Nebraska head coach Mike Riley surprised many when he let longtime defensive coordinator Mark Banker go this week but didn’t leave Cornhuskers fans wondering what direction he was going to go on that side of the ball for long.
The Lincoln Journal Star reported on Friday evening that former UConn head coach Bob Diaco was taking over as Big Red’s new defensive coordinator.
The youthful coach went 11-26 over three seasons in Storrs, pulling a few upsets along the ways but struggled to get things going on the offensive end that eventually led to his replacement by former head man Randy Edsall.
Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the Blackshirts will be undergoing a transformation on the defensive side of the ball with the hire of Diaco, as he is highly regarded for his 3-4 defenses. The team mostly ran the 4-3 under Banker.
Diaco won the Broyles Award as the nation’s best assistant coach back in 2012 when he coordinated Notre Dame’s defense when they completed an undefeated season and made it to the BCS national title game. He reportedly was also in the running to take the same position at Arkansas among others.
Once again, change has come to Mike Riley‘s Nebraska coaching staff.
In a press release Wednesday, Riley announced the departures of a pair of his assistants. One of those was a forced departure as Riley confirmed that the contract of defensive coordinator Mark Banker is not being renewed.
Banker recently completed his second season coordinating the Cornhuskers’ defense. All told, Banker has spent the past 17 of the past 18 seasons coordinating Riley’s defenses, including stops at both the collegiate (2003-14) and NFL (1999-2001) levels.
“I want to thank Mark for his hard work and contributions to our football program the past two years and for all of his service and dedication as a member of my other coaching staffs,” Riley said in a statement. “We will conduct a national search to find a great coach, teacher and recruiter as we continue our pursuit of championships.”
In addition to Banker, Riley announced that safeties coach Brian Stewart had left to pursue other opportunities. That other opportunity is expected to be as the defensive coordinator at Rice.
Stewart was the defensive backs coach in 2015, then moved to cornerbacks in 2016. He further moved to safeties in December last year following the addition of Donté Williams, who was hired to replace Bruce Read. Riley fired Read as special teams coordinator shortly after the Cornhuskers’ regular-season finale.
“Brian Stewart has informed me of his plans to take a defensive coordinator position at another university,” Riley said. “Brian feels this is a great opportunity for him and his family and I respect his decision. We appreciate Brian’s contributions to our program the past two years and wish him the best of luck. We will work diligently to replace him with an outstanding coach, teacher and recruiter.”
Alabama may have seen their dynasty temporarily derailed Monday night in Florida, but at least one wagering establishment expects Nick Saban to get it back on track post-haste.
Bovada.lv released its opening set of 2017 national championship odds very early Tuesday afternoon, with the bookmaker installing Bama as a 4/1 favorite coming off the loss to Clemson. Last year at this time, coming off their fourth title in seven years, the same book had the Crimson Tide as a 7/1 favorite.
The team ‘Bama beat, Clemson, is at 16/1, tied with ACC Atlantic rival Louisville and behind six other teams besides the one they beat on the field last night — Florida State (7/1), Ohio State (15/2), Michigan (9/1), Oklahoma (9/1), USC (9/1) and LSU (12/1). The other 2016 playoff team, Washington, is at 40/1, the same as 4-8 Notre Dame and behind the likes of Texas (28/1) and Miami (33/1).
Boise State, at 75/1, was the highest favorite amongst Group of Five programs.
Below are the complete list of 2018 title odds for the championship following the 2017 season, again courtesy on Bovada.lv:
The votes are in and — surprise!!! — Clemson’s the media’s king as well.
The Associated Press released its final 2016 rankings Tuesday morning, with Clemson, off their stirring win over the cyborg that is Alabama football, claiming the No. 1 spot in the last Top 25 of the 2016 season. As expected, the Tigers claimed all 60 first-place votes, while the Crimson Tide earned all 60 second-place votes to finish No. 2 in the final AP poll.
Up next is the a team that will no doubt be the media darling throughout the offseason — I’m already guilty, as you’ll see shortly — with USC moving from ninth to third on the strength of the epic Rose Bowl win over Penn State (fifth to seventh) as well as a nine-game winning streak to close out the season. Ohio State, which was shutout by Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal, tumbled from second to sixth.
The remainder of the Top 10 is rounded out by Washington (No. 4), Oklahoma (No. 5), Florida State (No. 8), Wisconsin (No. 9) and Michigan (No. 10).
Three Group of Five teams managed to finish in the final Top 25, although none came in higher than 15th: Western Michigan (No. 15), South Florida (No. 19), San Diego State (No. 25). Two of those teams will have new coaches in 2017, with Charlie Strong replacing Willie Taggart with the Bulls and a too-be-determined replacing P.J. Fleck with the Broncos.
Given the high expectations, a Music City Bowl triumph isn’t exactly how Tennessee imagined ending their season. The Vols will certainly take it after a late slump in conference play though and ended with a nice postseason flourish by holding off a pesky Nebraska squad 38-24 on Friday night in Nashville.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs played a big part in the team’s victory by utilizing his arm and his legs in impressive fashion. The senior signal-caller threw for 291 yards and a touchdown — including a 59-yard scoring strike in the fourth to all but seal the victory — while also rushing for 118 yards and three more touchdowns. That was good enough to pace the team in both categories, with some distance between him and John Kelly (70 yards, one score).
As good a day as the offense had though, UT defensive end Derek Barnett was the best player on the field as he likely played his final game with the team. While he didn’t stuff the stat sheet with just six tackles, he was a factor on nearly every snap and applied constant pressure when rushing the passer. Barnett came close about a dozen times to getting to the quarterback and finally got him for his 33rd career sack with just over three minutes left in the game, moving him past Hall of Famer Reggie White for the school all-time record.
A lot of that had to do with Nebraska quarterback Ryker Fyfe, making his first start for the Cornhuskers in place of an injured Tommy Armstrong, getting rid of the ball quickly whenever he felt pressure. The signal-caller finished with 243 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for another as the team made things interesting with a nice comeback in the fourth quarter but never could overcome the speed and skill of the Vols.
Tailback Devine Ozigbo led the team in rushing with 66 yards after taking over for an injured Terrell Newby as the Cornhuskers closed out the season with a nice bounce back record of 9-4.
On the flip side, things didn’t quite go as planned in Knoxville in 2016, but the team got the ending they wanted in the Volunteer State and were able to knock off old nemesis Nebraska in a fun Music City Bowl.