Diaz has taught a high octane style of defense over the entirety of his coaching career. Simply put, it’s a "get to the ball at all costs" type of mantra. Safe to say, it’ll be a big difference from what Canes fans have seen the last four plus seasons in Coral Gables.
Diaz cut his teeth at FSU as a grad assistant (GA) and although that may put a frown on some Canes fans faces that’s not a bad first stop. Couple that with the fact he was able to learn from the great Mickey Andrews who ran the Nole defense and saw immediate success with the team (they played in two BCS bowl games and won one of them for the National Title against the Hokies).
After the great initial success of his first two seasons as a GA, Diaz moved on to work at NC State from ’00 to ’05. In Raleigh he worked his way up from GA to a position coach (linebackers) then to holding down both the safety coaching position and the special teams coordinator title. Tasked with the special teams coverage duties he excelled at teaching coverage as well as causing turnovers. In ’05 his coverage unit forced three blocks and returned two of those for scores.
Middle Tennessee State came calling in ’06 and Diaz got the promotion he was looking for: Defensive Coordinator. During his four years in Murfreesboro the defense finished first overall in the conference twice and top three the other two seasons in tackles for loss and sacks on the quarterback. Diaz taught aggression and his players got after it at the lower level FBS ranks.
Due to his impressive four year run at MTSU, Diaz again took another promotion, this time to Mississippi State in ’10. His stop was quick there due to his immediate turnaround of a wilting Bulldog defense in ’09. In his one season at MSU he turned the defense around from 71st in scoring to 22nd.
In ’11 Diaz may have grabbed at the golden ring that was a little too good to be true at the time: the vacant Texas Longhorns Defensive Coordinator position. He only made it two years on the sinking ship that was the end of Mack Brown’s tenure. His nadir was the awful performance his player put up against BYU where they allowed 550 yards rushing in ’13. Coach Brown stated after the game the overall effort and discipline was "unacceptable" and just one day later, Diaz was fired.
In a bizarre twist at the end of the ’13 season ESPN reported that Diaz was going to head to Illinois to become their next defensive coordinator but he actually signed on for the lesser prestigious program, Louisiana Tech (not by much though, to be fair to LTU, Illinois is a dumpster fire year in and year out). There just one season, Diaz’s Bulldogs led the nation in turnovers by forcing 15 fumble recoveries (!) and picking off hapless quarterbacks 25 times (!!). Diaz went full turbo on defense and cashed in. Mississippi State again came calling in ‘15 and Diaz again signed on to coach defense in Starkville.
Yet again Diaz was at MSU and yet again it would last only one season as the newly minted coach at Miami, Mark Richt asked Diaz to take over a defense that had gotten used to sitting back in prevent defense too much and had grown accustomed to a "bend but don’t break" philosophy under former Coach Al Golden.
The conclusion I have on Diaz is that I think his defenses will be entertaining to those who watch Miami games. The question will be, of course: which team will be the ones cheering in happiness. If Diaz can get his players to fly to the ball at will, Miami could be in for a really quick transition back to stardom. However, what occurred in the few seasons Diaz was calling plays against the high octane offenses in Big 12 can leave even the most ardent Canes fan a moment to pause.
What do you think will happen in ’16? Leave a comment below!