Wisconsin athletic director and Outback Bowl coach Barry Alvarez spoke to the media on a variety of topics after Tuesday's practice.
The Badgers enter the bowl game under somewhat unusual circumstances, but this will be nothing new for Alvarez, who filled in to coach Wisconsin in the 2013 Rose Bowl after the departure of Bret Bielema for Arkansas. He said the biggest difference between his first experience (a 20-14 loss to Stanford) and the upcoming contest will be the assistant coaches:
That last group, some of them were only in here for months...There was a division there, some had offers with Bret, some had offers at NC State, some didn't have jobs, so there was much more turmoil than on this staff, and I think that was the biggest issue.
Alvarez added that, while letting the coaches operate as usual, he would be less reluctant to "insert himself" than he was heading into the Stanford game. When asked to elaborate, he mentioned playcalling, but did not go into more detail.
He said both groups of players were "great" and reserved special praise for Melvin Gordon, calling him "probably the best back that ever came through here" and complimenting his "power" and "burst" (see 8:40 in the video above for more). Alvarez said that Wisconsin's great backs have each had their own styles of running, but did point out one similarity between Gordon and 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne:
He's a great kid, someone who's just fun to be around... he's another one like Ronnie, his smile lights the room up.
Alvarez also grinned as he recounted how his grandson, redshirt freshman safety Joe Ferguson, called him "coach" for the first time at Christmas dinner.
Briefly addressing Wisconsin's injury issues, Alvarez expressed hope that the team would be close to 100 percent by kickoff. Without revealing specifics, he sounded cautiously optimistic about the return of starting center Dan Voltz -- who is recovering from a high-ankle sprain -- and guard Kyle Costigan.
When asked about alternatives to Paul Chryst he might have explored, Alvarez said he had a "plan B, C, D and E" but did not go further, saying that many coaches who approached him needed to maintain confidentiality.
At the end, Alvarez touched on the lighter side of the hiring process when asked about the applicants with less traditional qualifications. He chuckled as he explained that, while he does not read all the applications himself, some of the more "unique" ones are forwarded to him along with those from serious candidates.