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Q&A: Irish assistant Bob Diaco

This winter, Irish coach Brian Kelly promoted defensive coordinator Bob Diaco to Notre Dame's assistant head coach. The new title has added a list of responsibilities to Diaco's plate that helped Kelly spend more time with his players this offseason. Diaco said they're also proving to be very helpful in developing who he is as a coach.

Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco meets with the media Thursday afternoon.

Diaco talked with Blue & Gold Illustrated last week about his own development and the growth in the Irish defense heading into his third season in South Bend.

BGI: Who are some young players you’ve been impressed with so far in camp?
Diaco: "Sheldon Day, we’ve been impressed with. KeiVarae Russell we’ve been impressed with in particular. The rest of them are really doing well and trying hard. There’s not one newcomer defensively that is a disappointment in any way. They’re all going to be really good players here some day."

BGI:How is Manti Te’o different this year compared to last year?
Diaco: “He’s better. He got better every day. He has approached his game with such a high level of professionalism, and he’s so humble. There’s no perfect game. There’s no perfect practice. There’s no perfect meeting. He just knows the moments, and is hard on himself in the moments where he may lose focus. Even those moments are decreasing.

“Not only is he going to be one of the very best linebackers that ever played here, if not the best, he’ll be one of the very best linebackers to every play college football. To think that he’s approaching each day to get better, and getting better every day...”

BGI: How has he developed as a leader this year?
Diaco: “It’s not rah-rah. It’s placed properly. He’s coaching. He’s another coach out there. When it’s an effort issue, he’s on the player’s effort as quickly as I am. When it’s a fundamental issue, he’s on the fundamentals. When it’s a mental error, he can hustle over to a player and tell them what they did wrong, and not just an inside linebacker. It’s more drilled down and specific.”

BGI: Have you made it a point to try to get the veterans to coach some of the younger players this season more than they have in the past?
Diaco: “We’ve definitely worked to facilitate an environment like that. Absolutely. …We have a nice balance of older guys that really know what to do. When you don’t know what to do and you’re a little unsure of yourself in anyway, no matter what age you are, you’re not going to cut it loose. You’re not going to cut it loose mentally or physically. We’ve got some guys that are really sure of themselves. They’ve played in the stadiums for thousands of plays they’ve defended. And Coach Kelly created a culture of that kind of communication and community.”

BGI: What type of things did you do to facilitate that?
Diaco: “Coach Kelly instituted a program this offseason, the A-Team, which one of the “A’s” was accountability and holding each other accountable for the performance standards and programs standards. He’s constantly coaching and teaching and working on that.”

BGI: Coach Kelly said he has tried to spend more time around the team this offseason, has the rest of the staff noticed that?
Diaco: “We love it. Coach in the building, coach active. Not that there is any more work there. He’s always been a grinding worker, but if he said he’s been more present in the building he definitely has. However he reorganized his schedule to help facilitate that has just been really great.”

BGI: For you, taking over as assistant head coach, have you taken on some of the other things that allow him to be more hands on?
Diaco: “I think he’s kind of given some things to me. It’s still a choice he’s making, and it’s been awesome. Even in his day, with all he has to do, to help Bob Diaco with his development is really neat. I’ve got a massive amount of respect for coach for doing that.”

BGI: What are some of those new responsibilities he has passed on to you?
Diaco: “We have a lot more conversation about team building, continuity and different things that will continue to add energy to the team. Any other outreach things that I can be a part of and help facilitate for him, as it relates to [the American Football Coaches Association]. Taking a proactive role with officials in interpretation of rules and things that we can do that way.

“Even just the other day in one of our scrimmages he hit me with a couple of quick situations that I needed to process that he’s never done in the past, to make game day decisions. I didn’t actually say it to him, but I’ll say it right now, I really appreciate that he did that. It was really awesome.”

BGI: Is that to help develop you for your next step in the future?
Diaco: “It’s just developing me and moving my game forward. Whatever that means, I love it here.”

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