UT’S Diaz has some un­fin­ished busi­ness

De­fense

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - Con­tin­ued from C

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.

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