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Second Season at MSU
Manny Diaz, a nine-year veteran defensive coordinator who spearheaded Louisiana Tech into one of the nation’s elite units in 2014, makes his triumphant return to Starkville in 2015.
Diaz takes over the Mississippi State defense and linebackers for the second time in his career. He was officially hired on Jan. 5, 2015, and his return has been well received by the players after going through spring practice.
Diaz brings an impressive resume to Starkville that includes over 15 years of collegiate experience and 13 bowl appearances. In addition to resurrecting Louisiana Tech this past season, the 40-year-old was the leader of one of the all-time great defenses in Mississippi State history.
As defensive coordinator of the Bulldogs in 2010, he coached 10 players who eventually signed NFL contracts, including six who were in the 2015 NFL Playoffs. All four of the former MSU linebackers currently on NFL rosters were coached by Diaz.
Diaz’ one season in Ruston was felt in a big way, mainly by opposing teams’ offenses. In 2014, Louisiana Tech led the nation in turnovers gained (40) with 15 fumble recoveries and 25 interceptions. The Bulldogs also managed to force at least three turnovers in eight of their 14 games played. Diaz led Tech to nine top 25 defensive rankings nationally.
Diaz helped Louisiana Tech double its win total from the previous year, as well as make the program’s first appearance in a Conference USA Championship Game on Dec. 6 opposite Marshall after clinching the C-USA West Division the week prior. The Bulldogs finished the 2014 campaign with nine wins after a 35-18 victory over Illinois in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl at the Cotton Bowl.
Diaz coached seven all-conference selections for the Bulldogs on the defensive side of the ball with Xavier Woods earning first team accolades followed by Houston Bates with second team honors. Tony Johnson, Terrell Pinson, Kentrell Brice, Adairius Barnes and Le’Vander Liggins each earned All-C-USA Honorable Mention under Diaz’ guidance.
Diaz’ unit was the fourth most-improved in the country. Overall, Louisiana Tech ranked 63rd in the nation in total defense in 2013 prior to his arrival, allowing an average of 408.2 yards per game.
Diaz spent nearly three seasons as defensive coordinator at Texas prior to his stint at Louisiana Tech. In 2012, he guided a squad 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 tackles for losses.
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, while defensive end Alex Okafor was named first-team All-Big 12. 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 in 2011, 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 tackles for loss. MSU also finished ranked 13th in red-zone defense (.730) and 22nd in turnovers forced (28) nationally in 2010.
The 2010 defense held seven opponents to 20 points or fewer, while four players were selected in the NFL Draft that spring including K.J. Wright (Seattle), Pernell McPhee (Baltimore) and Chris White (Buffalo). Wright has since blossomed into one of the elite linebackers in the league and won a Super Bowl.
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).
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 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 national 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.
2015-present: Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers (Mississippi State)
2014: Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers (Louisiana Tech)
2011-13: Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers (Texas)
2010: Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers (Mississippi State)
2008-09: Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers (Middle Tennessee)
2006-07: Defensive Coordinator/Safeties (Middle Tennessee)
2004-05: Safeties/Special Teams (NC State)
2002-03: Linebackers (NC State)
2000-01: Graduate Assistant (NC State)
1998-99: Graduate Assistant (Florida State)
Bowl Games as a Coach
2014: Heart of Dallas Bowl (Louisiana Tech)
2012: Alamo Bowl (Texas)
2011: Holiday Bowl (Texas)
2011: Gator Bowl (Mississippi State)
2009: New Orleans Bowl (Middle Tennessee)
2006: Motor City Bowl (Middle Tennessee)
2005: Meineke Car Care Bowl (NC State)
2003: Tangerine Bowl (NC State)
2003: Gator Bowl (NC State)
2001: Tangerine Bowl (NC State)
2000: MicronPC.com Bowl (NC State)
2000: Sugar Bowl National Champions (Florida State)
1999: Fiesta Bowl (Florida State)
Birthdate: March 13, 1974
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
Education: 1995 – Bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida State
Children: Colin, Gavin, Manny
What They Are Saying About Manny Diaz …
“The program made a great choice in the hiring of Coach (Manny) Diaz as defensive coordinator. There’s familiarity with him from his previous time at Mississippi State and with what he accomplished in the past here. I am looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish as a program this coming season. I know we will build on what we did this season and can’t wait for 2015.”
- Johnthan Banks, current Tampa Bay Buc and 2012 MSU All-American/Thorpe Award winner
“I am excited about Coach (Manny) Diaz being back in maroon and white. He was definitely my favorite linebacker coach. We executed really well when he was there and he made things simple for us. He was a great leader too. We had the type of relationship you want with any coach because he cared about you on and away the field.”
- K.J. Wright, current Seattle Seahawk and 2014 Super Bowl champion
“Welcome home Manny Diaz. Definitely bringing the energy to Starkville.”
- Fletcher Cox, current Philadelphia Eagle