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Mailbag: All About Diaco
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Mailbag: All About Diaco

January 24, 2017

What happens when Nebraska hires a new defensive coordinator? A good majority of the mailbag ends up dedicated to the new defensive coordinator, that’s what. After Coach Mike Riley introduced Bob Diaco last Friday, the questions started rolling in. As a result, this week’s mailbag is all about Diaco (and a little about recruiting and various topics). Mostly Diaco, though.

Brandon Vogel, Jacob Padilla, Jake Jensen and Erin Sorensen answer your questions in this week’s Hail Varsity mailbag.

Q: The consensus is that Bob Diaco won his press conference. Has a coach ever lost their introductory presser? – D.F., Lincoln, Neb.

JJ: Robbie Caldwell’s introductory press conference when he was named head coach at Vanderbilt was pretty rough. He was informed that Bobby Johnson had retired one hour before he was to be introduced, so I’ll cut him some slack.

BV: Fair point. I think the key difference here is that for coaches who legitimately “lost” their press conference, few people would be as willing to come out and say it as plainly as they would that a coach “won.”

JP: Also, it’s possible to do neither. Sometimes a press conference is just a press conference and the speaker doesn’t jump out either positively or negatively. In this case, Diaco definitely made a positive impression.

Q: Lots of talking heads at ESPN like the Diaco hire. Does this get GameDay to Lincoln this fall? If so which game? – C.H.

JJ: Nebraska’s best bet for getting Gameday to Lincoln is the Ohio State game on Oct. 14, but a darkhorse for me is the Northwestern game on Nov. 4. I think with a little luck, both teams can enter that contest at 7-1, meaning that the game could decide the Big Ten West.

JP: The only way a defensive coordinator hire has any impact on GameDay is if he turns Nebraska’s defense into one of the best in the country, thus putting Nebraska on the national radar. As for whether or not Nebraska will get ESPN on campus, it comes down to not only their performance but the other games going down the same Saturday as Nebraska’s best games.

Q: Worst case scenario for Diaco’s hiring? – B.B.

JJ: Worst case scenario is that Bob Diaco jumps to a head coaching job after one season because the defense works so well in Lincoln. I want Diaco to stick around in Lincoln for at least three seasons.

BV: Jake’s scenario is maybe the most likely. Perhaps even worse would be Diaco’s defense not working at Nebraska. What would that say about Nebraska and what would it say about Diaco? There’s some urgency here. I don’t know that a three-year turnaround is in the cards if the Huskers don’t win at a higher level quickly. The hype around the Diaco hire is good and justified (in my mind), but what if the net impact on the Huskers is…well…negligible and they remain a 9-4 type of program? That’s probably the worst-case scenario in my mind.

Q: Is Diaco going to start up a trophy game with another school while at Nebraska? – B.R., Lincoln, Neb.

JJ: I hope he brings back the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Tropy that the Nebraska and Minnesota administrators are trying so hard to get rid of. He and PJ Fleck seem like guys that would understand why that trophy is awesome.

Q: How do you pronounce Diaco? – J.H.

ES: It’s like D-TACO. Dee-ah-co.

Q: Is Diaco hitting the road to visit any recruits? Who has been our best recruiter lately? – D., Colorado Springs, Colo.

JJ: Diaco will be for sure visiting Damion Daniels this week. Nebraska needs a true nose guard and Damion Daniels fits that mold. I would also assume that the entire coaching staff will be making trips to Los Angeles and Pasadena to see Elijah Blades and Deommodore Lenoir.

Q: The 2007 season was the start of Alabama’s turnaround. Julio Jones was called a “capstone” recruit. Who will be Nebraska’s capstone? – C.H.

JJ: I’ll go with Elijah Blades. He’s got everything you look for in an NFL cornerback and he’s only 18 years old. He’ll be special.

Q: Can you give me alternative facts about the last two weeks of #Nebrasketball? – H.G.

JJ: Ed Morrow once dunked on a 14-foot hoop while blindfolded, Michael Jacobson has been mistaken for Elvis three times in his life, Nick Fuller’s favorite prank is to hide Wisconsin’s finest Limburger cheese in his teammate’s locker and Tim Miles is known by his colleagues as “an albino Steve Urkel.”

BV: Nebraska beat Ohio State and Rutgers.

Q: Have any insight on off-season workouts going on right now? – W.N.

JJ: They are lifting heavy objects and sweating profusely.

Q: When will we hear winter conditioning results? Top 5 who need improvement? – L.E.D., Irving, Tex.

JJ: Probably not until we get closer to spring ball starting because Nebraska is still in the middle of winter workouts. Guys that I would like to see put in some work so they can make a push during the spring are Matt Snyder, Ben Stille, Collin Miller, Tyrin Ferguson and Lamar Jackson.

Q: How do you see the quarterback battle playing out? – K.P.

JJ: I’ve still got Tanner Lee winning the job, but I think Patrick O’Brien has a chance to make this a very interesting race if he plays well this spring. Riley has been willing to play freshman at quarterback in the past (Sean Mannion is a good example). I don’t think O’Brien can win the job outright in the spring, but I think he can push the competition into fall camp if he plays well.

BV: I’m in Camp Lee for now, too, though it does seem like O’Brien is closer to contending than he was a couple of months ago. It will make for an intriguing spring.

JP: I still think it’s Lee, and frankly I don’t think it’s really that much of a competition. There are a lot more position battles that I think are far more up in the air than quarterback.

ES: Mark me down in the Lee camp as well.

Q: What Huskers are getting drafted this year? Any predictions on round? – K.B., Omaha, Neb.

JJ: Kevin Maurice, Cethan Carter and Nathan Gerry should all get drafted. I’m guessing Maurice and Carter go in the late third, early fourth round range. Gerry’s maybe a fifth rounder.

JP: I think Nathan Gerry is the only one guaranteed to get drafted and is probably a mid-round guy. Cethan Carter didn’t have the season he was hoping for and I think that hurts him, but he has the profile of a NFL tight end and might have a chance. Kevin Maurice put himself on the radar with his season, although he might be more of an UDFA. Brandon Reilly, Terrell Newby and Jordan Westerkamp should all get camp invites as UDFAs if nothing else.

Q: I know I’ve asked this before, but I’ll ask again- any updates on the ESPN ’94-’95 Huskers 30 for 30? Is it dead? – J.N.

JP: No, it’s not dead. My answer is the same as it was the last time you asked. It wasn’t finished in time for the announcement of this last round of films. We’ll just have to wait and see if it makes the next round.

Q: Is Farmer wrestling again? – C.H.

ES: Yes, but he’s not allowed to compete. Just work out with the team.

Q: What would be the No. 1 alternate fact about the Huskers all-time? Mine is Tommie Frazier winning the ‘95 Heisman. – A.R., Bellevue, Neb.

ES: I think you pretty much nailed it. Only other one I can think of right now is that Nebraska won the national championship in 2002.

Q: The stat Sunday was ’24 straight years for a Husker on SB rosters.’ So, where does that rank among Power 5 schools? – S.S., Lincoln, Neb.

BV: First seems to be the consensus, though I have yet to see a definitive tally. I did see Texas football tweet Sunday night that the Longhorns have had an alum in the Super Bowl for 12 consecutive years.

Q: Considering there would be no Evan Taylor without AW3 transfer, would you rather: Taylor for two years or AW3 for one? – W.W., Omaha, Neb.

JJ: That’s a tough one. With last year’s team, White was needed because he could be Robin to Shavon Shields’ Batman and give Nebraska a second viable scoring threat, something that Tai Webster and Glynn Watson weren’t ready for last season. Also, I think White would have fit in well with this year’s team, as he could spot up and take open shots because of Webster and Watson’s ability to get into the lane.

I’d still take Evan Taylor for two years though, because he fits better with the team going through the end of this year and into next season. Taylor can defend three positions, handle the ball in a pinch, and hit open shots, when your #5 scoring option can do those three things you are happy. Taylor also gives Miles some flexibility with his rotation next year, as he can be effective as a starter or coming off the bench behind James Palmer.

JP: Credit to Evan Taylor for making this a legitimate question. He’s already given the team far more than I anticipated he would based on everything he’s shown in his career up until about Big Ten play began. I still think White is the answer because he’s simply a better player and a consistent 3-point threat would change a lot of things about this team. Nebraska did need another ball-handler, but we had no way of knowing they’d lose Anton Gill before the season, which adds more importance to someone like Taylor. Keeping White would also open up an extra scholarship for next year, which could have been used for another freshman or transfer.

Q: Do you know what recruits coaches are visiting this week? – D., Colorado Springs, Colo.

JJ: Damion Daniels, Elijah Blades, Deommodore Lenoir, Kurt Rafdal, Jamire Calvin, Bryan Thompson and Michael Harley are uncommitted prospects that Nebraska will for sure be visiting this week. I’d also expect Nebraska to touch base with Guy Thomas and Deiontae Watts before this weekend.

Q: What does the new defensive coordinator change about recruiting? – B.

JJ: Nothing with this class, as Nebraska will just be looking to fill out their 2017 group. Next year’s class will have more of Diaco’s fingerprints on it.

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