NCF Nation: Manny Diaz

3-point stance: Dressed for success

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
5:00
AM ET
1. In 1997, Under Armour outfitted its first college football team, Georgia Tech, which opened the season at Notre Dame. Under Armour made $110,000 in sales that year, which is why its founder, Kevin Plank, spent the night before the game in the Yellow Jacket locker room -- he couldn’t afford a hotel. On Tuesday, Plank and Notre Dame announced a 10-year deal, worth a reported $90 million, for Under Armour to outfit all Fighting Irish teams. That’s the quintessential American success story.

2. A longtime reader emailed me to complain about the price of the $2,000-and-up premium tickets for the College Football Playoff final next year. He worried that the grab for cash will prevent the father-and-son bonding that takes place on fall Saturdays at campuses across America. I think that ship sailed some time ago. Iron Bowl tickets went for $300 each on StubHub last November. Face value for Texas-Oklahoma last season: $110.

3. Manny Diaz, looking for a chance to coach, and maybe redeem his reputation after the flame-out as Texas defensive coordinator, has been hired for the same gig at Louisiana Tech, where Skip Holtz landed last year, looking for a chance to coach, and maybe redeem his rep after South Florida, etc, etc. Ruston might be the place: After Tony Franklin fizzled as Auburn offensive coordinator, he spent three seasons in the same job with the Bulldogs. Franklin left a year ago with Sonny Dykes for the Cal Bears, back among the big boys.

Big 12 predictions: Week 10

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
9:00
AM ET
How could anyone decline Caymen Bishop’s submission for guest picker?

I'm a 14-year-old kid from Moore, Okla., and I would love nothing more than to be a guest picker for a week on my favorite website, alongside my favorite college football writer. I myself am hoping to be a sports journalist someday. I follow the Big 12 very closely and would represent the younger fan’s insight into the college football world.

Good luck, Caymen, and don’t make me look too bad.

This weekend, I’ll be with the Red Raiders for a third straight game, as I head back to Lubbock for their showdown with fellow Big 12 contender Oklahoma State. Max will be in Austin manning the Longhorns as they try to move to 5-0 against Kansas.

To the Week 10 picks:

SEASON RECORD

Trotter last week: 4-1 (.800)

Guest picker (oil-rig Colin) last week: 4-1 (.800)

Trotter overall: 41-12 (.774)

Guest picker overall: 26-10 (.722)

Texas 42, Kansas 9: Is Texas ever going to lose again? Somebody asked me this week if the Longhorns would be undefeated had they started out the season with Greg Robinson at defensive coordinator instead of Manny Diaz. I’m not so sure. The final scores against BYU and Ole Miss weren’t close. But I can’t argue that it might have been possible. The defense has been so much sounder with Robinson. How different would Mack Brown’s status be had he not decided to keep Diaz through the offseason? We’ll never know. But that singular decision could have lasting effects on who is Texas’ coach next season. Either way, it’s not unthinkable the Longhorns will be favored in every game until they travel to Baylor in the season finale. What a turnaround this is turning out to be in Austin.

Caymen’s pick: Kansas nearly upset Texas last year, but don't expect that to be the case here, as Case McCoy has another big day. Texas, 35-10

Kansas State 39, Iowa State 20: The Wildcats have emerged as the best team no longer in contention for the Big 12 crown. TCU and West Virginia might still make a bowl game, but K-State is the only one of the three that looks like an actual bowl team. The healthy return of Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson at wide receiver will be a huge boost for the passing attack, as the two totaled four touchdown receptions in last week’s rout of the Mountaineers. After a tough first half of the season, the Wildcats are not going to be able to defend their title. But they still could factor into the conference race by knocking off one of the contenders. The Cats will not be an easy out for Tech or Oklahoma this month.

Caymen’s pick: Kansas State’s passing game looked incredible last weekend, and Iowa State’s 101st-ranked pass defense won't be able to stop it either. K-State, 42-24

TCU 15, West Virginia 12: This is almost a must-win for either side’s bowl aspirations. West Virginia’s offense has been slightly less disastrous, but TCU’s defense is the best unit in this game. This is an offense the Horned Frogs will be able to dominate, giving their own inept offense enough field goal opportunities to prevail and keep TCU’s bowl hopes alive.

Caymen’s pick: Toss-up game. But West Virginia will force TCU into some turnovers. West Virginia, 21-17

Texas Tech 35, Oklahoma State 28: The Red Raiders have lost four in a row in this series, including a 66-6 whipping the last time the Pokes came to town. Last weekend, OSU’s rushing attack finally came alive as Desmond Roland overwhelmed Iowa State on the ground. The Cowboys won’t be able to do the same to Tech without a viable passing attack. After all, the Sooners only got moving against Tech once Blake Bell started completing passes downfield. OSU, however, has shown no signs of fashioning a viable passing attack. The Cowboys are ninth in Big 12 games in completion percentage (46.8), leading only Kansas. Tech’s passing attack (63.0), meanwhile, has been crisp with Davis Webb at QB. The Red Raiders will turn the ball over, and they’ll commit penalties, but they’ll also make plays in the passing game. That proves to be the difference in this key Big 12 matchup.

Caymen’s pick: Lubbock will be rowdy and rocking, and so will Tech’s offense. Tech, 45-38

Robinson sees Texas defense progressing

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Greg Robinson can spend hours in the film room and at a dry erase board planning and scheming for opponents. That’s the easy part, the job he’s been doing for more than 30 years.

But getting to know his own kids takes time. Entering week three as Texas’ new defensive coordinator, Robinson is glad that familiarity is finally coming along.

“I don’t call them by their numbers anymore,” Robinson said with a chuckle. “Starting to call them by their names.”

[+] EnlargeGreg Robinson
AP Photo/Eric GayNew Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson saw drastic improvement from his players in game two since taking over for Manny Diaz.
Robinson arrived in Austin on a Sunday night two weeks ago with the daunting task of fixing up Texas’ defense with only three days of practice at his disposal amid the embarrassing 40-21 loss at BYU that cost Manny Diaz his job.

He’s been hard at work ever since, doing everything he can to prepare for Texas’ opponents and find solutions for the flaws he inherited. Nobody expected perfection in his first week on the job, but Mack Brown needed to see progress by week 2, when Big 12 play began. And time heals all wounds, right?

The time Robinson gets this week is invaluable. A bye weekend means no opponent, which means plenty more time to focus on his personnel and implementing his ideas. It means, finally, he can slow down.

“Having a bye this week is really, really helpful,” Robinson said.

He hasn’t installed everything he has planned, but an extra 10 days could do wonders for him and his players. Getting Iowa State on a Thursday night next week also means extra prep time for Oklahoma.

As Diaz learned the hard way, this is a results-driven business. No matter the challenges Robinson faced in taking over on less-than-short notice, he has to coax better play out of his Longhorns defenders. If Texas’ performance against Kansas State is any indication, he might have this defense back on the right track.

We could go over all the numbers that say Texas’ defense got better from week 1 under Robinson to week 2, but most of them aren’t going to tell the story. Frankly, Ole Miss’ offense is better than the one K-State brought to Austin. A few numbers are promising, though.

Ole Miss averaged 6.04 yards per rush. K-State, which ran only four fewer plays than the Rebels, was held to 3.03. Texas stopped twice as many Kansas State rushes at or behind the line of scrimmage than it did against Ole Miss.

An interesting measure of a bend-don’t-break defense is how often an opponent scored after getting its initial first down on a drive. Ole Miss scored on 75 percent of those occasions. K-State? 33 percent.

Some of that is scheme and preparation, and a lot of it is motivation. Texas was staring down the possibility of starting the season 1-3. That scenario was unacceptable to its seniors.

“We control our effort,” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “That’s the thing. They can’t coach effort. We have to go and play hard, executed everything. That’s what we did. We made sure we executed the plays they put it.”

In the moments after the BYU loss, the leaders of Texas’ defense offered their unconditional support to Diaz and said he was still the right man for the job. They didn’t know much about Robinson when he arrived, but they’re buying in to what he brings to the table as their new leader.

“He made the promise that he was going to give us all he had, and that’s what he did,” defensive tackle Chris Whaley said. “We make the promise that we’ll give him all we have, so it was a great second week.”

Brown said he’s proud of how Robinson has collaborated with the rest of Texas’ defensive coaching staff. He has an especially strong connection with Duane Akina, the veteran secondary coach whom he’d worked closely with back in 2004.

“They’ve done such an amazing job,” Brown said. “They argue, they fight, but they did in ‘04. Then they come up with good stuff.”

They’re just getting started. Senior safety Adrian Phillips – or No. 17, as Robinson probably called him -- said he’s looking forward to finding out just what kind of coach Robinson really is over this next week.

The defensive coordinator can appreciate that. He too is starting to get a better sense of what he’s working with.

“Just being in the room with these guys, I’d be shocked if they didn’t just keep doing what they’re doing,” Robinson said. “And that’s getting better.”

Rebels notch signature win for Freeze

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
2:08
AM ET
AUSTIN, Texas – Before the final seconds ticked off, the chants came raining down.

“S-E-C! S-E-C!”

[+] EnlargeBo Wallace
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsBo Wallace and Ole Miss diced up the Texas defense to give Rebels coach Hugh Freeze a signature victory.
When the game did end, the Ole Miss players sprinted to the southeast corner of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium where their fans waited. Together, they bellowed out "Hotty Toddy" so loud they nearly drowned out Smokey’s nearby cannon fire.

Coach Hugh Freeze had been waiting for that signature win to pin his program’s ascent upon. Saturday night, he got it, as Ole Miss repaid the Longhorns by hammering them on their home field, 44-23.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Freeze, who pointed to this game a measuring stick after losing to Texas by five touchdowns last season. “We didn’t take six steps tonight. We just took one.”

But what a step it was.

Until Saturday, Ole Miss’ biggest victory under Freeze had been a 17-point win over reeling Mississippi State in last year’s Egg Bowl.

Sure, the Longhorns are a team in turmoil. Texas coach Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz earlier in the week and was forced to play backup quarterback Case McCoy with starter David Ash ailing with head and shoulder injuries.

But beating Texas in Austin still counts for something. And not only did the Rebels beat the Longhorns, they beat them up. In the second half, it was Ole Miss delivering the hits, and Texas taking them.

All told, the Rebels racked up 272 yards on the ground and shut down the Longhorns’ running game after halftime to pull away.

“At half, we just said, ‘Hey, I know we’re young, but let’s go out and play our base defense and see if our kids can compete,’” Freeze said. “Just line up and play base.”

Ole Miss didn’t do anything special offensively, either. Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace simply operated the zone reads to perfection, and tailback Jeff Scott dashed through Texas defenders around the edge.

Behind superb blocking from the Ole Miss offensive line and wideouts, Scott piled up 164 yards on 19 carries, then returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter to send Texas fans scurrying through the exits for Sixth Street.

“I think we had a great game plan,” Wallace said. “Our coaches studied it and knew we had a great game plan. It was on us to execute it.”

Wallace executed the game plan with unyielding precision. He rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown out of the zone read, finishing off the TD with a nifty spin move. Wallace also completed 17 of 25 passes for 177 and two touchdowns without an interception.

Wallace’s trust with hotshot true freshman wideout Laquon Treadwell only grew as the game wore on, too. With Ole Miss clinging to a 24-23 lead in the third quarter, Wallace found Treadwell 11 yards downfield to convert a third-and-6. Two plays later, Wallace connected with Treadwell for an 18-yard completion on the other side of the field, setting up an Ole Miss touchdown to give the Rebels the momentum back for good.

“We never got it back,” Brown said.

While the Longhorns are having to lower their expectations by the week, the undefeated Rebels are raising theirs.

“No doubt,” Wallace said. “Seven, eight wins, I don’t think that’s good enough. We’re talented enough to win more games.”

Such talk underscores which direction this Ole Miss program is heading. Since 1971, the Rebels have reached double-digit wins just once, when Eli Manning quarterbacked them in ’03.

But even in the rugged SEC West, these Rebels have their sights set high. And during postgame interviews, the conversation quickly changed from beating Texas to challenging top-ranked Alabama on the road in two weeks.

“It’s huge,” Wallace said. “’Bama will be hostile and fun. But those are the kind of games we want to play in.”

First, Ole Miss and its fans will enjoy this one. Until Freeze arrived, wins like this had been few and far between. But the way the Rebels played in Austin, many more appear to be on the way.

“For some of the times that our fans have gone through,” Freeze said, “and now to be in these games and them leaving the stadium very happy – it’s a great satisfaction.”

What to watch in the SEC: Week 3

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
10:15
AM ET
We've arrived at Week 3 of the season in the SEC, bringing us to one of the most anticipated matchups of the entire season: Alabama's trip to Texas A&M in a rematch of last season's thriller in Tuscaloosa, when eventual Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the Aggies upset the eventual BCS champion Crimson Tide 29-24.

But that's not the only game worth watching in the conference this season. Let's take a look at 10 things to watch on Saturday around the conference.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonMaybe it's something, maybe it's nothing, but Nick Saban is 7-1 at Bama in rematch games following a loss, with an average win margin of 20.9 points.
1. Revenge factor in College Station: At No. 6 in this week's AP Top 25, the Aggies won't sneak up on anyone this year. In fact, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and his troops have stewed over that loss throughout the offseason -- and that has typically been a bad sign for opponents. Since Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007, the Tide is 7-1 in rematch games following a loss, with an average margin of victory of 20.9 points. Of course, the Aggies have no intention of simply rolling over before its home crowd. Kevin Sumlin's club leads the SEC in scoring (58.5 ppg), total offense (600.0 ypg) and passing offense (392.0 ypg), so the Aggies should provide an enormous test for a formidable Alabama defense that allowed just 212 yards to Virginia Tech in its first game.

2. Run the X factor for Alabama: How the Aggies' porous defense fares against Alabama's strong running game might be the determining factor Saturday. An A&M defense that was depleted by suspensions has been horrendous so far, ranking last in the SEC by allowing 273 rushing yards per game to Rice and Sam Houston State. Oddly enough, Alabama is last in the league in rushing after totaling only 96 yards on the ground against Virginia Tech, but that trend is sure to be short-lived with star-caliber talent on the offensive line and T.J. Yeldon among the standouts in the backfield. Alabama is sure to try to control the pace of this game by hammering the Aggies' defense with its talented stable of running backs on Saturday. It will require an infinitely more effective performance by A&M's defense than what we've seen thus far if the Aggies are to do an acceptable job against the Tide's ground game.

3. Tough nonconference matchups: The SEC hasn't fared so well in its marquee nonconference games thus far, with Georgia and Florida falling to a pair of ACC opponents, Clemson and Miami, and Mississippi State laying an egg against Oklahoma State. Yes, LSU and Alabama held up their ends of the deal with wins against TCU and Virginia Tech, respectively, but this might be another weekend where SEC teams come up on the short end of high-profile nonconference matchups. As of Tuesday night, Tennessee was a 27.5-point underdog for Saturday's game at Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon, and Kentucky was also a double-digit underdog (plus-13.5) for its in-state rivalry game with Louisville. One of the more intriguing games of the weekend is Ole Miss' visit to a Texas program in turmoil, but the Longhorns are the favorite in that game, as well.

4. Measuring stick for Vols: New Tennessee coach Butch Jones' club has been impressive in its first two games, routing overmatched Austin Peay and Western Kentucky, but its next two games are a completely different animal. The Vols have the pleasure of facing No. 2 Oregon on national TV Saturday, followed by another tough road trip, to No. 18 Florida, the following week. Tennessee ranks 13th nationally with an average of 48.5 points per game and it leads the SEC with a plus-seven turnover margin, but slowing down Oregon's offensive juggernaut in Eugene is no simple task. The Ducks are 27-2 at Autzen Stadium dating back to the start of the 2009 season and at 62.5 points per game in wins against Virginia and Nicholls State, this year's club looks to be just as good as its recent predecessors.

5. Odell Beckham show: LSU's multi-talented return man and receiver punctuated an outstanding night by returning a missed field goal 100 yards for a touchdown last weekend against UAB. He also caught 136 yards worth of passes for three touchdowns against the Blazers. Kent State should provide ample opportunity for Beckham to add to his impressive stats -- he already has 10 catches for 254 yards and three TDs -- before the Tigers jump into conference play next week against Auburn.

6. Rebels primed for upset?: What do we make of Saturday night's Ole Miss-Texas game in Austin? The Longhorns won last year's game in Oxford by five touchdowns, but they hadn't just performed so poorly that coach Mack Brown felt compelled to fire a coordinator two games into the season. Texas' defense was horrendous last week, allowing 550 rushing yards -- the most by an opponent in school history -- in a 40-21 loss at BYU. That prompted Brown to reassign defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and bring back Greg Robinson to take his job. Flash forward to this weekend. At No. 25, Ole Miss is ranked for the first time since 2009, and the Rebels aren't too shabby on offense with an average of 510.5 yards per game. That matchup between Hugh Freeze's up-and-coming team and a Texas club on the verge of imploding makes for one of the weekend's most compelling storylines.

7. Arkansas' running game: Those around the conference are starting to take notice of the new-look ground game that first-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has brought to Fayetteville. Once a pass-heavy offense under Bobby Petrino, Arkansas is 11th nationally with an average of 312.5 rushing yards per game. The Razorbacks have both the No. 6 (Alex Collins at 151.5 yards per game) and No. 12 (Jonathan Williams, 138.5 ypg) rushers in the country, and they'll face a Southern Miss defense this weekend that has been vulnerable against the run so far, ranking 81st with an average of 179.0 yards against.

8. Gamecocks, Commodores with something to prove: Steve Spurrier was livid after the way his defense performed in last week's loss to Georgia, vowing that the Gamecocks would change things up to force more turnovers. The Gamecocks risk falling out of the SEC East race if they suffer another division loss, so games like Saturday's visit from Vanderbilt are essentially must-wins. Although there have been a few near-misses, the Commodores are still in search of their first win against the East's power trio of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. With an SEC-high eight sacks and an overall productive defense, the Commodores might be able to give themselves a chance in Columbia if they contain South Carolina's offense and hit a big play or two against a Gamecocks defense in transition.

9. Enormous test for Kentucky secondary: Saturday's matchup against Louisville is a minor nightmare for a Kentucky team that lists three freshmen and four sophomores on the two-deep at its five secondary positions. Led by Heisman contender Teddy Bridgewater (376.0 ypg, 9 TDs, 1 INT) at quarterback, Louisville possesses one of the most potent passing offenses in the country. Kentucky has actually defended the pass fairly well so far, ranking fourth in the SEC with 147.0 yards allowed per game and limiting opponents to an 11.5-percent conversion rate on third down, but the Wildcats posted those numbers against Western Kentucky and Miami (Ohio). Defensive end Za'Darius Smith (an SEC-high four sacks) and company must get after Bridgewater for the Wildcats to have a chance on Saturday.

10. Bowl implications for Auburn, Mississippi State: For a pair of teams harboring mid-level bowl hopes, Saturday's matchup is a big one. Already 2-0, Auburn is a win away from matching its win total for all of last season. But with games remaining against LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama, bowl eligibility likely hinges on beating the Mississippi States of the world. Dan Mullen's Bulldogs, meanwhile, are desperate to right the ship after dropping six of their last games since starting the 2012 season 7-0. They flat-out stunk in a 21-3 loss to open the season against Oklahoma State and still have all of the West's heavyweights left on the schedule, plus South Carolina. The loser of this one might very well be home for Christmas.

3-point stance: Battle for Iowa

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
5:00
AM ET
1. In four-plus seasons at Iowa State, Paul Rhoads may be 4-15 against ranked teams. He is 9-15 against the other nine teams in the Big 12. The Cyclones may have opened the season by losing to FCS cross-state opponent Northern Iowa, 28-20. But Iowa State has defeated Iowa the last two seasons, by a field goal each time. That’s called job security. The Hawkeyes come to Ames Saturday having won only five of their last 16 games. It may be mid-September, but there’s a lot at stake.

2. Despite the hysteria generated by Texas’s defensive meltdown and the subsequent firing of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, athletic director DeLoss Dodds’ pulse remains slow and steady. Dodds said again this week to the Austin American-Statesman that head coach Mack Brown has his full support. He has said it for the last three frustrating seasons. That hasn’t stopped the job speculation. That never stops the speculation. One day, of course, Brown won’t be the head coach at Texas. You should live so long.


3. There’s plenty of feel-good stories at Colorado, which is 2-0 after going 1-11 last season. My favorite among the Buffs is junior wide receiver Paul Richardson, who has traveled a long road to lead the FBS with 208.5 receiving yards per game (21 catches, 4 scores). Richardson missed a good chunk of 2011 with one knee injury, and all of 2012 with another. He’s back, he’s healthy and the Buffs, under first-year coach Mike MacIntyre, have a pulse.

3-point stance: The right approach

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
5:00
AM ET
1. The way that Oklahoma State has reacted to the coming investigative piece by Sports Illustrated is a textbook example of how to handle a P.R. firestorm. Athletic director Mike Holder made respectful comments about the Sports Illustrated journalists working on the piece. He promised the university would be thorough in its own investigation. He apologized to the Cowpoke alums and to the rest of the Big 12. Either Holder knows how to play the game or he knows that SI has his school dead to rights. Or both.

2. The firing of Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz on Sunday, coupled with the feeble USC offense Saturday night, sucked a lot of oxygen out of the weekend postmortems. Toss in the wild marquee games (Florida-Miami, South Carolina-Georgia, Notre Dame-Michigan) and it was real easy to overlook the fact that most of the top 10 did what top-10 teams should do -- beat lesser teams by greater margins. It wasn’t as crazy a weekend as it appeared.

3. It’s Time-Zone Gamesmanship Week, as in, UCLA (at Nebraska) and Stanford (at Army) both play at 9 a.m., Pacific time. Wisconsin plays at Arizona State at 9:30 p.m., Central time. Yeah, I know -- TV networks have something to do with this. I asked Stanford head coach David Shaw earlier this year if he planned to do any extra prep for Breakfast at West Point. He said that in 2011, when the Cardinal played at Duke, the coaches got them up early all week. When the game started, Stanford played great in the first half. In the second half, they had nothing left. This year, Shaw said, no early practices.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Nearly 24 hours have passed since Texas announced the hiring of Greg Robinson as its new defensive coordinator, and to say they’ve been a whirlwind would be a severe understatement.

Mack Brown made the call to Robinson early Sunday afternoon. Manny Diaz is out. We need you in Austin. He accepted, boarded a plane, landed in Austin around 6:30 p.m. and headed straight to practice.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
AP Photo/Rick BowmerTexas coach Mack Brown said Saturday's loss to BYU was unacceptable and that led to making the change at defensive coordinator.
Robinson was up past 1 a.m. cramming for his first big test as the new leader of the troubled Texas defense. He was still catching up on Texas’ defensive terminology on Monday. He is, understandably, too busy to do interviews with Texas media this week, and Brown said Monday he hadn’t even met with Robinson to talk scheme and planning for Ole Miss.

“He’ll have three practices between now and Saturday to try to get us in a better spot,” Brown said. “It’s a tough deal for him.”

It’s a tough deal for everyone in this Longhorn program. Usually these kinds of coaching changes are made on bye weeks. Brown let Diaz go Sunday in part because he had to buy as much time as he can to get Robinson ready for Texas’ Big 12 schedule.

The biggest reason may have been this: Brown couldn’t afford to sit back and watch things get even worse.

“That was unacceptable on Saturday night,” Brown said. “It went back to the three to four games we had in a row last year where we couldn’t stop the run. I wasn’t going to let that continue.”

He does not expect Robinson to work a miracle and fix every flaw in one week. Brown just needs to see progress, and the veteran leaders of his defense are ready to get to work … once they get their game plan.

“Obviously right now, we’re not sure what the game plan is,” Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “Coach Robinson, coach [Duane} Akina, coach [Bo] Davis are all in there getting all the film sessions and game plans ready to go. The biggest thing we’ve got to do is execute. We felt prepared for BYU. We were prepared. We’ve got to go out there and put it on ourselves to actually execute a game plan and do that effectively.”

Hicks admitted he was shocked Diaz was let go but believes his former position coach would want the team to move on and get ready for No. 25 Ole Miss.

Brown said Monday the plan Texas had to attack BYU was a good one. The players’ inconsistent execution of that plan was the real problem, and their coach was held responsible for that.

“If we would’ve performed better, if we would’ve executed his scheme better, he wouldn’t be in this position and we wouldn’t be in this position,” Hicks said. “We feel like we could’ve played better against BYU and had better opportunities.”

Brown saw enough from working with Robinson in 2004 to know he’s the kind of guy Texas’ defenders need right now.

“Greg brings a wealth of knowledge. He’s a true veteran,” Brown said. “He’s a guy that has three Rose Bowl rings and a Super Bowl ring, so he’s been there before. He handles pressure well, he makes great adjustments. When he was here before, we tackled very well, we chased the ball and we were very sound fundamentally. He’s a guy kids love to play for.”

The big question is how different his take on Texas’ defense will be. Expect a more simplified approach focused on sound tackling and physical play, and Robinson will add his own wrinkles along the way. But there isn’t enough time at this point to implement sweeping big-picture changes.

“I guess we’ll have to see,” Hicks said. “I don’t know what to expect defensively. I’m not sure if we’re sticking with the same stuff or taking it in a new direction. I have no clue. We haven’t talked about it yet.”

To Texas safety Adrian Phillips, losing Diaz was just as painful as losing in Provo. Both results, he said, felt like a punch in the face. But he felt Robinson made a great impression in his first time meeting with the team Sunday night, and he’s confident his teammates will rally around their new boss.

“I mean, we have no choice,” Phillips said. “If we want BYU to be our only loss of the season, we have no choice but to buy in. I know my teammates want to be successful just like I do. We’ll buy into it.”

What exactly did Robinson say to his new players in his first night on the job?

“He was very brief with them,” Brown said. “He said, ‘Tough situation for all of us. I’m going to come in and try to do the best I can do to help get back on track.’ He broke them down. That was it.”

With less than 140 hours to repair Texas’ defense, he didn’t have time for much else.

Video: Texas defensive struggles

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
11:30
AM ET

Mark Schlabach reacts to the latest example of the Longhorns' defensive struggles that allowed 550 rushing yards to BYU on Saturday.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 2

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
11:00
AM ET
One thing the Big 12 is not is dull. Here’s a recap of the wild weekend it was in the conference:

Team of the week: Baylor. The Bears completely dismantled a Buffalo team that hung tough with Ohio State last weekend. There was no hanging tough in Waco for the Bulls, who were chased out of town with a 70-13 shellacking. During one unreal 11-minute stretch, Baylor racked up 576 yards of offense while averaging 12.5 yards a play. The Bears also scored touchdowns on their first eight drives, and probably would have scored a ninth had they not run out of time in the first half. Baylor has won six straight dating back to last season.

Disappointment of the week: Texas. First, the Longhorns lost 40-21 to BYU. Then, they lost defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who was fired Sunday and replaced with Greg Robinson. Mack Brown said at the beginning of August he was confident this would be his best team since 2009. If the Longhorns aren’t careful, it could be his worst. Texas has at least a half-dozen losable games left on the schedule, including this weekend’s meeting with emerging Ole Miss.

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
AP Photo/Eric GayJ.W. Walsh had a record day for Oklahoma State.
Big (offensive) man on campus: J.W. Walsh. The Oklahoma State sophomore answered many questions about his passing prowess in a 56-35 win over UTSA that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score. Walsh set an Oklahoma State single-game completion percentage record by connecting on 24 of 27 passes. He found four different receivers for touchdowns and rushed one in on his own. Even though he’s known for his wheels, Walsh now has the 17th-best passing EPA (expected points added) in college football.

Big (defensive) man on campus: Gabe Lynn. The Oklahoma safety has been maligned in the past for giving up huge plays in the pass, notably in the 2011 home loss to Texas Tech. But Saturday against West Virginia, the former cornerback was delivering the huge plays from his new position. In the third quarter, Lynn intercepted Mountaineers QB Paul Millard, then later scooped up a fumble and returned it 27 yards. The two turnovers killed West Virginia drives and helped keep the Mountaineers at bay even while the Oklahoma offense struggled.

Special-teams player of the week: Tramaine Thompson. The veteran playmaker showed why the Wildcats have one of the most dangerous return units in the country. Thompson’s 94-yard kickoff return to begin the second half put an underrated Louisiana Lafayette away. The return duo of Thompson and Tyler Lockett remains one of the best in the country.

Play of the week: The last time a Kansas wide receiver caught a touchdown pass, Justin McCay was still playing for Oklahoma. McCay, now a Jayhawk, vowed to end that ignominious streak, which dated back to Oct. 22, 2011. In the second quarter against South Dakota, McCoy hauled in a 5-yard pass from quarterback Jake Heaps at the back of the end zone that put Kansas ahead for good while ending the streak for good, too.

Stat of the week: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Baylor already has 16 touchdown drives of two minutes or less, which leads the nation. Oregon has 15. No other program is in double digits. The Ducks led the FBS last year with 45 such drives. Baylor is on pace this season for 104.

Quote of the week: “I haven’t even gotten out of the game. … I’d like to watch the video.” -- Texas coach Mack Brown, when asked after the BYU game whether Manny Diaz would remain his defensive coordinator. Brown fired Diaz the next day.

Replacing Diaz a panic move for Texas

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
7:30
PM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Bringing Manny Diaz back was better than bringing in a stranger.

That, in a nutshell, was Mack Brown’s mentality this offseason when he opted to retain the maligned Diaz amid the worst defensive season in Texas history.

He could’ve sent Diaz packing last December, and a large faction of the Longhorn fan base would’ve been satisfied. But he was convinced that Diaz, a young defensive guru who’d succeeded everywhere he went, was still the right man for the job.

[+] EnlargeManny Diaz
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesThe Texas defense led by coordinator Manny Diaz couldn't stop BYU on Saturday.
Brown would joke that Diaz hadn’t gone dumb overnight. In the end, it took only one night to end his tenure as Texas defensive coordinator.

Two games into the season, Diaz was officially relieved of his duties and reassigned within the UT athletic department on Sunday, clearing the way for recently hired football analyst and former Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to take the reigns and try to fix the mess BYU exposed on Saturday.

There were absolutely no signs this move was coming before Texas kicked off in Provo. This was a panic move by Brown, one that conveys just how concerned he is about Texas’ next 10 games.

That’s not to say this wasn’t the right move. The faith he’d put in Diaz to get Texas’ defense back on track was badly burned Saturday. BYU did exactly what Diaz had expected and prepared his defense for, and they still rushed for 550 yards -- nearly 100 more than a Texas defense had ever given up -- en route to an easy 40-21 victory.

Diaz was red-eyed and seemed shaken by what he’d witnessed when he sat down for his postgame interview. He was asked if he was confident he’d still be coaching for Texas’ next game against Ole Miss.

“Yeah. That’s not even a topic,” Diaz said.

Mack Brown did not say yes. He said he wanted to watch the game film. And the film didn’t lie: Texas did not make adjustments on defense. Diaz had no answers.

But one game, one terrible night, didn’t really do Diaz in. Add up the 15 games Texas has played since the start of the 2012 season and the Longhorns ranked No. 111 in FBS in run defense, No. 101 in yards per rush and No. 85 in yards per play allowed.

But Brown trusted him, at least publicly. When Texas announced the hiring of Robinson on July 17, as analyst who scouted UT opponents, Robinson made sure to include this quote in the press release: “In Manny [Diaz's] case, I don't want it in any way for him to feel like he has someone looking over his shoulder at all. That's not what I'm there for. I don't want to in any way inhibit him or any of the coaches. Mack and I talked about that, and that was important to me.”

Whether Brown brought in Robinson as his contingency plan if Diaz failed is debatable, but the selection of Robinson is no doubt a curious one for this reason: He is, essentially, the stranger.

Robinson last coached at Texas in 2004. He had no hand in assembling this roster. He didn’t plan to live in Austin as an analyst, instead commuting from Los Angeles for meetings, fall camp and home games.

Texas’ defensive players, the ones who insisted they 100-percent supported Diaz on Saturday night, are familiar with Robinson but hardly know him well. How will they react to the new leadership?

A fresh start might be just what they need, and Robinson could be the right guy needed to simply the scheme and put a Texas defense on the field that’s far better prepared. But there’s no guarantee this will be enough.

This is a gamble by Brown, no question. His gut feeling wasn’t wrong -- enough was enough. Manny Diaz couldn’t get the job done.

But there’s nobody else left to scapegoat and no room for excuses. Now Mack Brown has to get the job done.

The biggest Big 12 offseason storylines

January, 17, 2013
1/17/13
11:00
AM ET
The offseason is under way, but offseasons are fun, too. Here are the storylines to keep an eye on until the teams are back on the field in 2013.

1. Can Casey Pachall get back on track? TCU's quarterback is officially back with the team after leaving school to go to an in-patient drug and alcohol treatment facility. Most people want to know if he'll be the same player, but what's even more important is whether he can avoid the same pitfalls and get his life back on track.

2. Expansion junction, what's your function? The odds seem strongly against it, but you know we're not getting through a college football offseason without talking expansion at some point. How much will it heat up? Will Florida State re-emerge as a Big 12 candidate?

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin and Art Briles
AP Photo/Darren AbateArt Briles, left, has done a great job developing quarterbacks at Houston and at Baylor.
3. Will the 'Quarterback Whisperer' do it again? Baylor coach Art Briles' last four quarterbacks have been absurd. Kevin Kolb and Case Keenum got it done at Houston, and Robert Griffin III won a Heisman as the best of the bunch at Baylor. Nick Florence led the Big 12 in passing yards last year. What does Briles have in store this season? Bryce Petty has better measurables than Florence, but can the redshirt junior show off his experience in the system and make good decisions?

4. Striking the fear back in Lubbock. Kliff Kingsbury is looking to bring swagger back to Lubbock. He's still piecing together his staff, but the 33-year-old has the pieces to put together a solid team on the field, too. Can Texas Tech break the string of late-season collapses the past two years?

5. Charlie Weis' juco revolution. Weis has made it clear that he wants quick fixes and to win now at KU. Will his juco recruiting haul do it? Defensive lineman Marquel Combs was the nation's No. 1 juco recruit, and Weis has done a heck of a job selling immediate playing time to these guys. The current recruiting class has 17 juco transfers among 25 commits. Will it pay off, and how will these guys look once they get on campus? Are wins just around the corner?

6. A quarterback competition for the ages. Was Oklahoma State the first team ever to have three 1,000-yard passers? Two of them were freshmen, too. The QB derby last spring was good. This year's will be even better, with all three showing they could win games in Big 12 play. Clint Chelf will have the inside track, but Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh will try to swipe it away. Could one transfer be imminent after the spring?

7. Are the Longhorns finally, officially, certifiably back? Texas looked like it was back after going up to Stillwater and winning a dramatic game that helped the Longhorns ascend to No. 11 in the polls. Then consecutive losses capped by a Red River Blowout made it obvious the Horns weren't quite back yet. David Ash's development and fixing Manny Diaz's surprisingly vulnerable defense will decide whether 2013 is the season Texas returns to the BCS stage.

8. What about the championship game? Bob Bowlsby turned some heads when he inquired with the NCAA about a waiver to hold a championship game with just 10 teams. I don't think there's much fire around that smoke, but how serious will any talk of a return of the Big 12 title game get? The coaches would hate it.

Sources: Manny Diaz staying at Texas

December, 19, 2012
12/19/12
8:30
AM ET
Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is staying put, pulling out of consideration to become Florida International's new head coach.

From our news story:
A source close to Diaz said he decided to stay at Texas because he's excited about the program's future. The source went on to say Diaz wants to get the defense back where it was as one of the nation's best.

Good move from Diaz. He has the personnel to get this defense back to where it once was, and his predecessor left to become the head coach at Florida. You know, big Florida. Diaz doesn't have Will Muschamp's experience, but he can get a better job eventually than FIU, even though it's back near his home in South Florida.

Shoop, Vanderbilt D turn the page

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
1:00
PM ET
Vanderbilt finished 18th nationally last season in total defense.

As the Commodores’ second-year defensive coordinator, Bob Shoop, is quick to point out, that was good enough for sixth in the SEC ... or middle of the pack.

“That’s the reality in this league,” Shoop said.

The other reality in this league is that there’s no resting on your defensive laurels.

As good as the Commodores were last season on defense, as sound as they were and as proficient as they were at taking the ball away from opponents, it all starts anew Thursday night when South Carolina visits Vanderbilt Stadium.

“Each team has its own identity, and you can’t ever take it for granted that because you did it last year, you’re going to do it again this year,” Shoop said. “Each level of defense has its own piece.”

The Commodores are missing some key pieces from a year ago, notably middle linebacker Chris Marve, defensive end Tim Fugger and cornerback Casey Hayward.

[+] EnlargeBob Shoop
Sean Meyers/Icon SMIVanderbilt's defense was aggressive last season -- and could be more so this season, coordinator Bob Shoop said.
Chase Garnham moves over from his outside linebacker spot to fill in for Marve in the middle. The Commodores think fellow junior Walker May can be that finisher off the edge that Fugger was last season, and senior Trey Wilson moves into Hayward’s stopper role at cornerback.

“One of the biggest things we’ll miss is Casey’s playmaking ability because he had such a unique ability to intercept passes,” Shoop said.

Hayward had seven of the Commodores’ 19 interceptions last season, and that's a tribute to his ball skills and nose for the ball. But it’s also a tribute to the way Shoop likes to play defense.

The Commodores never quit attacking and are masterful at bringing pressure from all different angles. Although some of the pieces might be different, the approach won't change this season.

In fact, Shoop said he thinks there’s enough speed and versatility on this defense that the Commodores might take their creativity to another level.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who are interchangeable, and this group might be even more suited to pressuring, believe it or not,” Shoop said. “Our linebackers and safeties are all basically the same guys. They all run around and are aggressive and fast.

“We may do it a little differently than we did a year ago, but our defense is built on running to the ball and never-ending pressure. Coach [George] Barlow, our defensive backs coach, always says that pressure makes the pipes burst.”

Shoop’s transformation of Vanderbilt's defense shouldn’t come as a surprise. He did it at William & Mary and put together some of the top defenses in the FCS ranks, which no doubt attracted the interest of James Franklin.

The Commodores allowed 9.6 fewer points and 96.4 fewer yards per game last season than they did the year before and intercepted 10 more passes.

Shoop, who earned an economics degree from Yale and was the head coach at Columbia University from 2003 to 2005, also isn’t afraid to think outside the box.

During the offseason, Shoop visited with a former SEC defensive coordinator also known for his innovative schemes -- current Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

So who knows what Shoop might dial up Thursday against the Gamecocks, who will have a new look of their own. Running back Marcus Lattimore returns after missing the last half of last season with a knee injury, and he’ll be in the lineup with junior quarterback Connor Shaw. They played only 1½ games together last season before Lattimore was injured.

“It’s really more difficult preparing for them now because you look at the film and see Connor playing so well at the end of last season and doing so many good things, and then you add Marcus to the equation,” Shoop said. “It’s a challenge. But like any opening game, it’s more about us than it is them.

“It’s on us doing things well, and it’s on me and the staff to adjust during the course of the game.”

The Big 12's next great coaches

July, 13, 2012
7/13/12
9:00
AM ET
The Big 12 isn't stocked with many fresh-faced coaches, but the league's biggest rising star just finished his first season on the sideline.

It ended with a league title and a BCS bowl win -- rather emphatically, I might add -- but he just didn't do it in the Big 12. What did he do in the Big 12? Groom one of the game's best offensive minds underneath Mike Leach before helping revitalize offenses at Houston and Oklahoma State.

That earned Dana Holgorsen a heck of a first job -- West Virginia -- and earns him my pick as the Big 12's biggest rising star in the coaching profession.

It's really not even close. Holgorsen earned a strong reputation at Texas Tech, but he wasn't the man calling the plays. That changed with record-breaking quarterback Case Keenum at Houston. His prolific offenses persuaded Mike Gundy to reluctantly cede the play-calling duties at Oklahoma State.

That may have been the best decision of Gundy's career. Oklahoma State blossomed into a force in 2010 and kept an almost exact replica of Holgorsen's offense to win the Big 12 in 2011. Anybody else know the last time one coach's offense won two league titles in a single season?

Now West Virginia is reaping the benefits of Holgorsen's offensive expertise. At 41, he is the Big 12's youngest head coach (31 years younger than its oldest, Bill Snyder) and three years younger than anyone else in the league (Mike Gundy is 44).

West Virginia has proved that it may not be one of college football's ultimate destination jobs (Hi, RichRod!), but it's a place you can stay for a long time and win. Every indication is that is exactly what Holgorsen will do, and now he'll get a chance to do it in familiar territory in the Big 12.

Want a few other rising stars in the coaching game? They're roaming the sidelines as Mack Brown's right-hand men.

Manny Diaz is my No. 1 on the list. He has had the athletes, sure, but in one season, he turned Texas from a very good defense into the meanest in the Big 12 by far -- and one of the nation's best.

Despite losing tons of NFL talent at linebacker, the Longhorns are back this year and fit to lead the Big 12 in total defense for a fifth consecutive season. Diaz has helped turn his secondary into the league's best, built on toughness. Last season, Texas was the nation's last team to give up a touchdown pass longer than 20 yards, holding out until the season finale against Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. In today's Big 12, that's unbelievable.

Diaz has risen faster than anybody in coaching recently. Ten years ago, he was preparing for his first position coach job after serving as a graduate assistant at NC State. Now, he has a case as one of the nation's best coordinators. Two years ago, he was the coordinator at Middle Tennessee State, and now he has replaced Will Muschamp, who left the Texas DC spot to take the head-coaching job at Florida. Don't be surprised if a big boy job comes calling for Diaz, even with his inexperience, very soon.

Keep an eye on Oklahoma OC Josh Heupel, but my other coach to watch is Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. He has more experience as a playcaller and groomed his skills under one of the game's best coaches, Chris Petersen at Boise State. He spent five seasons calling plays at Boise, which calculates to approximately 464,126 pre-snap shifts from the time he was promoted after three seasons as tight ends coach to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

That's the title he holds in Austin, but it might not be for long if he can help usher in the balanced, power-running attack Texas has wanted since Colt McCoy left after the 2009 season. There is no more visible place to do it, and if Harsin succeeds, he'll be adjusting to the title of head coach at some place nice very soon.

SPONSORED HEADLINES