Riley fond of Diaco's coaching style, ability to adapt players
LINCOLN --- Bob Diaco's coaching moxie, at least as an assistant, cannot be questioned.
He's remolding Nebraska's defense into his vision of how a 3–4 should be played, and putting specific guys in the right spot to best utilize what they can bring to the Blackshirts. Mike Riley is all in with Diaco as his DC.
"For certain players to be looked at and placed and then selected for that position is motivating to those people," Riley said at Monday's press conference, the first of the season.
"For instance, Luke Gifford, who hasn’t really played that much, all of a sudden found in this 3-4 defense a spot and grew because of the confidence put into him to place him. ‘This is you, as that outside linebacker to the field. This is why you fit in.’ He grabbed onto it, he was taught well, he’s now in the time we’ve had him practice playing the best football I’ve ever seen him play. Now, let’s go play in the game.
"I think it’s been really energizing for individuals. Chris Weber is the same way, latching onto that inside linebacker, leadership role right there. Through that leadership role of playing, calling the defenses, the team recognized that and elected him a captain. He found a whole new life."
Weber and Gifford combined for 18 tackles last season. Now Weber is a starting linebacker on the inside with Gifford backing up Marcus Newby on the outside.
The duo also received their Blackshirts, part of a group of 16 who found them in their locker prior to Monday's practice.
Most notably missing from this list is safety Kieron Williams, who was the leading tackler returning from 2016 and also had more interceptions than any other Blackshirt last season. The senior is listed third on the depth chart.