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Reviewing Diaz's first year

AUSTIN, Texas -- For a while, at least, there was debate about year two.

Could he go? Should he go? Where would he go?

Maybe those words more than anything were a measure of what Manny Diaz did in year one. Texas' first-year defensive coordinator didn't just maintain what he was left by Will Muschamp. Instead he rebuilt it into something bigger, better, stronger and more cohesive.

That's why before the season ended, Diaz's name was being floated for other opportunities. That's why Mack Brown was calming the masses and maybe even himself by saying Diaz was buying a house "in the city limits."

In a cutthroat profession where everyone with an armchair and DVR is transformed into Lombardi, Diaz was a hot commodity.

Robert Griffin III cooled him considerably. Of course, the Heisman winner did that to just about everybody. But Texas hadn't been just anybody. The defense had stood out.

In the five weeks before the Baylor game, there were three teams at the top of the defensive stats -- LSU, Alabama and Texas. Forget Coach Boom. Now they had a coach who was repeatedly lowering the boom.

Diaz did it with a package of more than 150 blitz schemes. He would drop defensive linemen back into coverage, stand up linebackers at the line, stunt, twist, blitz -- it was choreographed chaos. And it worked.

"We're playing as aggressive on defense and have as many big hits right now as I've seen in my 14 years," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "That's all a true credit to him."

The credit extends beyond the schemes. Here is the thing about all the coaching changes that happened at Texas after 2010, everyone was happy with Muschamp. He had earned so much respect that it was agreed upon that when Brown hangs it up, he would be the guy. No questions. Simple transition.

All the other coaches that came in over the offseason, they were something new and something different. And they were applauded for being a cure.

Diaz? He was questioned, or at the very least, looked at with a skeptical eye.

There was plenty to pick apart too.

Diaz didn't play college football. His family played politics. His dad was two-time Miami mayor.

He didn't come from Texas or the Big 12. His career started at ESPN of all places.

He didn't have the pedigree. Diaz had been a coordinator at a big-time school for only one year. And that school really wasn't even all that big time. It was Mississippi State.

But every time Brown picked up the phone to call his coaching buddies in the SEC, he heard the same thing: "Diaz is your guy. Hire him."

Not sure if anyone has called Brown back to tell him they told him so. But they very well could have.

Sure there were moments when Diaz didn't fit the part or couldn't make his parts fit the scheme.

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor all produced huge touchdown plays against the Longhorns. Those plays -- all of 30 or more yards -- led to crushing defeats.

But Texas' defense also produced in those games.

Against Oklahoma, 21 of the 55 points were scored by the Sooners' defense. Another 10 were scored when the Texas offense turned the ball over inside its own 35. That's 31 points. Texas lost by 38.

Against Oklahoma State, there was a kickoff return for a touchdown and an interception led to another touchdown drive. That's 14 points in a 12-point loss.

Against Baylor, Texas turned it over six times. The Bears produced 24 points off those turnovers. Texas lost by 24 points.

The two other losses -- Missouri and Kansas State -- can be laid squarely at the feet of the offense.

Even faced with that offense, Diaz's commitment never waned. Unlike last year when the locker room became divisive, Diaz fostered an environment where Texas was a team, not two disparate units. Finger pointing was banned. Optimism was applauded.

"The thing that Manny has is tremendous energy," Brown said. "He is that way every day. He is the most positive guy on the sideline. You're never going to lose a game. Ever. We're going to find a way, and that's the attitude he has."

It's more than an attitude when it comes to the players. Diaz buys in. That is what makes the players buy in. They know he is invested in them as players and as people. That means something to them.

"He cares more about you as a person than he does wins and losses," linebacker Emmanuel Acho said. "Now that I've matured a little bit, I really respect that and really value that, because the game of football is short-lived. The lessons you learn are much longer.

"He really cares about you as a person, and because of that you are able to play your heart out for him."

Now in a game where everyone wears their heart on their sleeve, when it is not in their throat, the drama that centers around Diaz is not when he will leave for a head coaching job elsewhere, but if Texas can keep him for at least another year or two.

"For the state of Texas, I hope so," Acho said.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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