This is what you get when you hire a defensive coordinator with head-coaching experience — total comfort in front of a room full of microphones and reporters. Nebraska’s new defensive coordinator, Bob Diaco, faced that room for the first on Friday and did about as well as a coach can be expected to do.
“It’s a spectacular honor to be entrusted with this responsibility,” he said by way of introduction. “To be in this role, to have the opportunity to lead the Blackshirt defense is an awesome responsibility, one that I’m incredibly excited about. I’m ready for the work and really can’t wait to get to it full speed with the unit, the staff and all of the essential staff that would surround it.”
That was just the start as Diaco spent nearly 30 minutes pushing the right buttons, at least in my estimation, for Husker fans. He even offered a sort of mission statement for what he hopes Nebraska’s defense will be as it takes on new leadership and a new 3-4 scheme.
“The people of the state, the university and the department want to look at that defense and feel like they’re looking in a mirror,” Diaco said. “The Blackshirt defense has, to me, epitomized that. There’s been perfect alignment, when it’s being done properly, with the state, the university and that defense. That’s how I see it and to lead that unit with great humility is so exciting and what an incredible honor.”
If this was Diaco’s public interview for the job he’d already earned with private interviews, he nailed it. Diaco, who was fired as Connecticut’s head coach following a 3-9 season in 2016, framed the career change as a chance to focus more intently on teaching, a word that came up numerous times during his time at the podium.
“I felt very, very good about having an opportunity to coach defensive football and lead a defense and coordinate a defense at a high level. I love doing that,” he said. “If there was a liability with being a head coach it’s being pulled away from the thing you love the most and that’s teaching.”
Diaco will have plenty of time for that in the months to come as Nebraska undergoes a significant scheme switch. It could be the perfect situation for Diaco’s teach-first, “obsessive-compulsive” (his words) style.
“I’m a detailed-oriented person. I love, love, love the players,” he said. “I can already say I love the Nebraska players because I inherently love my role and I understand my role. Because they’re the young men we’ve been entrusted with, it’s already inherent in how I feel.
“I don’t need to read some kind of motivational quote to get out of bed every morning. I am on fire when my feet hit the floor. I operate that way. I’d say the style is very intense, very detailed, but we’re positive. We don’t tear people down. There’s no profanity in the teaching. There’s no emasculating in the teaching. It’s uplifting. It’s building up. It’s positive. It’s intense. It’s detailed, and young men flourish in that environment.”
On to some other notes from Diaco’s press conference:
>>Diaco called his 3-4 scheme a mixture of concepts he learned coaching under former Virginia head coach Al Groh, a 3-4 disciple, and those he pulled from TCU head coach Gary Patterson’s 4-2-5 defense. That all happens out of a traditional 3-4 alignment, which offers some advantages.
First, positions on the edge of the defense are mirrored, which Diaco said allows teaching two positions to happen with one lecture, which is more efficient.
Second, the 3-4 disguises where the fourth pass rusher in non-blitz situations comes from, which can be a challenge for opposing quarterbacks attempting to read the defense.
The third facet is what Diaco called his favorite part — taking on blocks.
“You teach intensely every day block destruction, and you get really good at block destruction and whipping blockers so when you go on the edge it really becomes very easy when you end up on the edge.”
>>As for how Nebraska’s current personnel fits with what a 3-4 requires, Diaco recalled engineering the same transition at Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
“I’m positive there are players in the program right now that are going to be really, really great at those jobs,” he said. “Every player has to develop. The systems has a lot of flexibility to fit if the team, from a traits standpoint, has to be plugged in here or there.”
>>Diaco said he will work with Nebraska’s linebackers specifically in addition to his duties as the defensive coordinator, leaving open the possibility that he and current linebackers coach Trent Bray could split coaching duties between inside and outside linebackers.
“I’m looking forward to the staff adding to the system and it becoming ours. This is going to become Nebraska’s defense and not my defense,” he said.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.