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Bryan Nardo Says Jump from Athletes in Division-II and Division-I Is Relative, Football Is Football

Nardo has some excellent athletes to work with, but he is still just coaching football.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

When Bryan Nardo had players over at his house a few weeks back, one of his sons took notice of the jump in levels his dad has taken.

Nardo said as his son looked up at the mammoth defensive lineman and told him, “Dad, they’re big.” Nardo will coach a different level of athlete at Oklahoma State, but at his first meeting with the OSU media last week, he said it’s all relative. Although he has more explosive athletes to coach, he is also coaching against more explosive athletes.

“There’s great athletes on our side of the ball, but there’s great athletes on the other side of the ball — so it’s all relative, which is one thing I’ve really noticed,” Nardo said. “I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed here is there’s nobody on this football team that shouldn’t be here because they’re too good. This is the highest level of college football. This is one of the premier, best programs in the country. Every single player is good enough to be here and shows that when they play every day.

“Whereas sometimes when you’re at a smaller school, you have one or two guys that really stand out because they shouldn’t be here for whatever reason. They stand out. The one thing about here is everybody’s good. Everybody belongs here. That speed, it’s all relative.”

Perhaps the most shining example of the difference in athlete at OSU to a Gannon University is Kendal Daniels.

Daniels is set to play in the all-important “rover” safety spot in Nardo’s 3-3-5 defense. Daniels is listed at 6-foot-4, 213 pounds on OSU’s spring roster. Chris Farnsworth played the spot last season Gannon (thanks Dustin Ragusa for pointing this out). Farnsworth is listed at 5-11, 189 pounds. This is no knock on Farnsworth. He made a team-high 91 tackles for Gannon last season and had four interceptions. He is a good player in his own right, but Daniels is different.

The Stillwater News Press‘ Jon Walker asked Nardo whether he had ever had the opportunity to work with someone like Daniels in this defense.

“No,” said Nardo before a grin the size of Pistol Pete’s hat showed across his face.

“He’s 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and runs really fast and hits really hard,” Nardo continued. “And he’s incredibly smart and he’s a great kid and he’s coachable. Comes from a good house. Has a good mother. There’s not a bad thing you can say about the young man.”

Then there’s guys like Collin Oliver.

After recording 15.5 sacks in his first two seasons of college football, Oliver has moved from defensive end to linebacker in Nardo’s system. Some adjustments will have to be made, but Nardo said Oliver’s God-given ability makes it possible.

“How natural a football player he is [makes him a good fit at linebacker],” Nardo said. “He sees things and does things without — he’ll be the first to admit it — without knowing why he did it. He just naturally shows up there. He’s like, ‘Hey coach, am I allowed to do that?’ And you just smile and say, ‘Yes, you’re allowed to do that. I promise you.'”

No matter the athletes, Nardo will still have to know what to call on 3rd-and-8, when to bring a blitz, when to have an odd or even front on the field. Although the players might change, he’s still coaching football.

“It has been very life-changing in the sense of what it means for my family and what it means for my boys and our future,” Nardo said. “Outside of that, it’s been the exact same job that I’ve always done, which has been great. … Once you get past how big they are, you realize they’re still 18 to 23-year-old kids. Coaching is coaching and football is football.”

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