"I like the intensity that we're practicing with," Diaz said Tuesday. "I think we've picked up where we left off in the spring, which picked up where we left off in the weight room in January and February. It's just been a continual process of upping the intensity level in which we do everything. That's just been fun to watch the guys work through a very physical first week of practice and through the weekend. It's been a great week."
So what has stood out to the Longhorn DC so far?
"It's fall camp. We've been out there for about 10 practices now, so I mean everybody kind of bounces around, but certainly you're seeing what you'd expect out of your older guys," Diaz said. "Adrian Phillips has picked up where he left off in the spring. Jackson Jeffcoat is doing a great job up front. Jordan Hicks and Carrington Byndom, just the usual suspects. The guys that should be playing the best ball of their careers are all doing that. But as a coach, you're looking at the whole group, and I'm really pleased with how everybody's developing."
"First and foremost, I think just swarm," Diaz said. "I think that has been a big rallying point. Team defense is trusting guys and leveraging the football. If I believe that someone is going to set an edge to the football play, then everyone can run and track the inside hip. When you do that, physics says that that's where the more violent tackles happen, creating a lot of knock-back because guys aren't having to stop their feet on contact.
"You see guys running through contacts," Diaz said. "You're starting to see some of those glimpses of guys trusting their teammates. They say, 'Look, I know you're going to be there, so I believe you're going to be there, so I'm going to run to my area as fast as humanly possible.' That's encouraging."
Diaz's defense was oft-maligned a year ago, though Texas coach Mack Brown has repeatedly mentioned that he was proud of the steps forward that the unit took over the course of the year. Diaz said the defense's mindset has changed.
"Well our team, which has more maturity, we can raise the expectations on the kids and what we expect out of them," Diaz said. "They've raised their expectations of what they expect, not only out of each other, but also out of their teammates. That's a big part of it is that when you're young, you're not sure you know the answer yourself, it's hard to demand that the guy next to you knows the answer. But when you grow up and all of a sudden you start looking around and you realize that you're dependent on the guy to your right and to your left, you start asking different questions of that guy. That's what you can see, certainly of us defensively, and I think it's the entire football team.
"We've always said enough with talking about the problems of last year, but I do know that this is a player development job," Diaz said. "That's something that we've never wavered from at any point during the last 12 months. We are fully invested in our guys getting better and they're getting better. Everybody develops at different times, and they all figure it out at different times, and the answer for most things in life is consistency and enthusiasm. We have stayed after it and we've continued to hammer the rod, and we've done it with a great attitude. The kids are responding. Now that's what we're seeing out of them. We're seeing great consistency and great enthusiasm."
Now, defensive leaders like Hicks and Jeffcoat are tossing around the word "dominant" as an adjective for what they expect from the defense this year. Diaz explained what playing dominant defense meant to him.
"Number one, we always want to be a winning defense," Diaz said. "We want to do what it takes to win the football game, but what we have to define ourselves is that no matter who we're playing or where we're setting the ball down, we have to play fast, we have to play physical, we have to play tough. Those are three things; that's our image. That's what the Texas standard is, and that's what we strive for every time we take the field, whether it's practice or a game."