STILLWATER — Former Gannon defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo is Oklahoma State’s new defensive coordinator, the school announced Tuesday morning.
Nardo, 37, has spent time at several schools during his career, serving as a linebackers coach at Youngstown State, defensive coordinator at Emporia State, linebackers coach at Missouri S&T and a graduate assistant at Ohio.
He replaces Derek Mason, who announced two weeks ago he was taking a sabbatical from football.
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Here are five things to know about Nardo:
1. A heralded young coach
In 2019, Nardo, now 37, was selected to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) 35 Under 35 Coaches Leadership Institute, a program that identifies rising coaches under the age of 35.
Among others to earn the honor were Kansas State co-offensive coordinator Collin Klein, and former Tulsa player Brennan Marion, who recently accepted a job as UNLV’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
2. Emporia State empire
Nardo’s longest stop was at Emporia State in Emporia, Kansas, where he served as the defensive coordinator for eight seasons from 2012-19.
In that span, Nardo’s defensive unit helped the Hornets win 63 games — the most in any decade of Emporia State football — and appear in three playoffs and win two bowl games.
In 2019, Nardo coached the Hornets to lead the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics in almost every defensive statistical category. They finished first in pass defense, second in total defense and defensive back Lawson Holbert led the conference with seven interceptions.
In 2015, ESU finished 11-3, winning its first ever Division II playoff game and forcing 32 turnovers, 103 tackles for loss and 40 sacks, the second-most in team history since 1893.
The followed it up with an 11-2 season in 2016, recording 39 sacks and linebacker Kole Schankie led the nation in interceptions by a linebacker with seven.
3. Same conference as Yurcich
The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference — a NCAA Division II football conference — is home to Nardo’s former school, Gannon.
Shippensburg University also competes in the conference, and is the school Gundy hired former offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich from back in 2013.
4. A 3-3-5 stack
While former defensive coordinators Jim Knowles and Derek Mason leaned on a 4-2-5 defensive scheme, Nardo brings a 3-3-5 stack, drawing comparisons to Iowa State’s defensive alignment.
With three down linemen and five defensive backs, stopping the pass is the emphasis with the scheme, and it’s seen success in the Big 12.
Beyond the Cyclones, TCU also employs a 3-3-5 base and is fresh off a national championship appearance. Kansas State does the same.
ISU defensive coordinator Jon Heacock coached at Youngstown State for 16 years and served as head coach from 2001-09, and Nardo appeared on the YSU staff for two seasons, albeit a decade after Heacock’s tenure.
5. Emphasis on linebackers
In two of Nardo’s stops, he specifically coached linebackers (Missouri S&T, Youngstown State). As a defensive coordinator at Emporia and Gannon, Nardo also specialized in coaching linebackers.
Knowles, who spent four seasons with OSU, also specialized in linebackers, notably developing Amen Ogbongbemiga, Malcolm Rodriguez and Devin Harper in NFL players.
Nardo will likely do the same with the Cowboys, and moving linebackers coach Joe Bob Clements to co-defensive coordinator is a strong indication of that.