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Diaco talks personnel, transition, coaching

Friend of the program Bruce Feldman had a nice interview with Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco covering just about everything that’s gone on since the new coaching staff has come to South Bend. Diaco strikes me as a unique guy that clearly understands how the relationship with the media works.

I caught up with Feldman to ask him about his impressions of the interview and he thought Diaco was a sharp guy. What was supposed to be a quick ten minute conversation ended up going much longer and lasted 45 minutes, which seems about right if you’ve watched or read any of Diaco’s media sessions. It’s clear that the guy loves talking football.

One of the more interesting tidbits came when Diaco followed up on the sense of entitlement that Brian Kelly had mentioned noticing in Notre Dame players. Diaco’s observations on his defensive players was fascinating:

“I would say that, as a coach, the first thing that you see as a person as a trained evaluator is their body type when they’re walking around. Who has some level of fitness -- tangible qualities or tangible liabilities. That’s first as you walk in the door and are presented with the player. You’re getting an opinion on what’s important to that player. Is he physically fit and lean and trim, and well-dressed and clean-cut? You can see a lot of other things in there: drive, passion for the task, energy. If he’s overweight, out of shape, sloppy in his appearance -- things untied, things undone -- right there it correlates a lack of attention to detail in how they’re living their life.”

It’s pretty clear that Diaco is a guy who pays attention to detail, and every player on the defense has been put on notice. This reminds me a lot of the days when Mickey Marotti ruled the weight room, and everything down to the spandex you wore under your shorts was important. Marotti’s attention to the most minute detail -- making sure that the “Notre Dame” on the 45-pound plates faced the right direction -- set the tone for your time in the workout room. (It was a terrifying experience for an 18-year-old kid, believe me.)

Diaco also talked about his experience with legendary Iowa coach Hayden Fry and working with Al Groh, two men that played significant roles in the evolution of the 3-4 defense. While many think of the 3-4 as a new wrinkle, Diaco reminds us that it’s been around for quite some time.

“We did it in college when I played at Iowa, but we just called it Base-50. Most of the guys with white hair will remind you that whenever they hear the term “3-4" that it’s just a Base-50. When I was in college Bill Brasier was the defensive coordinator and he was just an awesome coach and an awesome guy. My first touch was in the Hayden Fry system there. Then to fast forward, 13 years to meeting Coach Groh, it had elements of Base-50, but he created and built that defense with Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells. To learn it from one of the founding fathers of that structure was really awesome.”

Diaco also talked about the development process that has Irish fans so excited about Brian Kelly. As Paul Longo was, Diaco was hesitant to give away any trade secrets, but he did hint at a refined system that Kelly has for finding players that’ll fit in his program.

“I don’t want to be coy about this, but I don’t want to talk too much about Coach Kelly’s development system. I don’t want to give out any information that he doesn’t want to have out there, but it is a scientific system of evaluation in the recruiting process. There are specific categories. We don’t necessarily look at the player at doing the jobs he’s doing now as correlating to college. We look at the players that we believe show the tangible and intangible qualities that we want them to do. They may be at different positions. There may be tight ends who are tackles or wide receivers that are linebackers. A lot of people talk about it but Coach really does it, and he also has the strength and conditioning system to bring that player from one to the next. You see that at Iowa with guys like (John) Alt, (Ross) Verba, (Chris) Knipper, (Robert) Gallery -- those were dynamic awesome tackles that were tight ends. You see walk-ons that became great players. It’s a very similar system with coach.”

As usual, great stuff from Feldman. While we’ve yet to see Diaco do anything, I’ve got a feeling that he’ll be a force both on the sidelines and in the living room.