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August 5, 2011

Fall outlook: Assistant coaches

MADISON - Paul Chryst dabbled -to put it lightly-- with a couple of programs during the Wisconsin football off-season, but eventually decided to stay in Madison even though he was leaving a considerable amount of money on the table.

There are a number of reasons the creative and successful offensive coordinator decided to churn the likes of Texas and mighty Mack Brown, one of which being he's comfortable where he's at and he's comfortable with the structure Bret Bielema has in place at UW.

"You always want to be able to grow and challenge yourself," Chryst told reporters back on national signing day. "I think other things can give you that. I think there's an opportunity here to be challenged and I look forward to that challenge in developing another quarterback. We're continuing the development of the guys. Each year is kind of a new chapter so you kind of enjoy that part of it.

"You've got to find ways to keep challenging yourself and keep growing. I think both can provide that."

Chryst will have a new, and at the time of that interview unforeseen, challenge now that he'll have the opportunity to coach Russell Wilson. Clearly Wilson's game is quite different than any quarterback. He's capable of doing things through the air, as his better than 8,500 career passing yards at NC State, indicates. But more importantly, and more unique to Wisconsin's situation, is the fact that Wilson can extend plays and make things happen on the ground.

If Chryst was able to turn a guy like Scott Tolzien, an unknown turned All-Conference performer and Johnny Unitas award winner as the nation's top senior quarterback, imagine what he'll be able to do with a guy that's already established and brings an entirely unique skill set to his offensive repertoire.

…………………..

Dave Doeren took the head coaching job with Northern Illinois shortly before the Badgers took to California to take on TCU during the Rose Bowl. That move opened an opportunity for two of the better assistants (and recruiters) on the coaching staff to get promoted.

So, instead of Doeren's philosophies, UW's defensive players will have to adhere to the stylistic approach that both Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge bring to the table. It's surely different. While Doeren seemed to like the more conservative route, Ash and Partridge seem more content to open up in an effort to become more aggressive as a whole.

That's what will be different in 2011. The defense as a whole, at least across most starting positions, is as experienced or deep as it's been during Bielema's tenure. There seem to be a lot of playmakers - guys like Aaron Henry, Antonio Fenelus, Chris Borland and Mike Taylor - that adhere to that type of philosophy.

And why wouldn't they?

If you have that much talent on that side of the ball, wouldn't you want to unleash the dogs and let them run a little bit, particularly with the secondary?

"I'm just trying to be more physical at the line during press technique so I can disrupt the receivers routes," Fenelus said during fall camp. "I'd say we're doing a whole lot more pressing than we did last year. I like it.

"I think it's just the way we're running the defense. Coach Ash is letting us press outside and cover three, rather than not being able to be aggressive on those short routes."

………………..

There are some other new faces among the assistant coaches. Dave Huxtable, a former defensive coordinator with the University of Central Florida, proved to be one of the more vocal coaches on the field during spring camp. He demands a lot from his linebackers and he's going to do as much as he can to get his players to reach their potential. He's a welcome addition.

DeMontie Cross, UW's new special teams and safeties coach, is a bit more laid back, especially in comparison to Huxtable, but still seems to have made an impression with his players during his first go-round last spring. He's a technical coach and one that focuses a lot on fundamentals. For a secondary that has had it's fair share of inconsistencies throughout the years, that's a welcome sight.

Thomas Hammock, UW's new running backs coach, comes in from the University of Minnesota with a laid back approach to his coaching style. He's not overtly demonstrative on the field, but he does make sure to get his point across. He's clearly got a stable of running backs to work with so he will have an opportunity to pick up where Settle left off.

………………...

Bob Bostad is back for another year coaching the offensive line. He, like Chryst, dabbled with Texas during the off-season. But after weighing his options, its obvious Bostad is comfortable in his position with the UW football squad. He'll have another talented offensive line that returns three of five starters from a year ago, and a fourth that started as a true freshman.

Joe Rudolph, arguably UW's top recruiter, will handle the tight ends yet again. He'll have the duty of developing Jacob Pedersen, Jake Byrne, Brian Wozniak, Sherard Cadogan, Manasseh Garner (here and there) and a stable of young freshman at his position. If past years are any indication, Rudolph should have no problem in that regard.

DelVaughn Alexander will have plenty of opportunity to see what some young players are capable of doing at his position this fall. Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis are really the only two players that return with any sort of consistent playing experience.

Can guys like Jeff Duckworth, Chase Hammond, Kenzel Doe, A.J. Jordan, Isaiah Williams and Fred Willis compete for playing time? One would think a number of those players would have too.

Burning question

Will the co-coordinator experiment work?

In short, yes. But that's only because it's already been determined who will be actually calling the plays on a down-by-down basis. Ash will have that responsibility. The one intriguing thing, and the one thing that really can't be simulated until an actual game rolls around, is the way the two will work together on game day. Obviously both of those coaches are well respected by their peers and players, but one will never really know how they handle the pressure of a given instance or play until it happens when it truly matters.

Quote worthy:

Bielema on the excitement he has regarding his new coaches:

"I've known these guys. Obviously I didn't know Hux, but I became familiar, quickly, with what he's got and what he's about. I've known DeMontie (Cross) for a long time and I've known Thomas (Hammock) for a long time. It's fun to be around them and I think the culture they've created with our kids has been very, very good. But bottom line, I haven't seen any of them on game day, including our defensive coordinators Chris and Charlie. That's the part, to be in those roles, is just a fun time for me."


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