Florida football: Gators and Canes coaching staffs share common ties

The Miami and Florida football coaching staffs have plenty of familiarity with one another.

Manny Diaz has several interesting facts in his backstory.

He served as a production assistant at ESPN for two years before taking on a graduate assistant position at his alma mater, Florida State.

His father served as the mayor of Miami from 2001-2009 and spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

He created the Turnover Chain phenomenon that graced us with the one-year presence of the Turnover Backpack in Tallahassee (R.I.P. Turnover Purse).

But the most interesting connection in Manny Diaz’s past is his connection with Florida football head coach Dan Mullen. The connection between the Miami and Florida football programs extend beyond the two head coaches.

Florida football head coach Dan Mullen and Miami head coach Manny Diaz

Diaz worked under Mullen in two separate stints as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State.

During his first stop in Starkville in 2010, the Bulldogs’ defense finished the season ranked 22nd in the nation in scoring defense (19.9 ppg), nearly 50 spots better than the 2009 squad. Diaz led a unit that held seven opponents to less that 20 points and four players ended up being drafted that next spring including NFL standouts K.J. Wright and Pernell McPhee.

Mississippi State posted a nine-win campaign in Mullen’s second season and Diaz jumped at the opportunity to take over as defensive coordinator at Texas for a Gainesville-bound Will Muschamp after the 2010 season.

The Longhorns defense got off to a strong start under Diaz, finishing as the top defense in the Big 12 in total defense, rushing yards, and pass defense during his first season. 2012 featured a shutdown secondary led by NFL-bound safety Kenny Vaccaro.

Diaz’s tenure at Texas came to an abrupt end in 2013 after current New Orleans Saints backup quarterback Taysom Hill led BYU to 550 yards rushing in a 40-21 blowout victory over the Longhorns in the final year of the Mack Brown era. The Cougars put up a total of 679 yards on the day and Hill led the way on the ground with 259 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.

Diaz spent 2014 at Louisiana Tech as defensive coordinator. The Bulldogs finished 69th in total defense and led the nation with 42 turnovers forced, but Mullen came calling and Diaz once again replaced a Gainesville bound defensive coordinator, this time, Geoff Collins.

The 2015 Mississippi State team was a year removed from quarterback Dak Prescott leading the Bulldogs to a brief No. 1 ranking.

Diaz led a State defense that allowed 23.2 ppg but found itself susceptible to the run at times. The defense allowed only four teams to pass for over 300 yards in a game, including a 406-yard passing performance led by then Arkansas OC and current OC at Miami, Dan Enos, but six SEC teams rushed for over 200 yards. The Bulldogs went 9-4 and Mark Richt hired Diaz, the son of a former Miami mayor, to run the Hurricanes defense in 2016.

Mississippi State 2015 Coaching Staff

The Florida-Miami game also serves as a mini-reunion for the 2015 Mississippi State football coaching staff.

Head coach Dan Mullen led a staff that included current Florida football assistants, John Hevesy (Co-OC/OL), Billy Gonzales (Co-OC/OL), Greg Knox (RB), and Brian Johnson (QB) in their same capacities.

Current Gators assistant David Turner (DL) reported to defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz. Current Miami Co-DC/S coach Ephraim Banda was also a member of this staff.

Nick Savage (Strength & Conditioning) handled the same duties in Starkville for the 2015 Bulldogs.

Since the two staffs will have familiarity with one another, a few wrinkles should be expected on Saturday night in Orlando.

Enos had success against Mullen in the SEC West

Dan Enos was hired by Diaz to run the Miami offense after a single season in Tuscaloosa.

Diaz was likely impressed by his head-to-head meeting with the then Arkansas OC Enos as defensive coordinator under Mullen in 2015.

Enos’ offense featured multiple wide-open touchdowns as the Razorbacks racked up 50 on Diaz’s defensive unit. This wild game featured State’s defense being torched for 479 total yards (406 passing as previously mentioned).

Thankfully, Diaz had a mighty Mullen offense to bail him out as the Bulldogs escaped with a 51-50 win.

Enos found success again in 2016 against new Mississippi State DC, Bob Shoop, as Arkansas tallied 58 points en route to a 58-42 victory in Starkville. The Razorbacks took a more balanced approach this time, rushing for 357 yards and passing for 304 yards en route to 661 total yards of offense.

Mullen brought Todd Grantham on as DC in 2017 and his two-year Enos nightmare was put to bed by a suffocating performance from Grantham’s defense.

Two early Arkansas touchdowns can be credited to a special teams unit that recovered a fumble on a punt return which gave the offense a short-field and a defensive touchdown that was the result of another fumble recovery.

Enos’ Razorback offense only managed to put up 124 yards passing and 97 yards rushing on the afternoon as the Bulldogs scrapped their way to a 28-21 victory.

Gators tight ends coach Larry Scott the second-winningest Miami head coach since 2000

Current Florida football tight ends coach, Larry Scott, was hired by Dan Mullen from Tennessee, but before his tenure with the Vols, Scott was the tight ends coach at Miami from 2013-2015.

Scott was thrust into the interim head coaching role after the Canes were left reeling from a 58-0 defeat at the hands of Clemson and Miami head coach Al Golden was fired.

His first game at the helm produced a miracle.

On a play that lasted 49 seconds, Miami lateraled the ball eight times and went back to their own 3-yard line before reversing the field and racing down the sideline to score.

Nick Schwartz, FTW! USA Today

Side note: watching Scott regain his composure in the end zone upon hearing that the play is under review at the 1:17 mark is fantastic.

Schwartz later goes on to describe that the miracle was produced by, as confirmed by a statement from the ACC, several missed calls including: a Miami runner being down, an illegal block on the Miami 16-yard line, and a dead ball penalty that should have resulted from a Miami player running on to the field.

So, Scott’s win in his first game at Miami fits the miracle moniker on multiple fronts.

The Canes would finish the season with three more victories against Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Pittsburgh, dropping only one game on the road at eventual ACC Coastal Champion, North Carolina.

Miami wrapped up the season with a competitive showing in a 20-17 Sun Bowl loss against Mike Leach and Washington State in snowy El Paso.

Coach Scott turned a difficult situation into a 4-2 record down the stretch in 2015, leaving him with the second-highest winning percentage of all Miami head coaches this century. Only Larry Coker’s .800 winning percentage is better.