Manny Diaz on shaky ground

Texas coach Mack Brown now taking on active role in fixing Longhorns defense

Updated: October 31, 2012, 1:27 AM ET
By Carter Strickland | HornsNation

AUSTIN, Texas -- Going forward, Manny Diaz will have a hard time looking forward.

An almost impossible time, really, what with all the time the Texas defensive coordinator will have to spend looking over his shoulder. That's because, right there, just behind Diaz, is where Mack Brown has been standing for the past two weeks, and will be a fixture for the foreseeable future.

"He used to watch the offense a lot; now he is watching us more," safety Kenny Vaccaro said of Brown. "He is in our meeting rooms, saying little things here and there as we watch film."

[+] EnlargeManny Diaz
Patrick Green/Icon SMIManny Diaz's Texas defense is ranked No. 99 in the country in total defense and is on pace to shatter yardage records.
It's not an easy or comfortable way to coach. In fact, it's more a Dilbert cartoon than something one would expect inside a business that made $103 million in just football revenue in fiscal 2011. But to steal a tired phrase from Brown, it is what it is. What it has become for Texas is a 6-2 team with cracks that are becoming more visible as the weeks march on.

Brown, who never borders on terse, was just slightly more pointed with his answers this week to questions about Diaz's performance. Take the one where Brown was asked why, with Texas having pinned Kansas back at its 7-yard line, would Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens, two true freshmen, be in at linebacker? Kansas busted a 64-yard run on that play.

"I don't like inexperienced players inside the 20 on either end. And that is something that we have talked about a lot. That was a key point in the ballgame," Brown said. "We not only lost points but we gave up the possibility of points offensively. Those [linebackers] were getting out that [next] play and it was a play late when I saw it. That won't happen again.''

Brown will make sure of that, because now he is watching every move. He is investing more of his time, double-checking things and putting more fingers in the defensive pie. Obviously, by doing that, Brown could be perceived as undercutting Diaz's authority in the eyes of his players. Not so, said Diaz.

"That is not happening," the second-year defensive coordinator said. "This is more Mack understanding our issues and the easiest ways to come across and fix them. "If there were quote-unquote issues, you would see those things on the field."

Texas is on pace to give up 1,000 more yards than any other defense in program history.

Texas has allowed 37 rushes of 15 yards or more. No team in FBS is worse.

Texas has allowed five consecutive running backs to have career highs against them.

Texas has missed 91 tackles. That's third worst among FBS teams.

Texas has allowed a Big 12-high 18 rushing touchdowns. It allowed 17 in 2008 and '09 combined.

Texas has allowed opponents to rush for 5.3 yards per carry in the second half of games. That is a full yard worse than Oklahoma State and Baylor and 1.1 yards worse than Kansas.

Texas has "quote-unquote issues" on the field. It has issues off the field as well.

It can be painted in whatever orange hue the coaches want. But for the head coach to be hovering over a coordinator whose side of the ball is the worst it has been in program history is a signal flare to the team -- and anyone watching that team -- that there are issues. If there weren't, Brown would continue to be the CEO instead of having to micromanage.

For Texas the key will be how the assistants, Diaz specifically, and the players deal with this micromanagement. Vaccaro said it is "a little different, but not weird." He is a senior, though. His performance has not been affected. And he is more concerned about his stock come April.

According to Brown, sophomore linebacker Steve Edmond has played his two best games in the past two weeks, since Brown inserted himself more into the daily dealings of the defense. So there have been positives.

But there have been negatives as well. Despite trying to simplify the defense to its base in recent weeks, Texas has only played three good quarters of defense, and that was against Kansas.

Even then, when KU needed to make a score to regain the lead in the fourth, the Jayhawks were able to convert three third downs and drive 61 yards for a field goal. This came despite the Texas coaching staff stripping away the complicated machinations of Diaz's defense and going back to what Vaccaro labeled a high school type of defense -- see ball, hit ball.

Still, Brown pointed to that second half and said it was the best defense Texas has played all year. The message appears to be that when the Longhorns get out of Diaz's complex schemes, out of the heads of players, and coaches put athletes in spots where they can flourish, the defense is, well, decent.

"I did think that was by far one of our best performances," Brown said.

As for Diaz's performance, Brown will continue to be next to him, evaluating it. And Diaz will continue to say that is for the best.

"The word is 'supportive,' in terms of understanding we are all for the kids and all for Texas and we are all for just getting the job done," Diaz said. "Mack is a guy that coaches without a lot of ego. I'm a guy that coaches without a lot of ego. I don't think anybody really cares anything other than just finding a way to get it done."

If Texas doesn't get it done, Diaz might not having anything to look forward to.

Carter Strickland | email

Reporter, HornsNation