Three thoughts on the Diaco hire
Nebraska did not waste any time moving on to their next defensive coordinator after not renewing the contract of Mark Banker.
Former Connecticut head coach and Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will take over the Blackshirt defense in 2017. Here are three thoughts on Diaco hire and what it means.
Diaco will be the highest paid non-head coach in Nebraska history
It's unclear how serious the overtures from Arkansas were on Bob Diaco, but multiple media outlets reported the Razorbacks courted the former Iowa Hawkeye linebacker who played with Bret Bielema in 1992 and was coached by him in 1994 and 1995 under Hayden Fry.
There's no question Diaco was the hot defensive coordinator name out there and he was in the market for a big job. There was even talk Wisconsin was going to make a run at him now that Justin Wilcox left to become the head coach at Cal. With that said Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst and head coach Mike Riley had to open up the checkbook to hire the 43-year old Diaco.
The highest paid assistant coach in NU history is Tim Beck, who made $715,281 in 2014 as Nebraska's offensive coordinator. Banker made $580,663 this past year, while offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf makes $527,875.
When Diaco's contract information gets released, expect his salary to be around $1 million. There are currently 12 coordinators in all of college football made over $1 million in 2016 according to the USA Today Assistant Coaches salary database. The highest paid coordinator in the Big Ten is Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown who made $880,000 in 2016.
Nebraska will be leaving the 4-3 defense for the first time since 1993
When Charlie McBride and Tom Osborne made the decision to evolve to the 4-3 defense in 1993, it changed Nebraska's defense forever. The Huskers left their "bend but don't break" 5-2 zone scheme in favor for the more aggressive attack style 4-3 defense.
NU has run the 4-3 ever since McBride made the switch, but appears with hire of Diaco that will be coming to an end.
“You could put no pressure on anybody and a lot of the corners couldn’t cover,” McBride told me in a previous interview about their old 5-2 scheme. “You’d hang them out to dry. They couldn’t keep up with the receivers and about 95 percent of the corners were walk-ons. Good kids that were tough - there wasn’t any problem with that part of it. Speed was the problem.”
When you look at the Nebraska roster now, it's clear they lack the defensive ends going forward to be an effective 4-3 team. However, what they do have is a stable of young, athletic linebackers and defensive linemen that fit better in a 3-4.
Most of the Huskers up and coming pass rush talent is at the linebacker position, while the defensive linemen they have on the roster aren't true pass rushers off the edge, but more inside guys.
I believe a big part of the change from Banker to Diaco is Riley and Billy Devaney know what they have going forward, and transitioning into the 3-4 makes a lot of sense.
The pressure to win now is real
Riley has done things this year he's never done before in 24 seasons as a head coach in the NFL, CFL and at the Division I level.
Riley parted ways with guys like Banker, Bruce Read, defensive line coach Hank Hughes and more or less put the writing on the wall for secondary coach Brian Stewart he wasn't in their long term plans.
Riley is running things much differently at Nebraska than he did at Oregon State, according to multiple sources. There is a perception that Devaney is also heavily involved in the decision making of this program under the directive of Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst. The more people I've talked to, it's become clear to me that Devaney has had a heavy influence in some of these decisions.
The pressure to win and win big is real. Eichorst knows it. He knows that 9-4 runner-up seasons in the Big Ten West won't get it done. NU has the most money, best facilities, biggest stadium and the richest tradition by far of any of the other schools in the West. This program has to get back to a place where they can beat teams like Wisconsin and Iowa on a regular basis. Riley is 0-4 against them in two seasons. The Huskers are 1-5 overall vs. the Badgers since joining the Big Ten and have lost three of their last four to Iowa after winning their first two years in the Big Ten against the Hawkeyes.
There is going to be a lot of pressure now on Diaco to produce some immediate results in the big game. I'm not talking about the game where the Huskers are favored to win. I'm talking about the swing games against Penn State, Oregon, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa that ultimately define if your season is successful.