UT’S Diaz has some unfinished business
experience as new as it is unwanted. On the fast track after a relatively late introduction to coaching, he had been one of the sport’s rising stars until his reputation was tarnished by this year’s misadventures, which he blamed on “99 reasons.”
Diaz, however, insists his confidence hasn’t wavered. And he doesn’t look at Texas’ struggles this year in terms of how it’s been a humbling experience for himself.
“I don’t really think about me all that much,” he said. “I think about the kids that I coach. I’m more than happy to be the target for them. If everybody wants to put the heat on me as opposed to our kids, that’s fine. That’s a role I’m comfortable taking for them.”
Oh, there’s been heat. Internet message boards and talk-show phone lines have been sizzling. So when Diaz was linked to the opening at Florida International, located in his hometown of Miami, where his father was a two-term mayor, his critics hoped FIU would be his destination.
Diaz said he interviewed at FIU because, “You don’t leave the University of Texas for any position unless it’s a perfect situation. So that was one side of the equation.”
The other side? Unfinished business with the Longhorns.
“You have some pride about yourself,” he said. “There’s something that I came here to do. There’s something we started last year and we had a setback this year. You want to get back to getting these guys playing the type of defense that we’re capable of playing.”
Critics have charged that Diaz’s occasionally exotic stunts and blitzes have taken defenders totally out of plays. But there have been other, unpreventable factors that also played huge roles in the defense’s turmoil — injuries to linebacker Jordan Hicks and end Jackson Jeffcoat, primarily.
Hicks’ season-ending groin injury at Ole Miss in the third game was especially devastating because it took away the emotional and play-calling leader among the front seven, not to mention Texas’ only experienced linebacker.
“It’s like losing the quarterback of your defense,” Diaz said.