Three things … OSU fans should like about Bryan Nardo

Three things … OSU fans should like about Bryan Nardo

Bryan Nardo is the new kid on the OSU block and even before his Cowboy defense takes the field for the first time, there are things to like about the new defensive coordinator.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Aug 31, 2023, 5:51pm CDT

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Aug 31, 2023, 5:51pm CDT

STILLWATER — As soon as Bryan Nardo stopped moving, he was surrounded by reporters.

He glanced around at the cameras and recorders.

“Does anyone ever get used to this?” he said.

An honest question.

I like college football coaches who speak openly and honestly.

And even before his Oklahoma State defense makes its debut Saturday night against Central Arkansas, I like Nardo. The Cowboy defensive coordinator isn’t as lively as offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn or as off-the-cuff as head coach Mike Gundy. But Nardo has a down-to-earth personality that is charming.

It seems to be resonating with the players, too.

“Bryan Nardo!” a voice bellowed as Nardo talked to reporters.

“Nardo!” another hollered.

A few players serenaded the defensive coordinator, smiling and cheering. Among them: Cowboy running back Ollie Gordon. Remember, he isn’t a defensive player who’s around Nardo a ton, and still, Gordon likes Nardo enough to tease and razz him a bit.

Obviously, Cowboys near and far will like Nardo most if he has a defense that slows down Big 12 offenses and gives OSU a chance to win more than seven games. Time will tell on that. 

But as I begin a recurring feature called “Three things,” I figure starting something new with a newbie isn’t such a bad idea. So, here are three things OSU types should like about Bryan Nardo.

His defense is simple

Sometimes simple has a negative connotation, but in this case, simplicity is a huge positive. 

“The way that our defense adjusts and moves based on what the offense does by formation, by shift, by motions, different things, they don’t have to adjust much,” Gundy said. “In basic four down (linemen), a lot of shifts and motions and movements … really affect the back-end guys and the linebackers.”

Now?

“Everybody moves around (on offense), and this guy just moves over here,” Gundy said, making a small step to the side, demonstrating the adjustment of most linebackers and defensive backs.

Nardo said, “We try to keep it as simple as possible and as much carryover as possible for the majority of the positions. Obviously, there’s some where there’s always going to be some kind of change, but if you look at defense A, we can run B, C and D right off of it and it doesn’t change much for nine people. 

“Everyone else is able to adjust really quickly.”

That’s the importance of simplicity in a defense – players are able to react quickly. 

“We all know that anything we do in life, if we’re a little bit confused, one, we’re hesitant, and two, we’re unsure whether we can get something accomplished,” Gundy said.

 Nardo says he’s seen the impact of the defense’s simplicity play out in practice. With lots of new faces playing at the skill positions in OSU’s offense, it has been adding wrinkles constantly that the defense haven’t seen on film.

“And sometimes, yeah, they’ll make a play,” Nardo said of the offense, “and there’s sometimes where our guys cover it down and it makes it really nice because they just follow their rules. They’ll say, ‘Coach, we hadn’t seen that before, but we covered our rules.’

“It was really a great thing to see.”

He’s excitable on game day

Talk to Nardo most of the time, and he’s pretty chill. Measured even. But on game day, he says he’s a different person.

“I stay in the (press) box because I don’t think I’d be allowed to be on the field,” he said. “I think I’d get in trouble. I think I’d run on the field and do something.”

He has good reason to think so.

Nardo says he has been on the sidelines coaching during a game once. Emporia State at Central Missouri State in 2014. Emporia State’s headsets went out, so Nardo, then the defensive coordinator, and the rest of the coaches had to operate from the sidelines.

“So we got an interception, and before the end of the play, I was on the top of the numbers,” he said.

“One of my best friends was our strength coach, and he kind of picked me up and carried me off the field. The official went to yell at me, and I just kind of did the ‘I’m not even supposed to be here!’”

He’s got a passion for the 3-3-5 defense

Nardo hasn’t always run the scheme with three linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs. He evolved to it over the past five or six years. In 2018, he moved to an odd front, playing three down linemen at Emporia State. Then during that season, one of Nardo’s brothers, who also coaches football, sent him a video of a 3-3-5 defense in action.

“There is a particular run fit that I love, and I remember seeing it on video,” Nardo said. “My brother … said, ‘Hey, I think this is what you’re looking for.’”

After that day, Nardo says he became obsessed with the 3-3-5.

It even led him to make a trip to Iowa State in 2019 to learn from defensive coordinator Jon Heacock, widely recognized as a master of the 3-3-5 defense. Nardo believes his Ohio roots opened the door with Heacock.

“He’s from Ohio,” Nardo said. “He was the head coach at Youngstown State. He actually coached at West Liberty, so he’s a small-school guy from around the Ohio Valley. He was the coach at Steubenville High School, which is 20 minutes from where I grew up.

“He was willing to talk ball with a small-school guy and realized I was from the Ohio Valley, so that probably played a positive role.”

An ironic footnote: Nardo and his defense will have their first Big 12 test at Iowa State.

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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