Coordinator Corner

Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz talks about the Longhorns' new defensive scheme and how the team's positional battles are going.

On one hand, Texas has to be happy that its quarterbacks are taking care of the ball. On the other, Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is disappointed that his defense isn't forcing enough turnovers.

"That's the nature of practice: when one side's happy, the other one isn't," Diaz said.

And Diaz admitted that practice was more challenging when preparing for the motion- and shift-happy offense employed by Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite.

"The first thing you have to do on defense is get lined up," Diaz said. "Tight ends are coming out of helicopters and coming out of secret holes in the ground. So you're constantly struggling just to give yourself a chance before the play begins.

"They ask you a lot of questions," Diaz said. "I always say, defense, we have to come up with the answers. An offense asks questions, we have to come up with the answers. The more questions the offense asks, the more answers you have to have. They've done a great job of doing that."

Diaz's career has seen a dramatic upward trajectory because of his ability to answer the offense's questions. And he said the Texas defense had been quick to pick up the act.

"They know what to do, whereas in the spring, we were having to coach them a lot on what to do," Diaz said. "Now we get to coach them on how to do it, and even beyond that, why we do it. To me, when they understand those three questions, that's where we can really start to master the scheme, and we're getting towards that point now."

He said the main difference between now and the spring was "confidence," a trait that he said was earned through the summer strength program.

"There's a rumor that it has been hot outside, and our players haven't blinked at these practices," Diaz said.

With more veterans, the defense is in a slightly different position than the offense. Diaz said he thinks the defensive ends and linebackers have a chance to be strong, and said that he feels he can go at least four players deep at both positions, with Chris Whaley adding a potential fifth defensive end. Even the biggest question marks — cornerback and defensive tackle — have some positives, he said.

"We like the way our corners have progressed throughout the summer," Diaz said. "I'd say right now, we feel we have a little bit of a three-man race with (Adrian) Phillips, (Carrington) Byndom and (Quandre) Diggs. A.J. White has made a lot of improvement right now."

And Kheeston Randall returns to man one defensive tackle spot. Diaz said there were a number of players competing for the other three spots — he said he wants four tackles ready to go — and added that Greg Daniels had added "good, muscular weight" in the offseason.

"We have contestants in the game," Diaz said. "Now we just have to find out who the winners are."

Don't be surprised if some of the winners are true freshmen.

"We are an equal opportunity employer," Diaz said. "We will play the best players. I'm not a good enough coach to not play the best players. I'm not a good enough coach to not play the best players.

"I'll say this about all of our freshmen: they've been practicing a split practice, playing against other freshmen on the offensive side of the ball," Diaz said. "Every freshman that we've brought in has shown us already in these three days why we've brought them to the University of Texas. Every one of those guys has made a play that you go 'yes, that's why we want that guy here.'"

Diaz also talked about the honing of his defensive philosophy, stating that "all coaches are thieves", and adding that while it sounded great in theory to apply NFL concepts to the college game, it was important to make sure that college players could learn the schemes in a 20-hour work week and that the schemes applied to offensive weapons utilized in college, like the option and the quarterback run game.

As for the quarterbacks, Diaz quipped that it was "actually my decision which one we play."

"They are all Xs to me," Diaz said. "We like to think about the offense that we're going against as nameless and faceless. They're just dots, they're just circles and Xs. So I haven't noticed (them) other than the fact that they're not throwing us the ball as much as I would like them to."


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