From the department of worst-kept secrets: Lincoln Riley announced on Monday that Bob Diaco has joined Oklahoma’s staff as a defensive analyst, a nugget that Carey Murdock of SoonerScoop.com reported about two weeks ago.
Diaco rose to prominence as Brian Kelly’s defensive coordinator at Cincinnati and Notre Dame, where he won the Broyles Award in 2012 for pulling the strings on the defense that led the Fighting Irish to an undefeated season. Unfortunately, the Sooners got to look up close at Diaco’s handiwork that season.
What came after that for Diaco has a lot to do with why OU was able to add him as an analyst, rather than a full-fledged assistant. Diaco left the Fighting Irish after the 2013 season to take over as head coach at Connecticut. The only thing that stood out more than the Huskies’ ineptitude during his disastrous three-year run was Diaco’s lame-ass attempt to will the Civil Conflict between UConn and Central Florida into existence. After UConn cut bait on Diaco at the end of 2016, he reportedly served as defensive coordinator at Nebraska in 2017 – the Cornhuskers’ miserable performance throughout the season suggested there wasn’t much coaching happening on that side of the ball at all.
The sharks are circling around Mike Stoops, so installing Diaco as an analyst might be interpreted as a prelude to elevating him to defensive coordinator next year. Diaco’s role on the staff sounds pretty ambiguous. Riley even indicated he will pitch in with “big-picture ideas,” which suggests he’ll have some kind of schematic input.
Frankly, though, I can’t help but wonder if Diaco wouldn’t have the most immediate impact on the defense by helping with the linebackers. He possesses more than a decade of experience coaching the position in college. That includes three years at Virginia with ex-Hoos coach Al Groh, who was one of the premier linebackers coaches in the NFL in his heyday.
Meanwhile, OU’s struggles at linebacker lately have been well documented. Linebackers coach Tim Kish has done an admirable job building a handful of project players into NFL draft picks since he arrived in Norman in 2012. He developed that track record, however, in large part because of his failure to land upper-echelon linebacker recruits. What’s more, the Sooners’ inside linebackers played particularly spotty football in 2017, culminating in a dismal showing in the Rose Bowl against Georgia.
Unfortunately, the analyst designation precludes Diaco from doing any on-field coaching. That doesn’t mean he can’t consult with Kish about how to improve what has been a balky spot in the defense for years.