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‘It Gives me The Ability to be Selective’: Penn State DC Manny Diaz on the Type of HC Opportunity it Would Take for him to Accept

Manny Diaz November 12, 2022 David Hague/NSN

There’s a good chance Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz isn’t in Happy Valley much longer.

To be clear, this isn’t based on any inside information but just logic.

Diaz is 49 and won’t be 50 until March, so he’s still young for coaching. 

Not only has Diaz been a head coach before, he’s done so at one of college football’s most historically successful programs: The University of Miami. Diaz’s three-year tenure as the boss in Coral Gables didn’t make anybody forget Howard Schnellenberger, but it wasn’t bad. In three seasons, he went 21-15 overall and 16-9 in the conference, with only Clemson having more ACC wins in that window. 

After a messy divorce from Miami, Diaz came to Penn State in December 2021 and moved back into the role that made him a big coaching name; defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.

The results came right away. Penn State allowed less than 20 points per game, went 11-2 and won the Rose Bowl, with Diaz playing a big part. 

Penn State’s defense is shaping up to be one of the best in college football this season, with stars such as LB Abdul Carter, CB Kalen King and DE Chop Robinson returning. Overall, Penn State’s expected to contend for the Big Ten title, which would likely put it into the College Football Playoff for the first time. 

If Penn State’s defense lives up to the hype and if the whole team follows suit, Diaz will get a lot of praise and a lot of interest from teams that need a head coach. 

Going off Diaz’s past press conferences, there’s nothing that suggests he doesn’t want to be a head coach again, and when Jon Sauber of the Centre Daily Times asked Diaz about the possibility at Penn State’s media day Sunday in Beaver Stadium, Diaz didn’t run away from anything. 

But Diaz made it clear that he knows he’s in a good spot right now, and it would take a pretty sweet gig for him to go elsewhere. 

“Being the defensive coordinator at Penn State is a better job than being the head coach at a lot of different schools,” Diaz said. “So it gives me the ability to be selective and to make sure I pick the right one in a situation that’s built for winning.”

There are advantages that Diaz feels he has as a coordinator and linebackers coach. 

At last year’s media day, Diaz told NSN that he was thrilled to be a position coach again and be able to focus more on a specific group of players. 

“It’s not just about being a coordinator; it’s about having a position group again,” Diaz said. “A head coach has a connection with everybody on the team; that’s one of the differences. But, you don’t really have that depth and that everyday bond like you do when you’re in a room, and you’re directly responsible for a position group.”

Another advantage Diaz feels is that he can root for the defense in practice and compete, which every coach loves. 

“In practice, it’s 100 percent more fun,” Diaz said. “Because you’re rooting for the defense, and you’re competing. When you’re the head coach standing in practice, every time something happens good for somebody, it’s, by definition, happening bad for somebody else, right? So it’s hard at times to know what to do, you know what I mean? So now it’s easier because you’re competing. You’re trying to get your guys. That’s why you respect what the head coach is looking at from such a wider lens than a position coach.

“It’s a completely different exercise on the practice field.”

Chances are Diaz won’t spend the rest of his coaching career as a coordinator. 

But he enjoys being at Penn State, and for however long he stays there, Penn State fans should appreciate it. 

“I love being a head coach. I love being a coordinator,” he said. “But I can respect the fact that they’re like completely different jobs.”

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