"You've to crack a few eggs to make an omelet."
The Husker "D" will be playing (or trying to play) "Bobby Ball" this fall. Why? Because Bob Diaco, the newly hired Husker Defensive Coordinator, replaces longtime Mike Riley friend and assistant, Mark Banker. Diaco will install a 3-4 defensive scheme that will take the place of the Huskers' base 4-3 defense.
Back to Banker in a second.
Banker's dismissal is one of several Riley has made over the past two years. After the loss at Iowa in 2016, Riley also fired another longtime friend and assistant, Bruce Read, who was the "Not So Special Teams" coordinator during Riley's first two years at Nebraska. Another assistant, Brian Stewart (Cornerbacks coach), also left the team this month. This makes three coaches Riley will have had to replace. (And last February, Husker D-line coach Hank Hughes was let go. He was replaced by former Husker and NFL great John Parrella. That makes four assistants who Mike Riley will have had to replace in just two years.) Gulp. Fortunately, only one assistant vacancy remains (Stewart's).
MARK MY WORD
Read's firing came as no surprise to anyone who has followed Husker football this past year.
But Banker's? I was mildly surprised. Not so much at his dismissal, but maybe the timing of it. I still wonder-if it was going to happen at all -- why wasn't Banker let go immediately after bowl loss to Tennessee? And perhaps an even better question is that had Bob Diaco not been available, would Riley still have made a DC change?
Back to Banker. I remember a conversation I had with former Husker quarterback Joe Ganz just before the start of the 2015 season (Riley's first). I asked him for his take on the new coaching staff. When it came to the Defensive Coordinator, Joe said, "Banker's defense is a lot like Kevin Cosgrove's." Gulp.
When you hear those two names mentioned in the same sentence, that's not good news for most Husker fans. (KG was Bill Callahan's DC from '04 to '07. After a 5-7 record in '07, most of the coaching staff was fired.)
Husker fans may wonder why Mike Riley even hired Banker in the first place. Banker's total defenses in the two years before leaving Oregon State for Nebraska were: 2013 (34th) and 2014 (85th). And Banker's first two years at Nebraska were: 2015 (70th) and 2016 (66th).
Yes, the Huskers did improved defensively last year, but blowout losses at Ohio State (59 points), at Iowa (30) and by Tennessee in the Music City Bowl by 14 (in a game that wasn't that close), it was clear that a D-coordinator change might be in the offing.
(And by the way, last year against teams with losing records, NU was 6-0 and was just 3-4 against teams with winning records.)
So in steps Bob Diaco who was fired from his head coaching duties at UConn in December. Diaco, who had just finished interviewing for the DC job at Arkansas, changed his flight plans and hurried to Lincoln where he was quickly hired (smartly) as Riley's new D-Coordinator. The $1.7 million two year package he got from Nebraska probably didn't slow Diaco's decision.
Kudos to Riley for making the change and finding a great replacement as quickly as he did. Diaco could end up being a HUGE hire not only for the Blackshirts, but for the entire Husker football program.
TOUGH 2017 SCHEDULE
If Diaco can get his players to master the nuances of his 3-4 defense quickly, NU could have an exciting 2017. And with games at Oregon, Penn State and home matches with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa, Diaco's hiring comes not a moment too soon. Will Bob Diaco be the defensive guru Nebraska needs?
Don't know. But you may want to hang on to your season tickets, Husker fans. You may like what you see this fall.
You may contact the writer at HuskerDan@cox.net
"Bobby Ball" Coming to Lincoln This Fall
The Huskers get a new defensive coordinator
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