that Mullen had so much success last go-round looking outside his staff means he might be selling himself short by not even conducting a search. It seems much more likely for Wilson to succeed than not, but if he doesn't, some will wonder if Mullen didn't act a bit too quickly here.
Posted on: January 5, 2011 5:28 pm
 

Manny Diaz to become new Texas D coordinator

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Per the Jackson Clarion-Legder's Kyle Veazey, the speculation surrounding Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's possible move to the same position at Texas is over :



In the 36-year-old Diaz, the 'Horns are bringing in one of FBS's most exciting young coordinators, whose hyper-aggressive blitz-heavy schemes gave up the occasional big play but also took a lightly-regarded Bulldog defense all the way to 17th in the country in rushing defense. The last two times Mack Brown was in the market for a defensive coordinator he looked for an up-and-comer in the SEC West and struck gold hiring both Gene Chizik and, later, Will Muschamp away from Auburn; from here it looks like he's done so again.

As for State, losing Diaz this late in the recruiting cycle hurts, but that's life at their level of the college football food chain (and at least they can claim a modicum of sympathy from Auburn fans still bitter over the Longhorns' previous coaching raids). And hey, with Michigan in the market for a coach who could put Denard Robinson's unique talents to their best use -- someone like, say, Dan Mullen -- they may have bigger issues to worry about.
 
 
 
 
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