Manny Diaz places culture over system after Texas firing

CORAL GABLES, FL - JANUARY 02: Manny Diaz of the Miami Hurricanes addresses the media during his introductory press conference in the Mann Auditorium at the Schwartz Center on January 2, 2019 in Coral Gables, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CORAL GABLES, FL - JANUARY 02: Manny Diaz of the Miami Hurricanes addresses the media during his introductory press conference in the Mann Auditorium at the Schwartz Center on January 2, 2019 in Coral Gables, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Manny Diaz has made a career out of coaching assertive, aggressive defenses. He learned after getting fired from Texas that culture is more important than the system.

In an interview with Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic, Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz stated that when things are going well it’s the system and when they disintegrate it more about the culture. Diaz was lucid about this theory in his introductory press conference as head coach in January.

The culture of the Miami Hurricanes was going to change in his tenure. Diaz hired an all-new offensive coaching staff, new strength and conditioning coach and a few new additions on the recruiting staff. The two most critical hires were offensive coordinator Dan Enos and strength and conditioning coach David Feeley.

The changes on the field will be the felt the most on offense by the Miami quarterbacks who work with Enos and via his play calling. The culture of the team has been influenced greatly by Feeley’s hire. He has changed the culture of the weight room and the work habits of the Miami football team.

Diaz said he has never seen as many players in the weight room at a time as he had since Feeley was hired in January. Freshman Zion Nelson will start for Miami at left tackle against Florida on Saturday. Nelson has put on 45 pounds of muscle since arriving in Coral Gables in January.

Manny Diaz was humbled at Texas. The Longhorns defense did not perform as well as expected with Diaz as the defensive coordinator under Mack Brown. Diaz was fired two games into the 2013 season after the Longhorns allowed 550 yards rushing to BYU.

"“When things are going well and you haven’t really kind of been knocked off stride and had that adversity…there are little compromises you might make that could jeopardize any of (those pieces of your identity).What’s funny is when I was on the way up, it was like, ‘You have a great scheme,’ but on the way down…it was never the scheme. It was always the culture…It was always the how, how we played. That’s hard to define. I learned that you really have to guard the how. It’s easy to look at the what, but you have to have the how."

Diaz has set clear expectations both as the defensive coordinator during the last three seasons for Miami and now looking forward as head coach. The Hurricanes football program has a defined culture. Diaz maybe understands better than any Miami head coach since Jimmy Johnson. The two have become close.

Johnson appeared on the Joe Rose show earlier this week to discuss the impending Miami football season and Diaz. The first thing that comes to mind for Johnson and former Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt about Diaz is his energy. It is one of the reasons Richt resigned after last season. He knew he could not give the required energy as head coach.

Diaz learned from what when wrong at Texas. He took what happened at Texas and has used it as his mantra in one-year stints at Louisiana Tech, his second tenure at Mississippi State and as defensive coordinator and now the head coach at Miami.

"“I knew that if I ever had that chance again, going forward, that I had to say, these four things are more important than any other four things, and I will never compromise those things again, and they’ll never be able to say this, that or whatever about one of my defenses.There’s no coach who says, ‘I don’t want to tackle, we don’t want to play physical.’ But there’s a difference between habits formed and practicing…So, if those things are really, really important to you, if you don’t want to be associated with a defense that doesn’t tackle very well again, you need to make sure that everything you do in your program is designed to that.”When you’re talking about even the idea of the spread offense, the spread offense is really just all about getting the ball in space and making guys make one-on-one tackles…The quickest way to be bad on defense is to have defensive backs who won’t tackle.So again, you have to redefine those non-negotiables, redefine personnel in the secondary. A guy that can run a 4.3 and intercept the pass and bat the ball away but is not always a willing tackler — you have to find a way to get that guy to make the tackle. Then everything works.”"

Sports has an ironic way of matching opponents that create stories. Diaz’s first big coaching jobs as a defensive coordinator before and after Texas were at Mississippi State in 2010 and’15 under Dan Mullen. He was fired by Brown at Texas.

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The first two games for Manny Diaz as a head coach are against Mullen and Florida Saturday and Brown and North Carolina September 7. The Hurricanes have a bye next week.