When Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco met with the media Tuesday morning, he supplied the line of fall camp.
“We are about players and players playing the plays,” he said while discussing how the install of the new 3-4 defense is going.
Peak Diaco speak. That’s really what the media got for roughly 10 minutes as the first-year man ran down his thoughts on where the Huskers stand three weeks into fall camp.
“There hasn’t been anything that’s not been positive,” he said. “Everything’s positive. Every coach is improving. Every player on defense is getting better. We’re a work in progress.”
Part of the reason things are still in the “work in progress” phase is because there is just so much inexperience on the defense and unfamiliarity with Diaco’s new scheme. Diaco said he understands no amount of what they do in preparation can prepare his unit for what the game atmosphere will be like, but he likes where they’re at.
“We have a whole bunch of players that have never participated in the games but they’re getting ready, they’re working, they’re giving everything they possibly have to give,” Diaco said. “With a Groundhog’s Day [mentality] each day, [they’re] trying to be the same guy every day and they’re really embracing that and coming to work.”
Everyone on the defense so far seems to have embraced the sometimes-erratic nature Diaco brings to the table. Last week, several members of the linebacking corps expressed their growing confidence as they get more comfortable with their new coach and their new scheme. That seems to be pleasing for their coordinator.
“You’d be hopeful that a competitive mindset is being built that’s real,” he said. “Not false bravado, not fake nonsense, silliness, but one that’s real because you do the work and you put the work in and you prepare yourself. You try to create an environment that the contest is going to be like and when you perform in that it should build confidence.”
Diaco and the rest of the defensive staff will continue to put the finishing touches on the new scheme’s install as the week continues, before turning to more prep for Arkansas State, Nebraska’s Sep. 2 opponent, next week.
Other notes and quotes:
>> Several Huskers were absent from practice Tuesday. Wideout Keyan Williams, who has been battling a hamstring injury since last week, did not practice. Sophomore defensive end DaiShon Neal and junior Mick Stoltenberg also sat out.
Freshman wide receiver J.D. Spielman, however, returned to practice after missing time last week.
>> It appears as if redshirt freshman linebacker Ben Stille has caught his coaches’ eyes throughout camp. Diaco was extremely complimentary of the 6-foot-5 Ashland, Nebraska, product on Tuesday.
“Ben has been one of the more improved players since fall camp started,” Diaco said. “He’s learning how to play harder, how to cut it loose and not be thinking.”
Diaco said that Stille had a tendency to overthink at times when he was on the field in the spring, but he’s learning to be more reactionary as fall camp churns along.
“He’s a very cerebral young man, very smart, and in some instances in the past, he’s spent time thinking,” he said. “It’s a reacting man’s game, so he has done a really good job of cutting it loose so to speak and playing hard.”
>> After a month of working directly with head coach Mike Riley, Diaco feels like he has already learned quite a bit.
“I’m learning a lot from him on how to behave, how to have patience, how to listen – he’s a dynamic, spectacular listener,” Diaco said. “It’s just been an absolute benefit to my life.”
Diaco said that Riley has the reputation of being the nice guy, but as he’s gotten closer, he’s found Riley brings more to the table.
“He’s one of the finest men in our business, and you hear people say that, that he’s a nice man and a kind man, and that’s true, but he’s a tough gentleman,” Diaco said. “He’s more than that. He’s a real football guy. He’s a nuts and bolts guy. He’s a tough guy and he’s a kind man and he has great character and class.”
Diaco also knows exactly where that toughness came from.
“I don’t know, maybe playing on the football team with Bear Bryant. You think that maybe helped a bit?” he joked. “His father was a coach. I don’t know if you’ve ever been a son of a coach and know what that felt like but it’s probably like getting grade 10 sand paper rubbed on your face every day.”
>> When the season begins, Diaco won’t be roaming the sidelines. He’ll be upstairs. In the booth.
“I just like to focus,” he said. Diaco wants to be free from the distractions of the field and the crowd and everything else going on and be able to focus and see from a different vantage point what his defense is doing.
He also wants to hide should Husker fans not like what they see.
“Maybe hide from the masses,” he said with a grin, “with the pitchforks and the burning sticks.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.