December 13, 2013

Inside Diaco

Want to know more about UConn's new coach Bob Diaco? UConnReport.com spoke with Pete Sampson of IrishIllistrated.com to find out more about Diaco. Sampson has covered Diaco for the last several years and provided some insight on the coach.

UConnReport: In the Notre Dame fan base upset about Diaco leaving or are they more indifferent?

Pete Sampson: They definitely aren't indifferent. He was a big part of the identity of the program under Brian Kelly for the last four years. This has been Notre Dame's best four year run defensively since the Lou Holtz Days. Some fans felt like he was a little bit too much bend but don't break, but the majority of the fans look at how fundamentally sound the defense was and how they didn't make mistakes and thought he was a high quality coach.

This is definitely a blow to the program. Kelly is very much an offensive minded head coach and the defense was turned over to Diaco. Diaco has the title of Assistant Head Coach and I don't think it was just a title for him. He was the head coach of the defense in many ways. He wasn't exotic schematically but this was a very good defense when he was here.

UConnReport: Was Diaco known as a good recruiter at Notre Dame? Was he responsible for bringing in any big-time recruits?

Sampson
: Recruiting was not his best strength. I think he's looked at as a coach who is stronger at coaching fundamentals with the players. He was outstanding at that.

The best recruiting story from Diaco is his recruitment of Ishaq Williams from the 2011 class. He made an in-home visit to him at like 5:30 in the morning. The time has varied as the story gets told, but before dawn he was sitting in the kid's living room and he committed a couple hours later.

I don't know if recruiting is his forte but he certainly has been instrumental for getting some highly rated players.

UConnReport: What kind of defense does Diaco run? What kind of tendencies does he have?>

Sampson: Philosophically he is a 3-4 guy but they play a lot of multiple fronts. Last year, ND was 4-3 half the time and 3-4 half the time.

He's not real aggressive in terms of blitz packages or coming after the quarterback until you get in the red zone, and then he gets after the quarterback hard. They blitz a lot in the red zone and once you get inside the 10-yard line he blitzes like crazy.

The most important statistic to him is scoring defense. They are happy to give up yards as long as they keep the points down. You'll eventually hear him say "its plays not players". He wants to make the opponent beat him on a 12 or 13 play drive instead of blitz and get beat on a long touchdown. He bets that you can't go 12 or 13 plays against his defense and make 12 or 13 good decisions.

UConnReport: What is Diaco like with the media? Will he be entertaining or is he a more low key?

Sampson
: He's a fiery guy and an interesting guy. When he got to Notre Dame he was very uncomfortable with the media. He didn't really like doing it and eventually stopped doing it. The Notre Dame media had no availability with him all year and we only talked with him at Media Day in August and once in Spring Practice.

I am fascinated to see how he deals with the media now that he is a head coach. You can't just request that you don't want to do it.

He is a really interesting, fiery, and quirky guy. I know the entire Notre Dame media couldn't wait to see his introductory press conference and it went exactly how we expected. He was speaking Latin, referencing Garth Brooks, ect. He throws all sorts of stuff out there. It went exactly as we expected it would.

His players love playing for him because of his fiery attitude and that's probably what counts.

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