LINCOLN — He’s been the quiet Husker since he was introduced as defensive coordinator three weeks ago.
Bob Diaco, the highest paid assistant in Nebraska history, talks softly on social media — two tweets to his name as a Husker coach. He hasn’t done a bunch of interviews — locally or nationally. The official word from Nebraska: Diaco is likely to be knee-deep in preparation until spring football kicks off in early March.
In the meantime, he’ll be creating a major impact on NU’s recruiting board for 2018.
Diaco’s reputation in recruiting circles is more as a closer than a guy who is working all the prospects and coaches. But make no mistake, he’ll have a vision for the personnel he wants in his 3-4 scheme.
Proof: A tweet sent Friday afternoon from Assistant Director of Player Personnel Todd McShane. Diaco was evaluating defensive ends and cornerbacks with the rest of the defensive staff. And Diaco started following players, too, on Twitter. The first three: defensive ends Judge Culpepper, Daniel Carson and Bobby Brown.
Based on his press conference, there are few things Diaco likes more than block destruction.
“You teach intensely every day block destruction, and you get really good at block destruction and whipping blockers so when you go on the edge it really becomes very easy,” Diaco said.
Here are nine more storylines as Nebraska embarks on putting together its 2018 recruiting class:
Watch the class size
As it stands, Nebraska has 13 seniors on scholarship and two open scholarships. That’s 15, and Big Ten rules would allow NU to sign three over that. With attrition — a yearly occurrence — NU might be able to push this class to 20, but don’t overestimate the numbers, as coach Mike Riley hasn’t been shy about giving non-senior walk-ons scholarships when he thinks they’ve earned them. In NU’s case, junior offensive tackle Cole Conrad could be one such player. If the Huskers reach 20 signees in the class, it’d be surprising.
Early signing date
The NCAA still has to pass recommendations from its Division I Council and Football Oversight Committee, but it appears there will be a December signing date this year. How does Nebraska leverage that? Obviously, it’ll be an opportunity to celebrate in-state signees — such as Beatrice’s Cameron Jurgens and York’s Masry Mapieu — who are ready to go to Nebraska when they sign. Who else will be on board in December? Can NU rope high-profile prospects — who could in theory take visits elsewhere in January — in December?
A number of Nebraska’s top targets have former teammates at Nebraska or some other kind of tie. NU will pursue cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles out of IMG Academy in Bradenton (Fla.), for example. His cousin is NU wideout signee Tyjon Lindsey. The prep defensive linemate of NU signee Damion Daniels is Calvin Avery, one of the Huskers’ top line targets. And Calabasas (Calif.) — which has sent three players to Nebraska — has two more prospects NU might consider in receiver Nikko Hall and linebacker Reggie Hughes. The pipelines the Huskers have built in a short time might pay off.
East Coast, West Coast, Texas
Nebraska is a national recruiting program, but its staff has a heavy West Coast lean in its recruiting trends. Diaco, a New Jersey native, can alter that some. Plus, does NU stay at work in Texas, where it got three signees in the 2017 recruiting class? The Huskers have some top defensive line targets in the Lone Star State. Over the years, Nebraska has had virtually no success extracting talented linemen from the West Coast — Ndamukong Suh being the notable exception.
Each spring, World-Herald staff kick around which prospects might be a part of the Super Six in the summer. Two Husker commits — Jurgens and Mapieu — are clearly among that group, but watch for guys like Elkhorn South’s Moses Bryant and McCook’s Zach Schlager to stake a claim, too. Schlager, a do-everything player at McCook whose older brother Jake plays at Colorado State, might be the best player you haven’t heard much about. You will.
Cornerbacks wanted — and needed
Nebraska has eight corners on the roster, and three of them — Boaz Joseph, Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones — are seniors. The remaining five have started a total of two games. Riley made a point of telling reporters they’d see a “long list of defensive backs on signing day” next year. Nebraska will probably have at least three. Donte Williams will likely be among the busiest Husker assistants in this upcoming cycle.
Smaller offensive line class
Riley has a commitment to taking great offensive linemen whenever he can find them, but there are 17 full-time scholarship linemen in the program now — that doesn’t include Conrad, who’s on scholarship for the spring and could be in the fall. With three scholarship senior linemen — and 11 scholarship linemen who are sophomores or younger — it’d be a surprise to see NU take four in this class.
500-mile radius emphasis
In his 2017 signing day press conference, Riley said he wanted to make sure Nebraska was finding all of the prospects in the 500-mile radius, especially those in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, which are experiencing strong years for talent. NU will hotly pursue several prospects in St. Louis — two defensive tackles and two receivers at least — and kick the tires on prospects elsewhere in the region, too. Can Nebraska get its foot back into the door of Illinois, where NU is guaranteed to play at least one road game each year? If there’s a Jordan Westerkamp or Tanner Farmer to be found, it’s worth the effort.
Depth at receiver
If there’s one position that’s very strong for the 2018 cycle, it’s wideout. In the Rivals top 100 for 2018, there are 17 wideouts, and Nebraska is after several — especially Kamryn Babb and Brian Hightower. But there’s depth past the top crust, too, which should make life for a guy like Keith Williams a little easier.
Photos: Nebraska's highest-ranked commit from each recruiting class since 2002
Check out the Huskers' highest-ranked commit, according to Rivals.com, from each recruiting class since 2002.