DC Bob Diaco speculates that previous guidelines made Nebraska players worse tacklers

FILE – Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said he needs more time to get the defense up and running the way coaches and fans expect, adding that the players’ tackling skills were so poor at the start of spring practice that “to say alarming would be an understatement.”(AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco says he wasn’t expecting to place so much emphasis on tackling when he became the Huskers’ top defensive assistant before the 2017 season.

The former UConn coach spoke to members of the media Tuesday and the topic of tackling came up. Diaco speculated that a tackling system mandated by “the administration” had actually made Nebraska players worse tacklers and he and Nebraska’s coaching staff has spent the last nine months overhauling players’ tackling.

“Mandated to the defensive staff, whether this is true or not, I have no idea, this is just what was told to me — mandated to the defensive staff was a tackling fundamental teaching progression,” Diaco said. “That they were going to tackle that way. Mandated from the adminstration. Which didn’t sound like anybody really believed in. So the tackling degenerated. So when you think about it. You think about a player showing up here who’s a really great tackler and then becomes a worse tackler. That doesn’t make any sense.”

“So I had no idea until we went to our tackling drill on the first full-padded practice of spring football and found that the players were spectacularly frustrated during the drill because they’re willing, they’re talented enough to tackle, they’re tough enough to tackle, they’re willing tacklers, they want to do well, but they don’t fundamentally know anymore how to tackle. At all. So we’ve been working hard on just that one thing. It’s been present in every single day in every single practice.”

Nebraska parted ways with previous defensive coordinator Mark Banker in January and Diaco was hired as Nebraska’s top defensive assistant after he was fired as UConn’s head coach.

The school also parted ways with athletic director Shawn Eichorst in September after a rough start to the football season. Eichorst was the AD who hired current coach Mike Riley. While Diaco prefaced his comments by saying he wanted to protect his players and not air family stories about the football team, it’s logical to wonder just who “the administration” is in his comments, especially given that Eichorst is no longer a part of the Nebraska athletic department.

Nebraska is 4-5 after a one-point loss to Northwestern on Saturday. The Huskers need to win two of their final three games vs. Minnesota, Penn State and Iowa to get to 6-6 and a bowl game. Maybe that’s possible to pull an upset or two if the tackling continues to improve like Diaco said. He called the tackling “pretty good” vs. the Wildcats.

“I think the tackling is coming on,” Diaco said. “I think the tackling is coming on. So we’ve worked hard at tackling is my point. And you’ve got to work at tackling but this has been an over-emphasis, one that I didn’t — me personally — anticipate having to make at the level we’ve had to make it.”

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!