UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa (WTAJ) — A Dick Lebeau reference likely endeared Manny Diaz to Penn State fans Saturday during the team’s media day.
Diaz, the former head coach at Miami, referenced “Blitzburg” and Lebeau when asked about balancing aggression, while mitigating risks of big plays. At Miami, Diaz twice led the nation in turnovers, and while some would argue turnovers are not sustainable, Diaz said there is an equation to his success.
“This is a fact, most turnovers happen on third down and long because your offense has to put the ball basically in harm’s way,” said Diaz. “They can protect that football on first, second down. If you’re not putting that third long, they can really, really can’t protect that ball. But sooner or later, you’ve got to expose your quarterback to drop back, pass.”
At Miami Diaz’s pride in turnovers berthed the ‘turnover chain,’ and a fad of teams across the county adopting celebratory batons, shoulder pads and countless chains. Coach James Franklin said this emphasis is apparent in practice.
“I literally just said that at a staff meeting this morning, we’re getting our hands on so many more balls, fumbles, turnovers.” said head coach James Franklin. “I will tell you this year, it’s been emphasized. I’ve felt like that in the past as well. But it’s been emphasized enough that we have a chance to take a step in the right direction this year.”
Diaz replaces Brent Pry who left in the offseason to take over as head coach at Virginia Tech. He brings in a defense from Miami that most expect to look a little different than Pry’s, but how different? Maybe not as much as expected.
“I think there’s more similar than different,” said Diaz. “There might be some nuances on why some outcomes are different and some other ways. I know this. They’ve played a high, high level of defense here and usually if you’re playing a high level defense, there’s going to be some non-negotiables that have to be true here that had to be true where I’ve been as well.”
“At the end of the day, we were going to try to go out and hire the best defensive coordinator we possibly could,” Franklin said. “But being able to find someone that comes from a similar background, similar philosophy, I think, is helpful.”
Whether or not the schematics change dramatically, Penn State will line up many new faces: Jaquan Brisker, Ellis Brooks, Arnold Ebiketie, Jesse Luketa, Brandon Smith, and Tariq Castro-Fields are all gone leaving ample large shoes to fill in 2022.