As he stepped to the podium at the Liacouras Center, athletic director Patrick Kraft said it felt like he’d just been there.
Two years ago, he introduced Geoff Collins as Temple University’s football coach. On Thursday, Kraft took the stage in the same room where he announced Collins to introduce Manny Diaz as the 28th coach in school history.
Diaz, a first-time head coach, received a five-year deal, according to multiple reports. Kraft declined to confirm the length of Diaz’s contract and reports that Collins originally signed a five-year, $10 million deal at Temple in 2016 before he left for Georgia Tech last week.
Kraft having to introduce two coaches in three years in a “wonderful problem” to have because coaches are leaving after their success at Temple, he said. This season, Temple will play in its eighth bowl in the past 10 years.
Diaz, 44, is the former defensive coordinator at the University of Miami, where he spent the past three seasons. He is becoming the Temple coach in the midst of the program’s four-year streak of bowl appearances.
In the coming weeks, his primary tasks will be recruiting players and building his staff of assistants. The early 72-hour signing period begins next Wednesday.
Temple has 24 players verbally committed to join the team for next season, according to Rivals.com, though last week, running back Re’Mahn Davis told The Temple News he is going to reopen his recruitment with Temple being his top choice.
Diaz will coach Miami’s defense at the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27. Temple will play Duke University earlier that day in the Independence Bowl, so unlike when former coach Geoff Collins came to Temple in 2016, Diaz will not be on the sideline for Temple’s bowl game.
Diaz will let holdovers from Collins’ staff handle preparation for Duke, he said, despite him facing the Blue Devils earlier this season with Miami. He will watch practices to get familiar with his new players as they prepare for the game, he said.
Before Diaz begins implementing anything at Temple, he wants to gain the players’ trust.
“Players want consistency,” Diaz said. “They want to know that what you stand for is not going to change, if they come in this day, that it’s going to be the same thing as it was the last day. If something happens during the season where we meet adversity that all the sudden a new coach isn’t waiting for them on the other side.”
On defense, Diaz emphasizes pressuring the quarterback and forcing Temple’s opponents into committing negative plays.
This season, Miami ranked first in the Football Bowl Subdivision in pass defense, third-down defense and tackles for loss with Diaz as the defensive coordinator. He wants Temple to play similarly.
“I want them to see the heart of Philadelphia in [this] team,” Diaz added. “I want them to see everything that this University stands for in that team, in the way that we play. If I can accomplish that, I know I’ve been a success.”
Temple won’t run a distinctly spread or pro-style offense, Diaz said, but rather focus on making big plays to “pressure” the opponent’s defense.
“[The offense is] going to be something that’s suited to the personnel that we have, that best takes advantage of the things that are our offense can do now that gives defenses problems,” Diaz said.
Kraft knew if Collins left, Diaz would be one of his first calls. Kraft recalled watching Diaz’s Miami defense hold nationally ranked University of Notre Dame to eight points and forcing four turnovers in 2017.
“I was like whatever that is, I want that,” Kraft said. “And that’s us, too. We fly around, we’re tough and if you get that on both sides of the ball like we do, then you’re in a good place.”
Diaz and Collins “feel the same way” regarding some defensive philosophies, he said. The Owls’ defense will still pride itself on toughness to follow the culture set by previous Temple coaches, he added.
At Miami, Diaz’s defensive players earned the “Turnover Chain” for forcing takeaways. The tradition won’t come to Temple with Diaz, he said, but he’ll try to find another incentive for his players at Temple in the next nine months.
“Being tough-nosed at Temple is something that really has been established by the coaches that came even before [Collins],” Diaz said. “I think it fits who we recruit in this area, and that is a big part of kind of who we will be going forward.”
Diaz wants to build strong relationships with high school coaches and recruit well locally because most of Temple’s players come from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, he said.
He will also recruit in Florida and elsewhere like he has in the past. He has recruited several four-start talents to Miami, including senior defensive back Jhavonte Dean, who is tied for the team lead in interceptions this season.
“It’s our job to find the athletes that fit our profile, fit who we want to be, fit our type of guy, that are defined by their toughness, that are defined by the passion they play the game with, that love the game,” Diaz said. “If we get those guys in and they are willing to work, then we can develop them and get them in the right schemes to be successful.”
There are two main parts of recruiting — finding the recruits with talent that work with the team and having a staff that can evaluate that talent, regardless of the recruits’ ranking.
Diaz’s main focus is to lock down the recruits already committed to Temple before the early signing period begins next Wednesday. There “are several key coaches” Diaz wants to get resolved quickly as he begins recruiting, he said.
Between Collins’ departure and Diaz’s arrival, Temple’s continued to try to keep recruits on board. Kelvin Dean, a running back and wide receiver commit, announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he won’t sign early.
Temple’s offensive coaches, like offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, running backs coach Tony Lucas and wide receivers coach Stan Hixon, showed up to Dean’s high school basketball game.
“The fact that they’ve been out there and seeing the kids, those guys are the heroes of the recruiting story right now,” Diaz said.
On Tuesday, safety Thomas Joe-Kamara told The Temple News he is still verbally committed to Temple but would wait to find out who the new coach would be and talk to them before deciding whether to sign early or during the regular period.
“I like [Diaz] already,” he wrote to The Temple News Thursday night. “I feel like he’s going to take me to the next level.”
Diaz had a message for verbally committed players during his press conference.
“You picked this great institution for a reason,” he said. “You love this great institution, and all those reasons are still intact. And in fact, the argument is they are now better because we have an opportunity to do some things now, take this thing to a different level. So if you’ve committed to Temple, I cannot wait to get you on the phone.”
Evan Easterling contributed reporting.