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The Blackshirts have their new leader. Bob Diaco will be the next man in charge of Nebraska's defense.

Multiple sources confirmed to the Journal Star on Friday that the former Connecticut head coach and Notre Dame defensive coordinator has been tabbed for the job previously held by Mark Banker.

It was quick movement by Husker head coach Mike Riley, who only Wednesday announced he was not renewing Banker's contract. Nebraska has not made the hire official, but that news is expected to come soon.

The 43-year-old Diaco just finished a three-year stint leading UConn, going 11-26, though a source who covered that program closely noted that Diaco "basically had to rebuild the entire program from scratch" when he came in.

It's his work at Notre Dame, when he was last a defensive coordinator, that Husker fans will notice and hope translates during his time in Lincoln.

He built his name running a 3-4 scheme at Notre Dame that was very successful. The Irish defenses never finished worse than 27th nationally in scoring defense in any of the four years he coached there. His work in 2012 earned him the Broyles Award, which recognizes the top assistant in college football.

Despite his disappointing stint at UConn, Diaco remained a major target for big jobs. He also was interviewed for the D-coordinator position at Arkansas, according to sources close to that program.

How much NU will pay its new hire is unknown, but it will be a matter of intrigue. Banker was making about $580,000 a year as the Husker defensive coordinator.

How heavily Arkansas pursued Diaco beyond an interview is uncertain, but the Razorbacks were paying their previous D-coordinator, Robb Smith, $850,000 a year.

A New Jersey native, Diaco was a linebacker at Iowa from 1992-95. He immediately got into coaching as a grad assistant for the Hawkeyes, then worked his way up the ranks, with his first power-conference job coming in 2006, when he coached Virginia's linebackers and special teams.

He moved on to become the defensive coordinator for Brian Kelly at Cincinnati in 2009. The Bearcats finished 12-1 that year.

Diaco came along with Kelly to Notre Dame, spending the next four years in charge of the Irish defense.

His 2012 defense was fiercest of all, ranking second in scoring defense (12.8 points per game) and seventh in total defense, and going undefeated until losing to Alabama in the national championship game.

In a stat first pointed out by broadcaster Kevin Kugler, Diaco had just one defense from 2009-13 that ranked worse than 44th in scoring defense. Four of Nebraska's last five defenses did not crack the top 50 in that category.

His fortunes weren't as good at UConn, although he took over a program that went 3-9 the year before and switched athletic directors in the middle of his tenure there.

His first UConn team finished 2-10. His second made a bowl game, but ended up 6-7. His final team there was 3-9. He was fired the day after Christmas, with a buyout of $3.4 million.

His last UConn team was 65th in total defense, though a source close to the UConn program who had a very favorable opinion of Diaco said he felt the coach's recruits would soon pay dividends for the Huskies.

He said Diaco's defenses were also tough in the red zone. It's an area of heavy focus for the coach, and the Huskies ranked seventh nationally in the statistic this season.

While the source said Diaco could be "a little eccentric," he deemed him a very good recruiter who had no problem connecting.

"Very high-energy guy. Always positive. Players loved him. Very much a player's coach. Very energetic," the source said. "Even when the team's losing, he's still positive, energetic with the guys."

Nebraska's move to Diaco also suggests the possibility of Nebraska shifting to more use of a 3-4 defense, which the coach has heavy in his background.

If that's the case, some will argue it could fit Nebraska's personnel better, perhaps opening the door to using more linebackers (which NU has in pretty high supply on the roster), or hybrid-type players versatile enough to sometimes take on rush-end traits while also serving the traditional role of an outside linebacker.

Riley still has one known assistant's position to fill, given the announced departure of Brian Stewart, who is becoming the defensive coordinator at Rice.

The Husker head coach hasn't yet offered comment on the hiring of his new coordinator, but Wednesday, in announcing his intent in filling the position, said, "We will conduct a national search to find a great coach, teacher and recruiter as we continue our pursuit of championships."

No question his latest hire is perhaps the biggest one he'll make at Nebraska in determining if the last part of that quote becomes reality.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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