A couple of former UC Davis football players are making their marks in surprising but impressive ways on the east coast.
Nathaniel Hackett, who is regarded as one of the best long snappers in the history of the Aggie program and also played linebacker from 1998-2001, has recently made big news in the state of New York. The 33-year-old son of longtime NFL and college coach Paul Hackett — himself a former UCD standout — was named the Buffalo Bills offense coordinator last week.
Nathaniel Hackett held the same position at Syracuse for the past two seasons and when Orange mentor Doug Marrone took over as the Buffalo head coach, he brought the former Aggie with him.
Kyle Tarp, a cornerback at UCD before he graduated in 2006, has taken a less traditional path. Tarp, who got a bachelor’s degree in exercise biology, is the director of basketball performance at the University of Maryland.
Both Aggie alums have done well.
In 2012, Syracuse’s offense set school records for total offense, total yards per game, plays, passing yards, passing yards per game, touchdown passes, completions, pass attempts and first downs. Marrone and Hackett made the decision to go to more of an up-tempo attack and the Orange won five of their last six games.
“Putting this system in the way that we did, we didn’t want to change what we had been, which was a run-first team,” Hackett said after Syracuse’s Pinstripe Bowl win over West Virginia. “Committing to it even in this new up-tempo style, it was a different mentality. The players just responded and loved it.
“We don’t have a lot of plays in the game plan they just execute them well. As a coach you get to teach technique and not all these plays and this and that. It’s, `Hey these are the plays that we’re going to be great at and nothing is going to stop us.’ And believe in that. That’s what they did. For a coach it’s the greatest thing you can have.”
Hackett was instrumental in developing 2012 Pro Football Weekly All-American quarterback Ryan Nassib, who set Syracuse career and single-season records for passing yards, completions, and passing yards per game as well as single-season records for touchdown passes and total offense.
“Being here for three years with Ryan it was awesome to see,” said Hackett of his quarterback’s development. “What Ryan has done and the way that people have questioned him because he’s not a loud guy, because he’s not a rah-rah guy, but a guy that is so passionate about the game, so passionate about his teammates, so passionate about working hard.”
The offensive play-caller also had a previous stint with the Buffalo Bills serving as the team’s offensive quality control coach from 2008-2009. His other NFL experience came as the offensive quality control coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons (2006-2007) under Jon Gruden.
Tarp, who intercepted two passes and had 32 tackles as a senior in 2005 to help UCD secure its 36th consecutive winning season, has taken Maryland coach Mary Turgeon’s charge to help the Terrapin players build better bodies.
His successful before and after shots, which are taped to his office window, show the amazing transformations of several Maryland hoopsters. Now, Tarp is concerned with how his unique, basketball-tailored program translates to the court.
Tarp previously worked in the private fitness sector until attending graduate school at the University of Texas. In Austin, he studied under Todd Wright, college basketball’s first sport-specific strength coach, learning a nontraditional approach that emphasizes movement and fluidity over brute strength.