Manny Diaz Fire Zones

Ì will try to build on the superb efforts of Brophy's Manny Diaz: Bulletproof Fire Zone
article and talk more about Diaz's Fire Zone scheme, which is ridiculously simple to
learn for his players yet is complex for opposing Offensive Coordinators. Ì will focus on
two important aspects of his Fire Zone scheme. First, Ì will look at how he is able to
transition easily between multiple fronts and second, Ì will explain his "run to daylight¨

MuItipIe Fronts

There may not seem like much of a difference between the 4-3 and 3-4 fronts, but they
represent two different paradigms in the universe of defensive football. Each front
requires significant time to teach its defensive linemen the necessary technique. The
time constraints are such that most coaches don't try to play both. Ì would say that Diaz
is a 4-3 guy who dabbles in the 3-4, but he doesn't try to do too much with it, which is

The 3-4 lends itself better to Fire Zones, with 4 LBs who can move around more in the
3-4 pre-snap than the 3 LBs in the 4-3. Diaz prefers to Fire Zone from the 3-4 because
the DE who drops in coverage "has eyes¨÷being away from the line with his hand off
the ground allows him to see and better defend the pass.

Diaz has the ability to run his Fire Zones easily from either side due to his simple rules.
The DL knows how to line up and where to slant to from either the 4-3 or the 3-4. Their
rule is to line up away from the call and slant away from the call. Field Scrape (below)
is run from the 4-3 front. "Field¨ means that the Scrape Fire Zone will be run to the wide
side of the field. The DT (always on the left) and NT (always on the right) can start up
head up on the Guards and then they can adjust their alignment away from the call and
slant away from the call. "Field¨ also tells the Safeties that they will rotate towards the

Ìn Bench Scrape (below) from the 4-3 front, the Scrape Fire Zone is now being run to
the Bench, or the short side of the field (closest to the bench on the sideline). The DL
will line up and slant away from the call and the Safeties will rotate to the Bench.

East and West are Diaz's 3-4 fronts. West shifts the DL to the wide side of the field and
East shifts them to the short side of the field. One DE will be aligned as an OLB. His
alignment off the ball improves his vision to help him to better defend the pass. East
Field Scrape (below) is from the 3-4 front to the wide side of the field. The DL will line
up according to East or West, and then they will slant away from the call like they
always do. Field Scrape (4-3) and East Field Scrape (3-4) are the exact same thing, the
only thing that changes is how the front lines up.

West Bench Scrape (below) is the 3-4 version to the short side of the field and is the
same thing as Bench Scrape from the 4-3:

Diaz can also show a 3-3 Stack look (below), which really "melts the computers,¨ of
opposing OCs. He simply gives a "Freedom¨ call to the drop DE, which tells him that he
has the freedom to line up wherever. This allows Diaz to run Scrape six different ways
vs. opposing offenses, but it's only one simple concept as far as his players are

#un to DayIight

The "Run to Daylight¨ scheme was popularized by legendary Green Bay Packer Head
Coach Vince Lombardi, who told his OL to block their man wherever they wanted to go
and then the RB would find the hole by "running to daylight.¨

Diaz has his DL do the same thing: instead of going to your exact gap, you "run to
daylight¨ like a RB would. (Note: Ì don't believe Diaz doesn't use the terminology "run to
daylight,¨ but that's essentially what it is). A good example of this concept is with the
playside DE in the Scrape Fire Zone. Most coaches initially teach the DE that he has
the A gap. Diaz explains it a bit differently. He tells his DE to blitz the Guard. This
allows the DE to blitz either A gap or B gap. He even gives his guys the freedom to
work all the way across the Center into the 455489e A or B gap. He will "run to daylight¨
and cut up into the first hole he finds, like a RB would. This may seem not seem gap-
sound, but Diaz teaches his LBs that it's their job to make the DL right.

Diaz elaborates more on the "run to daylight¨ concept:

"Everybody in America runs Scrape, the difference will be in our Blitz Paths and
knowing how to blitz.¨

"We are blitzing to get to the QB. We are not blitzing gaps.¨

"The offensive lineman is the worst athlete on the field÷we want to make him try to
change direction.¨

"Blitzers are ballcarriers, offensive linemen are tacklers. You do not run right into the
guy who is trying to tackle you.¨

"Blitzer ÷ keep working until you find grass. We are blitzing the QB÷go find the

Ì had a hard time finding good video on the "run to daylight¨ concept in the three
Mississippi St. games Ì had, but Ì got some Middle Tennessee State and NFL cut-ups to
help illustrate the concept:

Honestly, as Ì tried to figure out what made his Mississippi St. defense so good, Ì found
that Diaz didn't blitz nearly as much as Ì thought he would (teams threw a lot of screens
and sprinted out while throwing the ball, so the fear and respect of the blitz was there).
The thing that really stood out while studying the 2010 Bulldog defense were the
fundamentals: excellent DL play, solid tackling from the LBs, and the DBs kept
everything in front of them (don't know why Ì was surprised, it's all about fundy's!). Ì
thought their Force play wasn't very good vs. Auburn, but it was only week 2, and they
still held the national champions to only 17 points. Brophy commented that Diaz's
defense looked very "Norm Parker-esque¨ in the Texas spring game, which is a huge
statement about their defensive fundamentals and a very good sign for Longhorn fans.

Manny Diaz's success speaks for itself. You don't jump from the Sun Belt to the
premier DC position / Head Coach launching pad in college football in two years by
doing the same thing as everybody else÷success often requires that one think outside
the box. Diaz's ability to run the same Fire Zone from multiple fronts, his "run to
daylight¨ concept, and his commitment to fundamentals have made his defenses
extremely difficult to defend at Middle Tennessee State and Mississippi State. Ì expect
he will have more of the same success with some of the premier athletes in the country
at his disposal, even versus the great offenses of the Big 12 Conference.

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