Former defensive coordinator Brent Pry left this past season to become the head coach at Virginia Tech, after putting together one of the more dominant defensive performances Penn State has had in the last 10 years.
Here are the stats:
- 16.8 points per game allowed - 7th in the country
- 344.0 yards per game allowed - 35th in the country
- 21 turnovers recovered - T-22nd in the country
As you can see, the Lions reveled in Pry’s bend-don’t-break defense. Between the 20s, teams often found some movement, but stiffening in the redzone coupled with opportunistic takeaways put the Lions in the top 10 for scoring.
Manny Diaz comes in after being let go by Miami. The former head coach has spent his entire career on the defensive side of the ball, first coaching linebackers at NC State in 2002, before moving up to Co-DC at Middle Tennessee, followed by a tour of the southeast, finally settling at Miami in 2016. 3 years later he was the head coach of the Hurricanes.
Miami hasn’t had nearly the recruiting success that Penn State has had lately, and so the general talent level was a bit lower. But still, we can take a quick look at the last few years of stats to see generally how the Hurricanes performed:
- 2021 - 28.4 PPG, 372.8 YPG
- 2020 - 27.0 PPG, 408.4 YPG
- 2019 - 20.8 PPG, 307.6 YPG
As you can see, other than 2019, the Miami defense wasn’t quite up to Penn State’s 2021 performance. Diaz is a good coach, no doubt, and he’ll bring his own flavor to the Lions’ defense. But he’ll have to improve on his last few years at Miami if he wants to keep Penn State near the top of the pile on the defensive side of the ball.
Can he do it? Time will tell, but I think new scenery, new players, and an overall improved roster can’t hurt his chances.