It’s official. Dan Mullen has hired Manny Diaz as Mississippi State’s new defensive coordinator on a three-year deal worth $1.8 million. Diaz will be paid $575,000 his first year, $600,000 in 2016 and $625,000 in 2017, and a buyout is included in the contract.
Diaz arrives in Starkville from Louisiana Tech, where his defense finished near the top of nearly all categories in Conference USA in 2014, and his hiring at MSU is a return to the place he was hired and coached in 2010, the first big season under Mullen at MSU when his team went 9-4 and beat Michigan in the Gator Bowl.
Mullen hired Diaz then to coach linebackers and serve as defensive coordinator, the same positions he will hold now as the Bulldogs were also in need of a linebackers coach. As coordinator on that 2010 team, Diaz led MSU’s defense to one of its best years of Mullen’s tenure, only allowing 19.8 points per game, the third-best mark in the SEC. Four linebackers from that team went on to play in the NFL.
Diaz was at Texas with Mack Brown under the same position before joining Tech last year where his 2014 defense finished No. 2 in Conference USA in scoring defense and total defense, as well as No. 1 in rush defense and interceptions and No. 2 in sacks, third down defense and opposing passer efficiency.
As recently as December, Diaz was tweeting with Johnthan Banks, the former Thorpe Award winner who was one of many stars on Diaz’s defense at MSU in 2010. The two were recalling an instance in which Banks blitzed and sacked then-Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, a game in which MSU’s defense held the Heisman winner to one of his lowest outputs of his stellar junior season and only allowed Auburn 17 points, the lowest total of their National Championship season.
“The program made a great choice in the hiring of Coach Diaz as defensive coordinator,” Banks said Monday afternoon. “There’s familiarity with him from his previous time at Mississippi State and with what he accomplished in the past here. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish as a program this coming season. I know we will build on what we did this season and can’t wait for 2015.”
That play from Banks in 2010 is a good look into Diaz’s style, a coach who likes to bring pressure from all angles and places, creating confusion for opposing offenses and taking chances to create turnovers. That style resulted in Tech leading the nation in turnovers in 2014.
Diaz is expected to begin recruiting and other job duties in the immediate future.