Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez introduced former Wisconsin quarterback and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst as the program's 30th head coach on Wednesday evening. After going 19-19 at Pitt in three seasons, Chryst returns to his alma mater with much buzz and praise from current and former players.
To discuss his hiring, we bring in our team of writers:
- Luke Mueller (@Luke_Mueller24)
- Neal Olson (@olewr7)
- Andrew Rosin (@thegnc)
It seems like everyone has praised Chryst as the "right fit" for Wisconsin. Is he?
Luke: It's tough to say at this point that he is the right fit for Wisconsin. He has not proven that he can be a successful head coach, but has proven himself as a great coordinator. I think all of the pieces are there for him to prove that he can be a successful head coach in the college ranks. Wisconsin has won 9.7 games per season over the last 10 seasons. If he can maintain that average, which is a tough clip to achieve year in and out (i.e. Michigan, Florida, Texas, etc), I think you can then say he his successful and therefore the right fit.
In order to find success, Chryst must keep the recruiting momentum Andersen left behind when he jumped ship for Oregon State. In my mind, Wisconsin is at a point where they must recruit amongst the top in the conference and challenge for the Big Ten every season, especially with the realignment in order for him to be the "right fit".
Wisconsin Moves On
Wisconsin Moves On
While I am not yet convinced that he is the "right fit" until I see proven success, I do know that he is the "right fit" for Barry Alvarez. Alvarez has a clear direction that he wants the program to go, and Chryst fits that mold. While Andersen may have brought something different to the Badgers, he was still able to find success (19-7) over two seasons. My point being, it wasn't a failure that some have alluded his tenure to. He merely made a decision he thought was best for him. That decision also made Alvarez realize that despite the success that Wisconsin found both on the field and recruiting, he wanted to go back to the style of football he was comfortable with. What better place to do that than pick a new head coach from the good old family tree?
He knows Chryst well and the type of person he is. Chryst is a guy who will run a smash mouth run game, knows how to recruit Wisconsin, and is a hit amongst the fan base. For those reasons, Alvarez can sleep easy at night with his hire, which in turn makes him the "right fit" for The Don.
Time will tell if Alvarez really knows what the "right fit" for the program actually is.
Neal: Let's be honest, right fit loosely translates to will he win games and challenge for the Big Ten West division title every year. And no one knows for sure about that yet. What we do know is how capable Chryst is in using the available talent. Go back and watch the highlights of John Clay, Montee Ball and James White from 2010.
Are you back? (please resist the urge from Tweeting these to high school recruits, thanks)
The one thing that sticks out is the incredibly clever play calling he uses to cater to the skillset of three very different running backs. In that regard his ‘right fit' will be able to maximize the talent he has on offense. As much as it pains me to say, Wisconsin is unlikely to consistently land top 5 recruiting classes(at least in the short term). To that end Chryst is ideal for the recruit and develop philosophy that turned Scott Tolzien from a two star high school recruit, into a viable NFL backup.
Andrew: Right fit? Maybe. I'm not going to throw up any dance party gifs over is hire. It's a line shot off the wall of a hire. Bad fit? No. Far from it.
Paul Chryst can do things that the offense has shown itself unable to do in the past couple of years. The Badgers are keeping Dave Aranda and likely multiple quality previous assistants. The recruiting class actually added a commit who might be the best of the bunch. The expectations will be high. But the tag team of Paul Chryst and Dave Aranda should be able to get the Badgers to new heights.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is widely expected to return next season. Assuming he does, what are the expectations for the Badgers next year?
Luke: Keeping Aranda is a huge plus for the Badgers. He provides familiarity for a unit that has switched personal packages and seen much turnover throughout the past few years. What will be interesting is if the team stays 3-4 or if they go to a 4-3 defense, because Aranda coached a 3-4 solely for Andersen. He was not originally a 3-4 guy and Chryst has always ran a 4-3.
Aranda has shown the ability to develop players, especially in the linebacking unit (i.e. Marcus Trotter, Derek Landisch, Vince Biegel), and that should be expected. While the Badgers do lose key players on the defensive side of the ball in Konrad Zagzebski, Warren Herring, and Marcus Trotter, they return key contributors Biegel, Landisch, and Caputo along with their starting corners.
With these returners and Aranda at the helm, the Badgers should again lead the conference in major defensive categories and have the ability to be amongst the best in the nation. Wisconsin did face a rather light schedule, especially in conference this season, so games like a not-so neutral field Alabama and road games against Nebraska and Minnesota could be be difficult to keep them amongst the top in the nation.
Overall, this is a huge win for the Badgers. May be bigger than any recruit they sign, but the question is how long will he actually stay at UW. Many assistants have went on to become head coaches or found better offers in recent history including Chryst, Dave Doeren, Charlie Partridge (all head coaches), Bob Bostad (First to Pitt and then NFL and Thomas Hammock (NFL gig), and Delvaughn Alexander and Joe Rudolph (coordinator positions). With continued success, Aranda may be the next in line for a head coaching position with another solid season next year. Moral of the story is the Badgers are lucky to keep Aranda on staff. For how long is a totally different question.
Outback Bowl Talk
Neal: Keeping Aranda is certainly a nice win for the program. His attacking defensive style was a nice change of pace from previous philosophies. He also showed the ability to develop players at a pretty high rate. Replacing nearly the entire front seven from last year and ranking in the top ten of nearly every defensive category.
But equally important will be how many other assistants are retained especially on the defensive side. There has been an unusual amount of turnover within the Badger coaching staff over the past five seasons. Maintaining consistent schemes and philosophies for the next few seasons will go a long way in determining the success of the Paul Chryst era.
Andrew: It's huge. I'm happy. Recruiting wise it's spectacular. Front seven it's also great. It's an "A" for someone being retained. But he's going to have the linebackers and the schemes loaded. There is a question on the defense worth asking, however.
The question is more on likely Ben Strickland than on Aranda. We all know Strickland is a hell of a recruiter and did a lot of work in making sure that the fence Barry Alvarez put up. That said, cornerback's been problematic in the past two seasons. There's really been no ball skills, and while Sojourn Shelton had a good 2013, and Darius Hillary had a good 2014, how good the defense really is will be based on how Strickland gets the corners ready.
Looking past the upcoming Outback Bowl, what's one bold prediction for the 2015 Badgers?
Luke: The bold prediction is pretty clear in my eyes. If you want to be bold, you say the Badgers play inspired football and answer the questions about Chryst's fit and changing of system in the first game and beat the Crimson Tide in Dallas. The probability of that happening is a totally different question.
The Badgers will have to retool on the defensive line, they must fill the record setting shoes that Melvin Gordon left behind, they will have to find replacements on the offensive line and hope to be a better unit than the current one in order to help Corey Clement and Co. Besides those questions you also have to wonder who will catch the ball on offense. Alex Erickson emerged as a serviceable target, but they still lack a go-to kind of a guy. Chryst will certainly utilize the tight end position much better, which won't be hard to do seeing as the previous regime completely forgot the position existed. Finally, the Badgers will need to address their quarterback situation. Will it be McEvoy? Doubtful. Gillins? Probably Not. He will have to make large strides. Kafentzis? He must sign LOI first. Tough for freshman to jump right in (a la Gillins). Houston? Dark horse. Stave again? Most Likely.
I guess what I am trying to say is the Badgers have way too many questions in my opinion to actually make a bold prediction, but you asked, so you get the "Badgers beat Bama" response.
Neal: Badgers lose to Alabama in a close game to start the season, go undefeated the rest of the season but are not selected as one of the four teams for the playoffs.
Andrew: Badgers beating 'Bama is the spiciest of bold flavors. But I'll give you once. After three seasons with only one wide receiver that has over twenty catches, this year the Badgers get three. Alex Erickson is the expected one. You won't be surprised that George Rushing gets past twenty. But Krenwick Sanders breaks out.
50 catches, 800 yards, eight scores. It doesn't sound like much, but considering he had 1 catch this season, He will improve his production between one thousand and five thousand percent. Basically, we can pass. The true freshmen who got ignored will help us get there. It will be fun. Any more fun and it will be backed by Fun.
Oh, and Joel Stave is the Big Ten conference MVP and I will NOT shut up about how I was the only one who believed in him.
Jake: I'll jump in on just this one question about a bold prediction for next year. Troy Fumagalli will have an All-Big Ten season. Melvin Gordon praised the redshirt freshman a couple of times during media availability this season, and with how Chryst uses the tight ends in his offense -- I'd say take Andrew's prediction of having three receivers go over 20 catches, and add Fumagalli's name to that.