Blue White Illustrated

January 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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2 0 J A N U A R Y 2 0 2 2 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M M anny Diaz said on Dec. 6 that he was "disappointed" with the way his head coaching tenure at Mi- ami ended. By Dec. 11, he was the new defensive coordinator at Penn State. Welcome to the wild world of col- lege football and specifically its coach- ing carousel. What used to take months now takes a matter of days. And in some cases, hours. Diaz was hired to replace Brent Pry, who in November left Penn State after eight seasons to become the head coach at Virginia Tech. Following Pry's exit, coach James Franklin moved as quickly as he could to name a replacement. After 12 days, the deal was done and the announcement was made. In terms of its length, the process was right in line with previous searches under Franklin. His offensive coordinator switch early in the 2021 offseason, in which Mike Yurcich took over for Kirk Ciarrocca, was the quickest. But the Nittany Lions' veteran head coach usu- ally takes somewhere between six and 14 days to pick a new assistant once he either moves on from one or someone leaves his staff for an opportunity else- where. But while the process went about as smoothly as could be expected from Penn State's point of view, for Diaz, the weeks leading up to his arrival in State College were a disorienting whirlwind. "This past month has been a hell of a year," he quipped during his intro- ductory Penn State news conference on Dec. 17. He was joking. But he was also right. The advent of the early signing period has put pressure on programs to reas- sure recruits that everything is running smoothly, and that, in turn, has sent coaching searches into overdrive. Diaz said when Franklin first reached out in early December, his initial thought was that maybe there could be a match by January. He soon realized, however, that the process would play out much quicker than that. The fact that December had already begun was especially important. Miami had all but hung him out to dry as it courted, and eventually hired, Oregon's Mario Cristobal as head coach. The Hurricanes wanted to make their move as far in advance of signing day as pos- sible, and Diaz came to understand that his suitors would be looking to bring him aboard quickly, too. "I started to realize, with the all- powerful signing day — which has be- come sort of the overlord over all of col- lege football — looming, that if this was going to happen, it was going to happen pretty quick," he said. "Really, by Thursday [Dec. 9], I think we were just about a yes. Friday midday is when I think we finally agreed on all the tiny details, and I was here walking out of the State College airport Friday night at 11 p.m. and watching a football practice the next day. That was a whirl- wind." Diaz has a style of defense that he has favored for a long time. He wants his unit to be aggressive and fast and fo- cused on turnovers and tackles for loss. He knew that Franklin wanted that at Penn State, too, because of his connec- tion with former Lions defensive coor- dinator Bob Shoop. Last spring, Diaz had added Shoop to his Hurricanes staff as an analyst. Diaz also knew Taylor Stubblefield, Penn State's wide receivers coach. Stubblefield had spent a season on Di- az's Miami staff before joining the Lions in 2020. Aside from all the coaches who came with him from Vanderbilt, 2022 will mark the first time Franklin has two assistants on his staff who spent time together at another FBS school. "Philosophically, Bob and I were very closely aligned in the way that we'd like to be aggressive, attack, create pressure, you know, [present] different looks," Diaz said. "Certainly, Brent took over, and as anybody would do, you sort of put your own advancements and devel- opments on a scheme. "What you can see is that, in James' time as head coach, his defensive phi- losophy, backed by the people who have worked with him, has been to be very After a disorienting exit at Miami, Manny Diaz lands at Penn State, where he will look to keep the Nittany Lion defense on the attack G R E G P I C K E L | G P I C 9 2 @ G M A I L . C O M Diaz went 21-15 in his three seasons as head coach at Miami. His best season was 2020, when the Hurricanes went 8-3 and 7-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. PHOTO BY RYAN SNYDER Riding The Storm Out

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