The Aftermath: Badgers Have Questions To Answer In Offseason

The Badgers have business to attend to after their second straight Rose Bowl loss.

To make a long story short, yesterday wasn’t a good day for getting out of California. My flights back home were delayed, missed, and cancelled for mechanical reasons, so I took some time at the San Francisco airport to round out a few notes from Monday's Rose Bowl game. I hope all of your trips back went smoother than mine!

Update (12:00 PM): Ball is expected to announce his decision sometime today, and rumors are swirling he might stay at Wisconsin for his senior season. Stay tuned to B5Q for updates.

NFL Decisions Looming

Aside from the Badgers’ departing seniors, they stand a chance of losing two other key players to the NFL: running back Montee Ball and center Peter Konz. After what could have been their last game as Badgers, both players stressed they will make their decision soon. Ball said he expects to make a decision in the next few days, and Konz is still looking to have a decision about a week from Monday. It would make sense for Ball to go pro now and I don't think the team would begrudge him if he did. Running backs have a short shelf life, and if the NFL scouts aren’t high on him after the stellar season he’s had, it’d be hard for him to raise his draft stock much more by returning.

But Konz is a different story. The NFL values athletic centers who can pull, and I’d imagine he has a good shot of going in the first round when he eventually goes pro. But with the ankle injury he suffered against Minnesota, it might be a little too risky to go pro if he’s not completely healthy. And since linemen generally have longer careers than running backs, Konz has more of a cushion to return next season and attempt to be in a better state at the end of the year. I think it’s unlikely his stock would drop very far if he returns for his senior season. But Konz has also said he won’t make his decision based on money or draft status – his own comfort level will determine if he stays or goes in 2012.

Running Out Of Time (Outs)

Managing timeouts has never been considered one of Bret Bielema’s strengths as a head coach, and we saw extra reasons why during the Rose Bowl. Two or three of his four used timeouts were used under questionable circumstances, and having one of those back at the end of the game would have proved very helpful.

In particular, Bielema’s second timeout of the second half raised some eyebrows, as he was trying to get a review of whether De’Anthony Thomas brought the ball out of the endzone on a kickoff and then downed himself in the endzone, which would have inadvertently caused a safety. In the post-game press conference, Bielema gave an explanation for using the timeout, but it wasn’t very clear.

"Basically what happened was, I know his foot touched the line. It gets down to an issue of where the ball is," Bielema said. "I was trying to get a read from my sideline official if we could review forward momentum. He didn’t understand the question where I was at, and that’s why they charged me a timeout."

Even if Bielema had gotten a review of the play, he would have lost the challenge. The ball clearly did not come all the way out of the endzone on the play, so the Badgers burned a timeout they really could have used at the end of the game.

Bielema was also forced to use a timeout at the end of the first half after Nick Toon was forced out of bounds after a 5-yard completion from Wilson. Normally, the clock would have stopped and the Badgers would have had 20 seconds and three timeouts to work with to try and take the lead. However, the clock kept moving even after Toon was forced out, catching Bielema by surprise and forcing him to use a timeout with six seconds left in the half. On the ESPN telecast, the official reason given for the moving clock was that Toon was hit backwards out of bounds, thus the clock kept moving. Bielema also explained what was happening on the sideline during that rather important sequence.

"You know, we saw that play go out of bounds, the officials signaled it," Bielema said. "What I tried to get across to them, because then I switched over to the other head set, and what I was telling Charlie (Partridge) to get Phil (Welch) ready for – we had seen Phil made I believe a 62-yard field goal in pregame warm-ups going in that exact same direction."

"So I told Paul (Chryst) if we could get to the opposite yard line, we’d have an opportunity for a field goal. During that time they started to run the clock. By the time I got back over and called the timeout, whatever it was, six seconds. They were trying to tell me the clock didn’t stop, and obviously, it stopped at some point and burned that off."

The first half timeout is more understandable than the second half one, but it’s still an issue that Bielema needs to address in the future. Time is so critical in these games, and every little move mattered - especially on Monday.

Goodbye, Old Friends

Now that the Badgers are moving into the offseason, Bielema will have time to round out his staff in the wake of Paul Chryst and Bob Bostad’s departures to Pitt.

But who will take those spots? Bielema said earlier he prefers to hire from within, which suggests that tight ends Joe Rudolph might still be in the running for the promotion, even though he was recently promoted to offensive line coach. Thomas Hammock, the current running backs coach, apparently left Minnesota for Wisconsin to have a chance someday to be an offensive coordinator as well.

What we do is that even if Bielema promotes from within, they have four key roles to fill: offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, tight ends coach, and running game coordinator. If Rudolph is promoted to OC they might also have to name a new recruiting coordinator. Here’s my best guess at the staff shake-up:

*Rudolph: Offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, recruiting coordinator.

*Hammock: Running backs coach, run game coordinator.

*Outside hire 1: quarterbacks coach

*Outside hire 2: tight ends coach

Off the bat that looks like a big workload for Rudolph, so Hammock may assume the recruiting coordinator role – he has had an instant impact with Wisconsin’s 2012 class, after getting commitments from 4-star prospects J.J. Denman and D.J. Singleton.

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