NORMAN — Louisiana Tech defensive coordinator Manny Diaz downplays any edge gained by either side’s knowledge of the other for Saturday’s game against Oklahoma.
Given the track record of Diaz’s defenses against the Sooners, it’s no surprise.
Oklahoma’s coaches are plenty familiar with Diaz’s defensive schemes. From 2011 until two games into last season, Diaz was Texas’ defensive coordinator.
In two meeting with the Sooners, his defenses gave up 701 passing yards, 429 rushing yards and 95 offensive points in a pair of Oklahoma blowouts.
He didn’t even make it to last season’s Red River Showdown, fired in favor of Greg Robinson after Diaz’s defense gave up 679 yards of total offense — 550 rushing yards — in a 40-21 loss against BYU last September.
“Everybody knows everybody,” Diaz said. “There are not a lot of secrets now in college football. With what we have access to film-wise, I have had a relationship with their staff. I visited with their coaching staff when I was at Mississippi State. I have buddies on their staff, so there is a lot less trickery going on than we all think.”
Oklahoma’s coaches, though they expect some variation from what Diaz did at Texas, have spent time looking at his past defenses in their preparation for the opener.
“Having played them before gives us some history,” OU co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. “It doesn’t mean they’ll do the same things because he’s coaching. We have to be prepared for that, and obviously he’s played us. He’s familiar somewhat with things we like to do. That’s just part of coaching. You try to prepare for every scenario and as much from the past as you can to help you.”
When Diaz arrived in Austin, he was a hot name, having had success at Middle Tennessee State and Mississippi State as a young defensive coordinator.
But Diaz’s star dimmed quickly. In his first season, the Longhorns lost 55-17 to Oklahoma, 38-26 to Oklahoma State and 48-24 to Baylor. The next season, things got worse. Texas gave up more than 5,000 yards of total offense for the first time in school history.
One day after the second game of last season, with no sign of improvement in sight, coach Mack Brown fired Diaz.
“Our performance on defense last night was unacceptable, and we need to change that,” Brown said immediately after the firing.
Diaz certainly hopes to have better success in Norman against the Sooners than he did in two meeting at the Cotton Bowl.
Watching Oklahoma line up in the Sugar Bowl — and how Alabama’s defense responded — was an eye-opener to the players Diaz coaches.
“It gets their attention when they see the University of Alabama on the first play of the Sugar Bowl and all 11 guys are in a stance and ready to play and that was probably the last snap of the whole game that that occurs,” Diaz said. “No matter how you try to prepare them for the tempo that Oklahoma’s offense plays with and how fast they really go, every defensive coordinator who goes up against them preaches the same thing in terms of how imperative it is to get ready to play and yet they still manage to surprise the defense with their tempo.
“This game will be as much of a battle from the whistle until the snap as much as it is from the snap to the whistle.”