Penn State hires former Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz as new Defensive Coordinator

Manny Diaz (courtesy Miami Athletics)

12/11/2021

Diaz brings 24 years of coaching experience to Happy Valley, including three years as head coach at the University of Miami

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State Football head coach James Franklin announced the hiring of Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Nittany Lions.

“We are thrilled to add Manny Diaz as our defensive coordinator,” said Franklin. “Manny is a veteran defensive play caller whose head coaching experience will bring tremendous value to our organization. He has an innovative approach to complement his extensive Xs & Os knowledge which he developed through his stops at multiple Power Five conferences. Manny’s defensive philosophy is in line with our scheme and will help in the transition with our current team. His defenses have been aggressive and led the country in several categories throughout his career. We are excited to have Manny and his family join us in Happy Valley!”

“My family and I are so excited to come to Happy Valley and join the Penn State family,” said Diaz. “The opportunity to lead Linebacker U is an honor and I will work every day to uphold that tradition. Penn State’s defense has been among the nation’s best, both historically and under Coach Franklin. I will continue to pursue excellence with our defensive unit on a daily basis. I can’t wait to get on the field with this talented group, to get to know them, and to ultimately develop them as football players, students and young men. Penn State’s fans are the best in the country, and I look forward to seeing them this fall in Beaver Stadium!” 

Diaz, who has 24 years of collegiate coaching experience, including three as a head coach and 13 as a defensive coordinator, joins the Nittany Lions after spending six seasons (2016-21) at the University of Miami, including three seasons as head coach (2019-21).

Diaz coached the Hurricanes to three bowl appearances in his three seasons at the helm, which included an 8-3 record and 7-2 mark in ACC play during the 2020 season. This marked the second time with Diaz on staff as well as the second time in program history Miami won seven ACC games. The Hurricanes finished 18th in the final 2020 College Football Playoff rankings. Miami’s 2021 squad finished the regular season winning five of their last six games, including wins over Top 20 opponents NC State and Pitt while third-string, freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke earned ACC Rookie of the Year Honors.

Defenses under Diaz have been a force behind the line of scrimmage. From 2018-20, Miami’s defense featured at least one player with 15 tackles for loss: Jaelan Phillips (15.5) in 2020, Gregory Rousseau (19.5) in 2019 and Jonathan Garvin (18.0) in 2018. During Diaz’s tenure in Miami, the Hurricanes ranked in the top 10 nationally in tackles for loss each year. Miami is No. 9 in 2021 (7.75 per game) and was No. 4 in 2020 (8.6), No. 4 in 2019 (8.3), No. 1 in 2020 (10.5), No. 4 in 2017 (8.5) and No. 5 in 2016 (8.3).

Diaz, who has coached in 19 bowl games with a record of 13-6 in those contests, has led defenses which have been known for taking the football away from opposing offenses. Since 2017, Miami is 10th nationally among Power Five teams in takeaways per season (20.6).

Diaz guided Miami to a Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl berth this year after the Hurricanes finished second in the ACC Coastal division with a 5-3 conference record. The Hurricanes recorded back-to-back wins over ranked teams for the first time since 2017, with victories over No. 18/22 NC State (31-30 on Oct. 23) and No. 17/19 Pittsburgh (38-34 on Oct. 30). In the Pittsburgh win, Miami’s defense picked off Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett twice, who had entered the game having thrown just one interception on the season.

Prior to taking over as head coach, Diaz was Miami’s defensive coordinator. The Hurricane defensive unit ranked fourth nationally in total defense (278.9) in 2018, while also finishing first in tackles for loss (10.5 per game), third down conversion percentage (.253) and passing defense (135.6). Defensive tackle Gerald Willis earned All-American honors from several outlets, while linebacker Shaq Quarterman was named to the All-ACC first team – one of eight all-conference picks on the defensive side of the ball for the Canes.

During the 2017 campaign, Miami was first nationally in sacks (3.38 per game), third in tackles for loss (8.5 per game), eighth in fumble recoveries (14) and 15th in interceptions (17). A total of eight Hurricanes earned All-ACC honors on defense. The Hurricanes won the ACC Coastal Division and earned a berth into the Capital One Orange Bowl.

Diaz joined Mark Richt’s Miami staff as defensive coordinator in 2016 and led an impressive turnaround to the unit in his first season. The Hurricanes ranked fifth nationally in tackles for loss (up from 105th in 2015), tied for eighth in touchdowns allowed (up from 61st), ninth in yards allowed per play (up from 86th), 12th in scoring defense (up from 77th), 20th in total defense (up from 69th) and 22nd in sacks (up from 70th). Miami was the only team in the country to start three true freshmen linebackers that season – Zach McCloud, Michael Pinckney and Shaquille Quarterman.

Prior to Miami, Diaz spent the 2015 season as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs finished with a 9-4 record, including a victory over NC State in the Belk Bowl. The Bulldog defense held opponents to 23.2 points per game and ranked in the nation’s top 10 in red zone defense and tackles for loss.

Diaz was the defensive coordinator during the 2014 season at Louisiana Tech, guiding the Bulldogs to lead the nation in takeaways (42), including 26 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries. Prior to Louisiana Tech, Diaz was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at the Texas from 2011-13. His 2011 defensive unit ranked ninth in FBS in total yards per play.

Diaz had a first stint at Mississippi State in 2010, running the defense and coaching linebackers. MSU’s defense ranked 13th nationally in red zone defense (.730), 17th in rushing defense (214.9) and tackles for loss per game (7.0), and 22nd in scoring defense (19.9) and takeaways (28).

Before Mississippi State, Diaz was the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee, while also coaching linebackers for two years after mentoring the safeties his first two years.

Diaz spent six seasons on the NC State staff from 2000-05. He began his time as a graduate assistant (2000-01) before being elevated to linebackers coach (2002-03) and then moving on to coaching safeties and special teams (2004-05).

A graduate of Florida State in 1995, Diaz began his coaching career with the Seminoles in 1998 and 1999 as a graduate assistant. He was part of Florida State’s national title-winning coaching staff in 1999.

Diaz and his wife Stephanie have three sons: Colin, Gavin and Manny.

THE DIAZ FILE

Personal

Year at Penn State: First
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
Education: Florida State, 1995 – B.A. Communications
Family: Wife: Stephanie; Sons: Colin, Gavin, Manny

Coaching Career

2022-pres. – Penn State (defensive coordinator/linebackers)
2019-21 – Miami (head coach)
2016-18 – Miami (defensive coordinator/linebackers)
2015 – Mississippi State (defensive coordinator)
2014 – Louisiana Tech (defensive coordinator/linebackers)
2011-13 – Texas (defensive coordinator/linebackers)
2010 – Mississippi State (defensive coordinator/linebackers)
2008-09 – Middle Tennessee (defensive coordinator/linebackers)
2006-07 – Middle Tennessee (defensive coordinator/safeties)
2004-05 – NC State (safeties/special teams)
2002-03 – NC State (linebackers)
2000-01 – NC State (graduate assistant)
1998-99 – Florida State (graduate assistant)

Bowl Games as a Coach

  • 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl (will not coach)
  • 2020 Cheez-It Bowl
  • 2019 Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
  • 2018 New Era Pinstripe Bowl
  • 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl
  • 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl
  • 2015 Belk Bowl
  • 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl
  • 2013 Alamo Bowl
  • 2012 Alamo Bowl
  • 2011 Holiday Bowl
  • 2010 Gator Bowl
  • 2009 New Orleans Bowl
  • 2006 Motor City Bowl
  • 2005 Meineke Car Care Bowl
  • 2003 Tangerine Bowl
  • 2002 Gator Bowl
  • 2001 Tangerine Bowl
  • 2000 Micron PC Bowl
  • 1999 Sugar Bowl
  • 1998 Fiesta Bowl

COURTESY PENN STATE ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

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