Diaz easing into role as new coordinator; brings new schemes

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Adjusting to a new scheme is nothing new for Mack Brown’s defense.

In the past seven seasons, four defensive coordinators have held the position at Texas, grooming the Longhorns in their own ways.

Browns’ latest defensive hire, Manny Diaz, is in full control now after completing his first spring season in Austin and the Longhorn defense is finally starting to take shape.

Texas fans can expect to see a more aggressive defense on the field in 2011, behind Diaz’s pressure-oriented scheme. The days of sitting back and reacting — usually the game plan under former coordinator and current Florida head coach Will Muschamp — are gone, and the Longhorns will look to dictate the opposition’s offense by attacking the quarterback and running game.

“In this defense, we bring so much pressure that we dictate what happens,” said Texas senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho. “It’s not so much what the other team does; it’s more so what we do. If you’re aggressive and your teammates are aggressive, big things will happen.”

The change certainly has Acho excited, and the Dallas native says the potential for the defense this season is sky high.
While Diaz plans to utilize the speed and quickness up front to harass the ball carrier, the former Mississippi State coordinator isn’t forgetting his playmakers in the secondary. In fact, senior safety Blake Gideon says his newfound freedom on defense is a welcome change because the players have more flexibility to make adjustments before the play.

“As you get more comfortable in it, then you’re able to make checks and get out of base looks on the field,” Gideon said. “You’re able to show different things before pre-snap and move into something else. It’s really an NFL feel to this defense, in the sense that [Diaz] gives us so much responsibility on the field.”

While the Longhorns feel they are becoming accustomed to the new defensive philosophy, they still have their work cut out for them in the playbook.

“Right now, we think we know; when we come back we need to know we know,” Diaz said. “But that’s tough, and it’s all part of the transition going into a different type of scheme. We can’t have it memorized; we have to have the understanding, and that will come over the summertime.”

The Diaz defense requires everyone to be on the same page on every play, and the Longhorns will have to be well-versed on the nuances of the scheme when they return to the practice field at the end of the summer.

“We’re a defense that has to do everything right to be successful,” Diaz said. “On the plays when 11 guys lock in and do their job, we’re hard to move [the ball] against. But we still have very little margin for error if we don’t play with our technique and don’t play our assignments.”

Given the talent he sees on the field, Diaz has high expectations for his crew when practice resumes.

“If we come back the first practice in August at the same level, we’re in trouble,” he said. “It’s really important for our players in the offseason to make some strides.”

That’s easier said than done, considering the Longhorns’ disappointing offseason a year ago.

“I’m not sure we had a great summer last year,” Brown said. “It needs to be player driven. They need to know that they need to fight to get jobs when they get back in the fall.”

Texas will not have a depth chart before fall practice is underway.