Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach has accepted new Miami coach Mark Richt’s offer to take charge of the Hurricane defense. The news was broken in an official release by the University of Miami this afternoon.
Sources say Diaz had been in negotiation with Richt prior to the Belk Bowl, waiting until after the Bulldogs defeated North Carolina State to finalize things. In Mississippi State’s 51-28 victory the Bulldog defense held the Wolfpack under their 33.7-point season scoring average, and intercepted a pair of first-quarter passes that led to Bulldog touchdowns.
But for the regular season State’s defense ranked 8th in SEC scoring; and 10th in passing, rushing, and total yardage. The Bulldogs were also last in SEC turnovers-gained, 114th nationally.
Diaz has just finished his second season with Mississippi State, the stints separated by five years. He first came to Starkville for the 2010 season as defensive coordinator and helped Coach Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs post a 9-4 season with a victory over Michigan in the Gator Bowl.
Diaz immediately accepted an offer from Texas and spent three seasons in Austin before the Mack Brown era ended. He landed in Louisiana Tech for a season, then when Mullen needed to replace coordinator Geoff Collins he called Diaz back to campus.
Diaz has worked with Richt briefly. While Richt was at Florida State, Diaz served as a graduate assistant in 1998-99 on the defensive staff. Richt said in the release he sought Diaz to help implement a ‘4-3 attacking’ style of defense.
More personally, Diaz is the son of former Miami mayor Alberto ‘Manny’ Diaz.
In the Miami release, Diaz said “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. The Bulldog fans are like no other and it has been a privilege to be a part of such a great program, University, and community. I wish the MSU players, coaches, and fans all the best. Their future is bright.
“We knew it would take a very unique opportunity for us to consider leaving. 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.”
Diaz’ abrupt departure leaves two openings on Mississippi State’s on-field staff, with another support staff position also vacated. During Belk Bowl practices on campus, safeties coach and recruiting coordinator Tony Hughes accepted the head coach position at Jackson State.
Also, recruiting staff and lead high school contact Sleepy Robinson is going with Hughes. On top of that the head strength coach post is open as after less than two years Rick Court is leaving for Maryland on their new staff.
Mullen has gotten accustomed to staff changes and replacements in the now-seven seasons in Starkville. But, this will be the sixth time he has had to hire or promote a defensive coordinator. The previous DCs have been Carl Torbush (2009), Diaz (2010, 2015), Chris Wilson (2011-12), and Collins (2013-14).
Hughes was the remaining defensive staffer from Mullen’s first year in 2009, though line coach David Turner did return after a three-year stint at Kentucky for 2013-present. By contrast three of the five offensive assistants have been with Mullen all seven seasons; John Hevesy (line), Greg Knox (backs), and Scott Sallach (tight ends).