MSU Media Day: Manny Diaz

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz speaks about his second stint at Mississippi State and how this year’s defense compares to what he had in 2010.

Opening Statement…

“I am excited to be able to talk to you guys today. Today will be day five of practice. We have had four good days of practice so far, two days with shoulder pads on where the physicality of the game has been incorporated. In the summertime they can do a lot, but you do not have a chance to practice blocks and tackles, which are always going to be the foundation of our defense. We have recorded some good things on tape the last two days which makes us feel good about where we are at. One of the most encouraging things up to this point has been the development of our team from the 15th day of practice in the spring to the first day of practice in the fall. It is easy to see how our guys have taken ownership of the defense when we were not able to be around as coaches. Our football IQ is in a much better place than we were on the third Saturday of April, and that is really encouraging. We are getting ready for the challenging September schedule ahead of us.”

On challenges for Jamal [Peters] and Leo [Lewis]…

“There are two things that they are having to adapt to, one being that they have to learn what we are doing and second that the nature of the word defensemeans you have to defend something and we are going up against one of the most complicated offenses in the country with every formation, running play, and pass concepts in the book. For any freshman coming in at any point is obviously a struggle. I do not know if they have hit the wall yet, but the guys have been battling pretty hard to stay afloat. For an entire freshman class to come in and do something to stand out on tape makes us excited about their future.”

On differences between last year and this year…

“I think you always have to evolve your scheme as the game is evolving. There are always little tweaks in terms of what happens in the X’s and O’s, but that probably is not the most important thing. The most important thing is learning everything in life, as you get older you learn things that are important when it comes to being successful. I think you become a little bit more stubborn and demanding of making sure the things that make an organization successful are in place. We can never compromise on the values of what it takes to play great defense or run a great company.”

On the defense’s improvements…

“You can see it in the confidence of our kids. We are rarely beaten before the snap. You can either be beaten one of two ways before the snap or after the snap. After the snap you may not be able to control because the other guy is just better than you. However we can control being beat before the snap by controlling where we are lined up, where our eyes are, and anticipating what play is about to come. That’s where the football IQ of it comes into play, not just in terms of learning our schemes but how they apply it to defending the offense so we are not out there guessing what is happening play to play.”

On the addition of Taveze [Calhoun] and Kendrick [Market]…

“It changes us. It is such a difference having those two guys back. Before you even get into what they do as a player just their personalities, leadership, and toughness moves everyone else out a spot. They are like adding a new fourth and fifth man into the lineup and now the guy who was batting fourth is now batting sixth. The production all across the lineup is changed by adding those two guys. That is another reason why I think we are a little bit of a different animal than what we were in April.”

On filling the linebacker position…

“I am very impressed with the number of guys that I think can contribute to our football team in the linebacker role. Certainly early on the guys who have played the most are now the most comfortable. Beniquez [Brown] has picked up right where he left off. His understanding of the game has slowed the pace of the game down compared to what it is for other guys. Richie [Brown] right beside him is doing really good things. Zach [Jackson] has a different sense of urgency now than what he did in the spring now that it is his last time through. He has high goals and aspirations for how he wants his year to go. Dezmond [Harris], who we did not get to see in the spring, is out there running around doing some good things. You have your guys like J.T. [Gray] and Gerri [Green] who have a lot of potential. As well as the young guys coming in. We have all types of guys competing for those spots and the competition will go right up to day one and game one and will not end there. Whoever is best to play on Sept. 5 may not be the best on Oct. 5 or Nov. 5 and our goal is to be playing on Dec. 5. To me those guys understand that it is wide open and what position you see them playing today is irrelevant. I told them to wait about two weeks to see who the top six are in order to get them ready for the first game, and if it is three Sams and three Mikes then two of them will have to learn to play Will. If it’s one Will, two Mikes, and three Sams then we are going to play and get our best six guys out there and go from there.”

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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