Yesterday, Bob Diaco was nominated as one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach. Other assistants nominated are Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Kliff Kingsbury, the OC at Texas A&M, and defensive coordinators Dan Quinn of Florida and Derek Mason of Stanford.
Diaco, who serves as assistant head coach, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Irish, helped Notre Dame put together one of the top defenses in the country, currently ranked the No. 2 scoring defense in the country, No. 5 in rush defense, and No. 21 in pass defense, numbers many thought next to impossible when this staff took over. But Diaco has been steadfast in his belief that he could put together a defense that was the “Best in America,” and it has taken him three seasons to do so.
December, which has turned into banquet season for college football, should likely be kind to the Irish. Beyond Brian Kelly being an obvious front runner for many coach of the year awards, Diaco should likely hear his name called December 4th at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Whether or not Diaco wins shouldn’t take away from the season he — and his defensive staff — have had. With a rebuilt secondary and the loss of their top pass rusher, the Irish defense didn’t miss a beat, improving in just about every statistical category possible. They did that while losing one of their strongest voices, Chuck Martin, who switched from the secondary to offensive coordinator. Taking his place was Bobby Elliott, who has done a tremendous job with the secondary, working lock-step with Kerry Cooks, who ascended to co-defensive coordinator while continuing to work with the cornerbacks. Elliott is no stranger to his two new bosses, coaching both while they were players at Iowa.
With accolades like the Broyles nomination, Diaco has seen his name pop up on the head coaching radar. With 12 jobs open and counting, CBS’s Bruce Feldman had Diaco just outside his top 10 candidates for a new job, a list headlined by Bobby Petrino, that also includes perennial candidates like Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
For those Irish fans worried about losing a key defensive assistant, welcome to the world of champagne problems. With the staff Brian Kelly has assembled, it’s only a matter of time before Diaco and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin begin to get head coaching looks. The same can be said for guys further down the food chain as well, which is a credit to the job Kelly has done grooming his staff, and more importantly, winning football games.