At first, losing defensive coordinator Brent Pry – who went on to become the head coach at Virginia Tech – seemed like a bad thing, but when James Franklin was able to bring in Manny Diaz to replace him, things changed.
Overall, Pry had a good run as defensive coordinator with the Nittany Lions, with last season being the best defense they’ve had, tied for sixth nationally at 17.3 points per game allowed, and 38th in the country at 352.5 yards allowed per game.
Those two numbers are very telling of Pry’s approach as a defensive coordinator – bend but don’t break.
They were solid in terms of yards given up, but they were great when it came to points allowed, primarily as a result of having the third best redzone defense in the country (behind just Georgia and Clemson).
However, Manny Diaz could very well take this defense to another level, as he features a more aggressive approach, dictating what they want the offense to do, as opposed to reacting to what the offense does.
Diaz is more aggressive and deceptive with pre- and post-snap looks, both with pressures and coverages on the back end, as For the Blogy pointed out in their film study of his defense. They also had this to say about Penn State’s new defensive coordinator:
"“The major difference (between Diaz and Pry) is the exotic and creative ways, pre-snap and post-snap, that Manny Diaz creates pressure, which ended up leading the nation in negative plays at multiple schools”"
In that same video, FTB also displayed a few impressive stats from 2018, Diaz’s final year as defensive coordinator at Miami. This is where they ranked nationally in some very important defensive stats that season:
- No. 1 in tackles for loss
- No. 1 in third down defense
- No. 2 in total defense
- No. 9 in sacks
- No. 12 in takeaways
- No. 15 in scoring defense
With Diaz using his creative looks, Penn State Football should be a more difficult defense for opponents to prepare for, and also more difficult for opposing quarterbacks to recognize what the defense is doing.
Combine Diaz’s defensive prowess with a very talented Penn State defense – led by that ‘core four’ of Mustipher, Jacobs, Brown, and Porter – and the Nittany Lions can once again be one of the top defenses, not just in the Big Ten, but in the country.