By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – For Manny Diaz, the defense is in the details.
Mississippi State’s new defensive coordinator, who on Saturday spoke with the media for the first time since being hired to replace Carl Torbush, seems to already be on the same wavelength as his new boss. Like head coach Dan Mullen, Diaz is a stickler for the little things, the mastery of which he believes makes the biggest difference on game day.
The big picture, said the former Middle Tennessee State assistant, is not the main thing.
“The way you’re going to line up, or whether it’s man or zone or what type of zone – that’s not the answer,” Diaz said. “If it was, then everyone would be doing that. It’s maybe a little detail in terms of how you coach this stunt or this movement or this coverage.
“And if we can do that, we just want our kids to have every advantage possible when they take the field.”
Also introduced Saturday, at halftime of the men’s basketball game against Georgia, was new defensive line coach Chris Wilson, who will also hold the title of co-defensive coordinator. He replaces David Turner, who left early last week for a job at Kentucky.
Wilson spent the past five seasons coaching defensive ends at Oklahoma, his alma mater. Leaving Norman wasn’t the easiest decision, but he called joining Mullen’s staff a “no-brainer.”
While Mullen is known for his offensive mind – the spread option and all that – he has a very solid idea of what he wants defensively. Like Mullen – and like Diaz – Wilson favors an attacking style.
The three qualities Wilson wants in his players: smarts, effort, and physicality. Just like Mullen.
And Wilson is big on the small stuff.
“If it was schemes – coach Mullen and I talked – everybody would run the same scheme,” Wilson said. “It’s not that, more than anything it’s us going out, finding the right players that fit Mississippi State, and developing those guys, and developing them in our system.”
Torbush came to Starkville as a wily, well-traveled veteran. Diaz, who will also coach linebackers, comes as a 35-year-old rising star, whose Middle Tennessee defense ranked in the top three of every major category in the Sun Belt Conference this past season.
Mullen said the reason for naming the 41-year-old Wilson co-coordinator was to assure that he receives maximum input when the defense leaves the field. Diaz will make the calls during games, but he and Wilson will work closely together in game planning.
Mullen said he talked to 20-plus coaches – from the college and NFL – while hunting for the right candidates. He didn’t start speaking with defensive coordinator candidates until the bowl season had ended, and many of them he met at the recent American Football Coaches Association convention.
“To be honest with you, this was choice one and one at each position,” Mullen said. “So I feel real fortunate, it’s a big relief for me to get my top two choices.”
Contract terms for Diaz and Wilson have not been worked out yet.
Losing his defensive coordinator after just one season wasn’t ideal for Mullen, but Diaz puts it in a positive light.
“It’s a rare opportunity where you can say, OK, let’s erase this board. If you had to dream it up again today, what do you want to be?” Diaz said. “I look at it as a blessing.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.