Penn State Football fans, or College Football fanatics, if you’re looking for a University of Miami Turnover Chain for let’s say your man cave or even for posterity’s sake then you’d better hurry.
There are only about four Miami turnover chains left on EBAY the last time I checked. There was one under my tree a couple of years ago, so I’m all good, but I’m just looking out for all y’all college football memorabilia junkies.
But, like all iconic fads The Turnover Chain had its time and its moments in the bright Florida sun during Manny Diaz’ tenure as defensive coordinator and head coach in Coral Gables.
Prior to becoming the Nittany Lions‘ defensive coordinator, Diaz was the architect of a Miami defense looking for an identity when the Miami home grown product put college football on notice. Diaz and the Hurricanes trotted out the unique neck bling to be worn by the defender who made a big play a few years back. (Hey, say what you want about it – nothing could be worse than the Florida State backpack. Just sayin’).
But, times have changed and so has Diaz’ primary address.
When he was fired by the U back in early December of 2021 he was unemployed for about as long as it takes to break down a half of game film.
Penn State Head Coach James Franklin seemed to know what he was doing when he targeted one of Miami’s most distinguished prodigal sons (his dad, Manny Diaz Sr. was the Mayor of Miami for eight years and is currently the Florida Democratic Party Chair with zero felony convictions to date).
Since arriving on the Penn State Football sideline, Diaz has swapped South Beach living for the cooler northern lights in the shadow of Mount Nittany and has quickly put his stamp on the Penn State program.
Manny Diaz’s Major Impact on Penn State Football
In his first season in Happy Valley Diaz helped the Nits to an 11-2 record that included a Rose Bowl victory last January.
Heading into year two, Diaz boasts a top ten defense per last season’s statistics. That, in no small part, was due to his team’s ability to create turnovers (where have we heard that before?) Diaz’ PSU defense ranked 7th in the nation with 26 forced turnovers in 2022.
One of the reasons that the young Nit defense picked up Diaz’ system so quickly is because of the system’s core philosophy – reading and reacting, versus cognitive overload. Controlled calamity versus a systematic approach if you will.
“He just wants us to create havoc – TFLs (tackles for loss), sacks, attack the quarterback, attack the ball, really,” said linebacker Kobe King at last Tuesday’s media day. “(And he) don’t want anybody to run the ball on us, no matter what happens … just seeing the ball and going instead of just watching the ball and reacting.”
The defense’s motto last season was “Let’s get it,” Translation:
An offensive style of defense: attack, attack, attack.
But generating turnovers and creating chaos isn’t all just about and sexy stat lines and ostentatious sideline jewelry.
The Lions were ranked 16th in FBS in run defense least year, allowing a stingy average of 111.2 yards per game and just 3.3 per attempt. 3.3 yards per carry? Okay, you can file that under sexy as well. My bad.
Abdul Carter is Star Attraction of Penn State Football Defense
Let’s face it though, as a coach you’re really only as good as the talent you have playing for you performs and Diaz certainly has been blessed with talented performers.
Specifically, and possibly the next great one in a long list of great PSU linebackers is sophomore standout Abdul Carter.
Carter was named a Freshman All-American for his performance in 2022, and heading into a new season this fall, he has bigger and better goals on his plate.
Rockin’ the coveted No.11, worn by many great ones who have gone before him at PSU – Micah Parsons, Brandon Bell, NaVorro Bowman and LaVar Arrington, wearing the “styx” is now synonymous with “Linebacker U.”
“Abdul wants to be great,” Diaz told the reporters last week. “Most great players know that they have to improve. Most great players are are obsessed with improvement more so than the fact that, yes, they flashed and made plays. Abdul — obviously you can make a play, you can flash and make a play, and a guy like that it makes it very easy to try to put him in situations to make plays … down after down being where you’re supposed to be and understanding the ins and outs of the defense.”
Heading into the 2023 season Penn State Football boasts one of the best linebacking crews in the country with Kobe in the middle, flanked by junior Curtis Jacobs on the strong side and Carter opposite of him.
But, Carter is the show piece of this coming year’s Penn State stalwarts and his production last year is just what Diaz desires from his star linebacker.
Carter wrecked opposing offenses in his inaugural campaign, racking up 10.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, four pass breakups, five quarterback hurries and forced a pair of fumbles. Those numbers are somewhat staggering and earned Carter second-team All-Big Ten honors last season.
“He’s louder, he’s talking a little more,” said King when asked if Carter is doing anything different in 2023.
“He wasn’t quiet (in 2022), he was just … observant. He was always observant. He’s louder and he’s bringing his mark on the game now. I feel like he’s going to be great for us this year.”