The NFL loves guys who preach NFL concepts, NFL gospels. Bobby Diaco’s sermons are littered with passages lifted straight from the book of Parcells and the book of Belichick.
“When you bring a new coach in, some of the guys just blossom because of the change in coaching and what have you,” Dan Shonka, a longtime pro scout and general manager with Ourlads.com, told Land of 10 when asked about Diaco, the Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive coordinator.
“[Because] that’s another thing: Anytime you get a new coach like Diaco, you’ve got to study those guys, because they’re in [a system] which is going to be different. Diaco’s always on their ass, flying around. That’ll be a good thing, to see how that defense plays under Diaco.”
In other words, the scouts wandering around the Hawks Center in their nifty Nike polos this spring and summer aren’t just there to ogle Tanner Lee.
The NFL loves guys who translate. Diaco — the 3-4 scheme, the infectious energy, the swagger, the moxie — translates.
“I think there’s reason to think so, when you look at those two [defensive backs] at such a random spot as Connecticut, and his ability to prep them,” Pro Football Focus analyst Josh Liskiewitz noted. “And we’ve talked about Nebraska and how tough it is to get kids there. In today’s game, you can’t go on ‘name’ alone … I think that’s perfectly legit. If he gets that rep, that’s huge for them.”
Before he was a first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys, Byron Jones played for Diaco at UConn. So did Obi Melifonwu, a second-round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders this past spring.
The NFL loves guys who produce impact pieces. So say what you will about Diaco’s tenure as the Huskies’ coach from 2014-16, and the train cars that occasionally left the rails. But from 2015-17, UConn placed two defenders in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. In the three seasons prior, they’d managed one.
Diaco was Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator from 2010-13. From 2011-15, the Irish saw 11 defenders drafted into the NFL ranks. In the five seasons prior to Diaco’s fingerprints, they’d totaled seven.
@JohnBishop71 don’t worry about D-line under Diaco. 2011 & 2012 at ND, 2 tackles combined for 77 & 90 tackles. Both NFL draft picks
— Doug Rutherford (@Allin4huskrs) January 24, 2017
“One of the [podcast] features we’ve been doing, we looked at all the sound bites and quotes in relation to their draft prospects.” Liskiewitz continued. “So many of the [teams] that talk about, ‘We love guys from Alabama and Michigan.’ And those are guys that win a lot, but the reason they want them is that those guys come ‘pro-ready.’ They’re ready to come in and play. And I think we’re going to see more and more of that …
“So if you’ve got a guy like Diaco who can develop, even if it’s these defensive backs. If they can play at the next level, if they’re performing at the NFL level like Byron Jones is and Obi Melifonwu will do, I do think that it’s reasonable to think that it’s something [NFL teams] would strive to do with him.”
Your serve, Joshua Kalu.
You, too, Lamar Jackson.
“I haven’t studied [much] on tape on [Aaron] Williams, the safety,” said Shonka, who’s also a selector for the East-West Shrine Game. “I’ve got a note to look at him during the year, to see how his improvement is, how he comes along.”
Everybody’s curious now, and that’s the first step in bringing back the mojo. In the first 12 NFL drafts of the 21st century, the Huskers saw an average of 2.6 defenders taken over the course of the seven rounds. Since 2012, that total has slipped to 1.5 defenders — a drop of more than a player per spring.
“Bill Callahan and his group did a great job recruiting; [Bo] Pelini was kind of more mediocre,” Shonka said. “The system was different. They used to go to Texas and California and Florida and they used to cherry-pick the best players. I don’t think it’s as strong a roster as it has been.”
The NFL loves guys who inherit straw and spin it into gold.
“Tell you what, there are going to be good players coming out of there,” Shonka said. “And most teams can use that to build from the bottom of their roster, if they’ve done a great job studying these guys in the offseason.”
The NFL loves guys who feed the beast. And the appetite for destruction never, ever gets old.