LINCOLN, Neb. — After the Arkansas State game, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco spoke quite a bit about Nebraska’s participation patterns on defense. Two weeks later, the topic came up again.
Looking at film from Northern Illinois, there was a lot of rotation on the front 7. For Diaco, the rotation is a good thing as it encourages a variety of participation. It also gives the bigger players on the roster a chance to rest (and ultimately play longer), especially considering the offenses Nebraska has faced so far.
“It’s going great. The players can play harder longer collectively,” Diaco said after practice on Tuesday. “You can see it just in almost the knick-knack ticky-tack stuff with the personnel on defense, with all of the extreme right, the extreme left, the extreme right, extreme left running. We’re playing a lot of offenses that make you defend the whole width of the field and predominantly have to do it with speed and tempo. Some of these plays have been turning over every 10 or 12 seconds. Having to run to the right and to the left and to the right and to the left for a guy that is 310 pounds, that can get very taxing. It’s not your prototypical or standard three yards and a cloud of dust running and rushing attack. It’s a lot of side-to-side running.
“So big boys get tired and we have to be sure to get them out before they get tired and don’t produce. You can see in production on third down, you can see in production in the red zone, evidence of players being ready to play in those situations and not being extremely gassed to a point that they can’t produce.”
In addition to keeping his players from getting tired, the participation patters have also created an opportunity for younger players to get valuable game experience.
“The side byproduct which is fantastic is development, so we’re getting a lot of guys reps and game experience,” Diaco said. “There’s so many young players playing in these games. It’s incredible.
“The future is very bright.”
More from Bob Diaco
• When Marcus Newby suffered a hamstring injury against Northern Illinois, Tyrin Ferguson stepped into his role at outside linebacker. How did it go? Diaco was more than pleased with Ferguson’s performance.
“I thought he did his job. I thought he was on his job and his work,” Diaco said. “He prepared hard. He was ready to go as the next man in. That’s fun to watch. A guy that may not get as many reps as the starter but prepares hard, he studies tape, he studies the defense, he studies the opponent and he goes in and is ready to produce.
“That was definitely the case with him.”
• What does Nebraska’s defense need to be ready for against Rutgers? Diaco sees quite a few areas that require attention and preparation.
“Rutgers has some really talented skill players,” Diaco said. “They have a veteran offensive line, [which] I believe four of the five are returning starters. They have a really talented tight end. He can do all the jobs, so he’s one of maybe the best tight ends we’ve played up to date in terms of being able to do all the jobs.”
• Diaco will also face off against Rutgers’ offensive coordinator Jerry Kill on Saturday, who he had nothing but kind words for.
“Coach Kill is a tough guy,” Diaco said. “He’s a brilliant football coach. No one needs me to say that. His record speaks for itself and reputation proceeds him and his teams are hard-nose.”