Bob Diaco gets chance to revive career with Sooners
NORMAN — Oklahoma’s newest coach will make his debut next Saturday at TCU.
Bob Diaco was promoted to outside linebackers coach as a result of Mike Stoops’ exit. Up until Monday he had worked as a defensive analyst for the Sooners.
The 45-year-old from Cedar Grove, N.J., is known to be both intense and quirky.
In his first news conference as Connecticut’s head coach in December 2013 he quoted St. Augustine, in Latin, and Garth Brooks. His unconventional introduction at UConn came less than a month after winning the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant, while serving as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator.
It’s that potential that has the Sooner staff excited.
“Taking the leash off of him was like letting a wild tiger loose,” defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill said.
McNeill and Diaco are working together for the first time, but McNeill said they’ve known each other for years.
“My wife absolutely loves him,” McNeill said with a laugh. “She would divorce me for Bob.”
Diaco joined Oklahoma’s staff in March as a defensive analyst. The title required a leash. Analysts work in an offfield role, often pouring over tape and developing game plans behind the scenes. They don’t count toward the limit of 10 assistant coaches.
Diaco hasn’t been allowed to coach in practice or participate in team meetings. His interaction with players has been limited.
That changed this week.
“He brings great energy to the group,” sophomore linebacker Kenneth Murray said. “Anytime somebody is making plays, he’s right there with us. Great coach, guy that knows what he’s doing. Obviously it’s fun having him coaching us now.”
Diaco will have the chance to revive a once-promising career. Since coordinating a Notre Dame defense that carried the Fighting Irish into a national championship appearance, Diaco’s career has taken a downward turn.
He went 11-26 as the head man at UConn from 2014-16.
He was fired after a 3-9 campaign in his third season.
Mike Riley hired Diaco as his defensive coordinator at Nebraska last season in what turned out to be the final year for that staff.
Nebraska finished 4-8 as the Blackshirts were bullied by opposing offenses.
They ranked 101st nationally in total defense under Diaco.
Though Oklahoma’s defense doomed the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl, Diaco will have more talent to work with in Norman and a more narrowly defined role as outside linebackers coach rather than coordinating an entire defense.
Diaco will also keep the Iowa influence alive on OU’s defense. He played linebacker for the Hawkeyes from 1992-95. Though Bob, Mike and Mark Stoops all preceded him at Iowa, Diaco was a disciple of legendary Iowa coach Hayden Fry like the Stoops brothers.
“He’s energetic around the guys, a really smart guy, really cares about them and is invested in getting to know them,” Lincoln Riley said. “Him being here as opposed to some guy just off the streets that they don’t know is a big advantage.”
Bob Diaco was promoted to outside linebackers coach as a result of Mike Stoops’ firing. Up until Monday, Diaco had worked as a defensive analyst for the Sooners.