Manny Diaz Jr. is coming home.
Miami native Diaz, 41, was named the University of Miami defensive coordinator on Saturday by new Hurricanes coach Mark Richt.
Diaz is the son of former longtime Miami mayor Manny Diaz, a Cuban-American who graduated from Miami Belen Jesuit, received his law degree from UM and scored the first touchdown in Belen Jesuit history in 1971.
Manny Jr., who played football, basketball and baseball at Miami Country Day High School and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1995 from Florida State, has been coaching in the college ranks for 18 years. He comes to the Hurricanes after a one-year stint as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Mississippi State.
And for Hurricanes fans who could not tolerate what they thought was a weak, non-aggressive, far-too-complicated 3-4 defense by former UM defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, Diaz runs an extremely aggressive, attacking scheme.
“I’m very excited about Manny Diaz becoming our defensive coordinator,’’ Richt said in a released statement. “I’ve known him for over 20 years and I’ve watched him become one of the best defensive minds in the business. He and our defensive staff will implement a 4-3 attacking style defense.’’
Diaz coached this past season under MSU head coach Dan Mullen, who was one of the finalists recently for the UM head-coaching job won by Richt.
The father of three sons, Diaz never played college football but was considered one of the nation’s bright, up-and-coming defensive minds as he worked his way up from being a graduate assistant at FSU in 1998 and ’99.
“Starkville is a special place and I could not be more thankful for the opportunity Dan Mullen and Scott Stricklin gave my family and I,’’ Diaz said. “…It has been a privilege to be a part of such a great program. …God blessed me with a chance to return home, to coach in my hometown and to reunite with family. It is the kind of opportunity that comes along rarely in this business. It was simply too good to pass up.
“I can’t wait to help Coach Richt build a championship program at Miami.’’
Diaz’s defense this season for the Bulldogs (9-4) was ranked 57th of 128 FBS teams, allowing 391.2 yards per game. His rushing defense finished 70th (174.6 rushing yards a game allowed), passing defense finished 57th (216.5) and scoring defense was 37th (23.2 points a game allowed).
His team gave up 5.32 yards per play, 45th nationally.
For comparison’s sake, UM’s defense ranked 69th this season (404.8 yards allowed per game). UM’s rushing defense was 102nd (201), passing defense was 38th (203.8) and scoring defense was 77th (28.2 points).
The Bulldogs were ranked ninth in team tackles for loss and ninth in red zone defense.
In 2014, Diaz spent one season at Louisiana Tech, leading the nation in turnovers gained (40), with 15 fumble recoveries and 25 interceptions.
Prior to La Tech, he coached three seasons at Texas and was fired by former coach Mack Brown just two games into the 2013 season after the Longhorns allowed 670 yards of total offense – 550 of them rushing – against BYU.
After his stint at FSU, Diaz’s stops have been at NC State (graduate assistant, linebackers, safeties, special teams from 2000-01 through 2004-05), Middle Tennessee State (defensive coordinator, safeties, linebackers 2006-07 through 2008-09) and at Mississippi State for the first time in 2010 (defensive coordinator, linebackers).
In 2010, Diaz brought a team that had finished 71st in scoring defense the previous year to 22nd overall, and brought the Bulldogs from 62nd in rushing defense to 17th.
During Diaz’s two seasons at FSU, the Seminoles won a national championship and were runners-up.