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Manny Diaz was a Guest Host on Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody

Coach Diaz talks offense, defense, analytics, culture, and recruiting on SBNations’ PAPN

Russell Athletic Bowl - Miami v West Virginia Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Bill Connelly picked up a Mark Richt level coup by getting Manny Diaz to be a guest host on Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody (aka PAPN). The PAPN fellas focus on analytics and advanced stats via the Football Study Hall moniker on SB Nation. I frequent Football Study Hall, the S&P+ rankings, and PAPN throughout the year. It seems like Manny Diaz does as well and he shares many ideologies with Bill.

What did Manny Diaz do in 2016? As the Miami Hurricanes Defensive Coordinator he turned the #Canes defense around from Swiss Cheese to 12th in scoring defense (from 77th), 5th in tackles for loss (from 96th), and 14th in defensive efficiency per ESPN (from 52nd). The ‘Canes gave up 10 less points per game in just a year! So what did Coach Diaz have to say on his PAPN debut?

Copycat League

Manny and Bill start off by using Manny’s theory that 90% of America runs 60% of the same plays. “There is a college football offense,” Diaz had said in a prior interview. So what is a CFB offense in 2017? Manny doesn’t go into detail (although we can reckon inside zone read, RPO’s, and “spread” are the keywords from the majority of their conversation). He does focus on technology though. The increase of access to each other’s film has gotten much easier thanks to the cloud. With this easy access to learn from each other the new QB is a point guard more than a QB. He says the point of offense now is to get your #’s to the space or find match-up 1on1’s.

Hey, for all you slappies who don’t get it, Manny says, “RPO’s are a way to take the onus off the play caller to call the correct play.” This is pivotal in today’s football with the speed and tenacity of defenders. Manny also says you must be fully committed to your way to win. He doesn’t believe in grab bagging to build an offense, but you do want to emulate what works.

Speaking of your way to win, above is the video I pieced together on 3 drives vs UNC that really stood out. There are drive killing moments beyond the coach’s control on each. Whether it’s drops, bad throws or a missed block. But you do see some of the pin/pull stretch schemes and the G/C buck we talked about in this article last week.

Modern Habits

Manny Diaz focuses on a great point, when you watch a team play you watch how they play or their habits as a program. This points to their program culture, athletic performance program, and drive to win. I think you can see the habits of say Navy when they’re always at the bottom (or top) of the national in penalty yards. Navy commits very few penalties. Miami under Al Golden committed a ton of penalties, especially in 2015. 2016 saw a cutback and I can see 2017 moving Miami above the middle of the pack. Once you are in good condition you no longer make mistakes late in games like Miami has been prone to do for the last decade.


Technology has changed the way coaches recruit as well. As a high school coach, it’s much easier for me to get my kids out there to colleges. From the era of printing off letters and snail mailing them with VHS tapes. We used to have to log down when the highlight happened in a game, and dub the play onto another VHS... man those were the days! Now via Hudl I can send all player contact info, a full game or two, highlights, and transcripts instantly. While not much has probably changed for the top 50-100 kids, a lot has changed for the 3* kids that need a spotlight (see: Corey Gaynor). This gets those ‘other kids’ out there immediately and Manny calls it their own broadcast network between Hudl and Twitter.


Where did Manny’s philosophy come from? He says it came from Mickey Andrews, Chuck Amato, and Reggie Herring. Mickey and Amato loved fast, lean, upfield defensive ends in the Jimmy Johnson/Miami mold. Think Danny Stubbs, Kevin Patrick and dominant Defensive Tackles like Warren Sapp and Jerome Brown. Speed was a premium and they copied that mold up at FSU to find success in the 90’s. Manny’s key he says is to bring stunts and pressure without giving up coverage. I think at times Diaz doesn’t live up to this billing but I understand the concept.

They go into why total yards and even red zone scoring percentage don’t really matter. Coaches focus on turnovers, field position, winning 1st down, and winning 3rd down as well as red zone touchdown percentage.

He doesn’t love it but says he can give up big runs if they don’t score. You can’t give up big touchdowns.

Purpose and Scheme

On most run plays the defense brings one more defender to stop the offense. Manny gives a hypothetical:

Against a spread offense (4 WR’s, 5 OL) you’ll bring 6 defenders versus those 5 O-Line guys which created six gaps. Six defenders means a defender per gap. 6 people are “deployed.” Per Diaz there aren’t a ton of ‘differences’ on defense as far as a base goes. What is your read posture? Do you play 3 down (odd front) or 4 down (even front)?

Lining up v 10 personnel 2x2

Offenses decided to turn the QB into a runner to balance the numbers. Manny says unlike the NFL, the NCAA uses a variety of schemes and styles that liter the top rushing defenses in the league. 3-3 stack, 4-2-5, 4-3, 3-4 vs the NFL that sits mostly in a 4-3/4-2-5 or a 3-4.

We even talked WVU’s 3-3 Stack on SOTU

The guys cut back to run pass options or RPO’s. How do you defend one? Well as the defenses evolve the offenses do too. He jokes that the only way to stop an RPO is to call the ineligible man downfield rule, which he says the refs never will. Manny asks why wouldn’t you run an RPO? If you have a run play and the box look (how many defenders the defense has around the line of scrimmage) isn’t advantageous to the offense, you now have a chance to always be right (by running an RPO).

Click here for my article on RPO’s vs the Mountaineers

Again, Bill and Manny get back to how to beat a defense. Manny says an OC will create space by formation and attack that space or use his 1 best player to beat their 1 guy. In order to really beat the RPO’s the defense has to have guys that can cover. You also must win the 1on1. Some coaches will bracket or trap with 2 guys on 1 WR in a cover 2 structure (and we’ve discussed Cover 6 before).

Diaz says it’s hard to stop 5 yard throws down the field, but will an offense be patient enough to run 4-5 yard plays down field for 80 yards? When they lose patience and you get a stop- that’s how you win. Diaz believes you must tackle that guy, seeing 5 yard route and corner can’t tackle and a 5 yard turns into a 20+ gain. The key to winning on defense is momentum, tempo, and the fundamentals of leveraging the football and tackling it.

Hawk Tackling

Pete Carroll, hawk tackling, no incentive competitively put out the tackling video. rugby, shoulder, leverage style. Goes against “pee wee” football style. head out of the tackle. 3 years of using it. tangible difference in safety. see it / respect it. practice it every day in a drill setting. have to wrap, use arms, wrap up. premise is wrap. Corn Elder was average tackler before, put 13 games of great tackling as a CB. the violence we enjoy but it’s all smart.