10/5/04: Coaches Corner Recap with Manny Diaz

This week's "Coaches Corner" at Hi-Five featured Safeties Coach Manny Diaz.

Here are some of the key notes that Coach Diaz discussed with the Wolfpack fans in attendance at Hi-Five today.

- Coach Diaz began by addressing NC State's dramatic turnaround on defense after struggling at times in 2003. He pointed out that while most teams are bad, have consistently been bad, and although they claim to get better they remain bad, NC State was searching for consistency last year. They would be dominant for stretches and at the same time be poor for stretches. This year they have found the intensity needed over 60 minutes, and with Coach Herring guiding the way the defense has emerged.

Coach Diaz mentioned that the coaching staff entered the season feeling real good about the defense, and are pleased with how they are playing although there are still plenty of games left to play.

- Against Wake Forest's unique punting scheme, which teams like Clemson and South Carolina also employ, NC State chose to not rush for a block on any of the kicks. They wanted to set up a big return because Coach Diaz felt Tramain Hall would be able to break one against this scheme.

If they chose to block the kick, the way to attack this scheme is to either use rushers around the outside three blockers or attempt to knock the blockers into the punter. Although NC State didn't try to block a punt against Wake Forest, they may try to do so against Clemson in a few weeks.

- Safety Marcus Hudson has played great according to Coach Diaz. Starting rover Andre Maddox only played about ten plays against Wake Forest, and Hudson's versatility allowed him to step right into Maddox's role.

Free safety Troy Graham has also been playing well and has really emerged as a leader. With Graham, Maddox, and Hudson, Coach Diaz feels he has three terrific safeties.

- Defensively, NC State's been very aggressive this season, but they are not using any blitzes that teams haven't seen before. What they try to do is show the ability to blitz from anywhere on the field on any play, and that keeps an offensive line occupied at all times. The Wolfpack wants to create negative plays on first and second downs because with their strong secondary it could be tough for opposing offenses to convert on third and long.

- Coach Diaz switched from coaching linebackers this season to safeties and he said it's been a much easier transition than you would believe. The basic philosophies don't change, and the only thing to pick up is the fundamentals needed to coach the position. He also helped with defensive backs during his time at Florida State, so that helped the move as well.

- One player who had a tough transition was Marcus Hudson. The red-shirt junior started as a corner his first two seasons at NC State and is now at free safety. These positions are completely different in NC State's scheme because the corners play bump-and-run while the safeties must read offenses and get players in position. Hudson has been great and adds so much versatility to NC State's defense.

- Injuries are a weekly topic at the "Coaches Corner" and Coach Diaz briefly discussed them this week. He said both Chris Colmer and Derek Morris should be okay, outside of the natural soreness that comes from playing such a physical game. At his position, rover Andre Maddox is working to get back healthy for the North Carolina game, but Coach Diaz didn't mention if he would be able to play for sure or not.

- At safety, NC State has some young talent in Garland Heath, Miguel Scott, and J.J. Jones. Heath has been doing great on special teams, and he now just needs to continue working hard in practice to receive more game reps on defense. The staff is VERY high on Miguel Scott, a freshman from Miami. Coach Diaz said if they could have four defensive backs like Scott they would be in great shape. He's the type of defensive back they want, and if they could clone him they would. Scott has the ability to play all four spots in the secondary, and he has a bright future. Junior J.J. Jones has been doing well in practice and was solid in relief of Maddox last week on dime coverage. All three safeties are progressing according to Coach Diaz.

- The kickoff coverage team has been doing great, and the players enjoy doing those duties. One player, Chauncey Graham, leads a unit called the "Black Belts," by planting opposing players on their backs. The team has awarded 11 black belts, actual belts that the players wear around their pants during the game. The belts are awarded for outstanding play on special teams, and it gives the players an incentive to do even better on special teams.

- Back to the defensive backs, Lamont Reid has been outstanding thus far this season. He's been locking up opposing players and teams have stopped throwing to his side. Coach Diaz pointed out that a big difference in this year's Wake game and last year's was the strong play of the secondary. In both games Wake rushed for over 200 yards, but this year only passed for 74 yards after throwing for nearly 200 yards last season. That lack of balance may have been the difference in the game.

- When talking about UNC, Coach Diaz said they have a great offensive line and really pushed FSU around last weekend. It's going to be the best offensive line that NC State's faced all year, and they have a great quarterback in Darian Durant. UNC has versatility on offense and they will present a challenge for NC State's defense. He expects the game to come down to one or two late mistakes and thinks all the games will be like that in the ACC this season.

- One fan asked about Tyler Lewis, and Coach Diaz said he's progressing enough to where NC State may be able to use him in game action this season. John Deraney has been strong in all areas and unless a player can beat him out for a spot the jobs will be his.

- A fan asked how was the locker room during halftime against Wake Forest, and Coach Diaz said it was actually one of the calmest he's ever been in. The players knew what they had to do, and came out in the second half and executed.

He said the Wolfpack didn't make any adjustments at halftime. The players were open in the first half just like in the second, and the only difference was they finally began to throw them the ball. Defensively, the level of intensity picked up and that sparked their effectiveness.

Those were some of the key notes from Safeties Coach Manny Diaz's luncheon at Hi-Five. Next week, Running Backs Coach Dick Portee will be the featured guest at the "Coaches Corner."

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