Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2014 Issue

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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A Player's Coach Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco departs for UConn head coaching job N BY DAN MURPHY otre Dame players on social media met the news of defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's imminent departure with a wave of dismay. The former Irish assistant signed a contract to be the next head coach at UConn Dec. 12. The story leaked while Diaco and the Huskies sorted through the details of his five-year, $8 million contract, and the visceral reaction from his suddenly former players spoke volumes about the job he did in South Bend. "Nooooo!!!!!" said sophomore linebacker Romeo Okwara via Twitter. Freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith one-upped him by tacking on an extra 111 O's to his digital cry of denial. Several other defensive players followed suit, sending out messages about missing the coach even if they said they were happy for him personally. The strong personality that endeared the 40-year-old Diaco to his players has yet to be tested in the head-coaching realm. Say what you will about his potential ability to schmooze boosters and represent a program on its bad days. Call into question the benddon't-break philosophy of a Notre Dame defense that regressed toward its mean this fall after a remarkable 2012 season. But there's no doubt that Diaco's infectious energy can inspire and connect with college-aged athletes. "When I walk across the gate, the stripe, and on to the field, there is only one particular speed and energy," Diaco said during his introductory press conference in Connecticut. "I bring the full scope of all my talents and energy and passion into that arena. I believe I was put on this Earth by the good Lord to teach young men how to be men in football." Diaco started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Iowa, where he was a two-time All-Big Ten linebacker. He connected with Irish head coach Brian Kelly — who he called "my greatest boss" — for the first time in 2005 when they coached together at Central Michigan. He rejoined Kelly's staff at Cincinnati as a first-time defensive coordinator a year before both jumped to the Notre Dame job. The 2012 Broyles Award winner as college football's best assistant coach orchestrated a defense that finished second nationally in scoring defense (12.77 points allowed per game) and seventh in total defense (305.4 yards given up per game) on its way to the BCS National Championship Game. That run landed him on the short list

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