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Bob Diaco, left, smiles as he and linebacker Manti Te'o speak during a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in January 2013.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Manti Te'o says Nebraska's defense is in good hands with Bob Diaco as its coordinator.
The New Orleans Saints linebacker played three seasons for Diaco at Notre Dame and was the anchor of the 2012 unit that allowed fewer than 13 points a game.
Nebraska opens Saturday at home against Arkansas State in what will be the debut of Diaco's 3-4 system. Diaco's charge is to improve a Blackshirts defense that gave up an average of 445 yards and 42 points against ranked opponents and 521 yards in a 38-24 bowl loss to Tennessee.
"As a coordinator, he keeps the scheme very simple, which as a player I really enjoyed and I think our defense liked it," Te'o told The Associated Press this week. "We played fast. We didn't have to think that much. The only one who really had to do the thinking was the coordinator and the linebackers. We lined up and got after it.
"Coach Diaco's strength is the ability to lead and his ability to create a culture of excellence. It's going to be up to the players over there if they want to buy in. If they buy in, the proof's in the pudding for him, for what he was able to do with us those years in South Bend."
The 2012 Notre Dame defense was one of the most talented in program history. Eight starters were drafted. The Irish's perfect season ended with a 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game.
Te'o was the most decorated of Notre Dame's players in 2012 and was Heisman Trophy runner-up to Johnny Manziel.
"Did we have a lot of talent? Yes. Did we have the greatest talent? No," Te'o said. "But as a collective unit we played better than anyone else. That's why we were so good that year. A lot of guys we had on that team, the core guys, we had been playing together 2-3 years. We knew who each other not only as teammates but as families. That's kind of what Coach Diaco brings to the table. He tries to connect with players on a personal level."
One of the biggest talking points about Diaco since his arrival at Nebraska in January has been his boundless energy.
"He's one of the very few guys I've been around where the energy is actually genuine," Te'o said. "I'd rather have that than a coach who is flat and negative all the time. He's so upbeat, he loves life, loves his job and loves his players. You couldn't ask for anything better than that."