LINCOLN, Neb. — The Huskers hit the practice field on Tuesday as spring practices began to ramp up and new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and safeties coach Bob Elliott both spoke to the media for the first time since getting to start working with the players on the field.
“I’m excited,” Diaco said. “The guys seem super, super excited to learn and work and get better. Everybody’s just trying to learn the installation stacked on them today, so they had to persevere through trying to slow the game down through the installation.”
As for the coaches, Diaco said “Clarity of communication” is key if the transition is to go as smoothly as he hopes.
“If people don’t know exactly what to do they won’t cut it loose,” Diaco said. “We spend a lot of time together. People aren’t off collecting information on their own. We’re in the room together, we’re kicking the tires on things. I’ve been able to get a lot of really good ideas and information from the other staffers to help take this defense to another step.”
Helping in that transition is Diaco and Elliott’s previous relationship.
“Coach Diaco and I worked at Notre Dame together, and it’s the same defense and the same tasks that I had there,” Elliott said. “I was really excited to get back with Bob. I have ultra confidence in Bob Diaco; I can’t tell you how much confidence I have in him as a defensive coordinator, as a football coach, as a person. That made me feel really good to get a chance to be back with him. I have an idea of what he wants and what he needs and I think I can help the staff that way.”
Diaco had similar praise for Elliott.
“I think the man’s a consummate professional,” Diaco said. “He’s one of the toughest people I’ve ever met … He’s been doing this for 40 years, so it’s kind of an encyclopedia of knowledge, somebody that you can play devil’s advocate with, that has all this wealth of experience to kind of balance the room.”
Overall, Elliott said he has been impressed with what he has seen from his new coworkers on Nebraska’s staff.
“That’s a really talented group of guys,” Elliott said. “Trent Bray, Donte [Williams], John Parrella; you’re not going to find a better coaching staff in the country in my opinion, and I’ve been everywhere you can be. This is my 18th move, so I’ve been on all kinds of staffs and I love this staff. A lot of energy, really smart guys, they’ve embraced Coach Diaco and this system, there’s nobody holding back. I think this is really a good group.”
The other new defensive assistant, cornerbacks coach Donte Williams, said the players have responded well to Diaco’s coaching style.
“The whole defense bought in,” Williams said. “His personality is no-nonsense, but at the same time, we can have fun. Once you get the job done with him, his personality is better than anybody. He’s a great defensive coordinator.”
Diaco said he likes the pieces that he has on the roster and believes they have what it takes to make the transition.
“I think it fits well,” Diaco said. “The guys are surely physically adept at doing the jobs we’re going to ask them to do. There is enough brain-power and fast action through diagnosis; that’s not going to be a limitation. They look like they have a lot of conditioning built up where they’re going to be able to go hard long. I’m pleased with the tangible skill of the defensive players. We can definitely get our work done.”
Elliott said he’s been impressed with his group of safeties so far a couple practices into the spring.
“I like these guys; I really do,” Elliott said. “There’s some experience, the guys are really eager to learn, I think they’re smart and they’re good athletes too. I feel blessed to be able to work with a group like this.”
Williams, however, is withholding judgment about any standouts until he has the chance to see the corners suit up in pads and deliver a few hits.
“I wouldn’t say anybody’s impressed me yet,” Williams said. “We haven’t gotten in pads; it hasn’t gotten to that point where we’re hitting guys. It’s still early on and in football it’s all about consistency. I can look great on Monday and great on Tuesday but if I look bad on Wednesday I’m a bad player. It’s all about what have you done for me lately. I wouldn’t say that yet, but as long as these guys keep progressing, there will be quite a few guys.”
As for the defensive line, Diaco said he is pleased with the unit’s progress to this point.
“I’m not disappointed in any way,” Diaco said. “Everybody’s trying as hard as they can possibly try and in that I’m pleased. Like I said, there’s not a defensive lineman that’s not going to be able to do the work we’re going to ask the to do, and they’re getting better. They get better every day.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.