LINCOLN, Neb. — In the first drill at the first practice Bob Diaco was in charge of the Blackshirts, the new defensive coordinator was dressed like he was headed to a heavyweight bout.
In a gray T-shirt over a black sweatshirt with matching gray sweatpants, Diaco hollered at players to redo drills and ran alongside players as they sprinted onto the field.
“It wasn’t surprising, really,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. “I think his enthusiasm looks a lot like our (job) interview.”
Saturday was Day 1 for installation of Nebraska’s new 3-4 defense, which Diaco brings from experience at Notre Dame and Connecticut. Diaco was hands-on with players as they learned new roles, and he demanded groups redo drills if they weren’t to his liking.
“I knew his resume, I knew what he’d accomplished, but the thing that stuck out was his enthusiasm,” Riley said. “And that’s what we saw today.”
One of the two main goals for this spring is the installation of the 3-4 defense, which Riley assured Nebraska will have time to do. The other goal is to find a starting quarterback.
The install of the defense is simpler than it seems, Riley said. Though it’s a transformation from last year’s 4-3 defense, for each individual player it’s just tweaking parts of their assignments and getting them comfortable.
The biggest asset Nebraska has in the new defense, Riley said, is Diaco’s ability to teach. And his ability to not only demand perfection, but show players what he wants.
“He has an enthusiasm in his teaching that is contagious,” Riley said. “What you saw today was not a surprise to me and I believe that’s who he is.”