On Wednesday morning, Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst joined his two coordinators to talk to the media about recent hires and the future of the program.
Chryst discusses assistants
The conference began with discussion of the two new coordinators, Joe Rudolph for the offense and Dave Aranda for the defense. The two hires were different experiences for Chryst -- he and Rudolph had been close for some time, while he and Aranda had never met. Chryst emphasized the importance of his personal relationship with Rudolph several times during his remarks, and it seems he and Aranda both felt they could develop a similar rapport:
"So for me with Dave, certainly Dave has a great reputation as a football coach, and then knew enough people that knew him as a person, people that I know and trust, that I was really excited. All of this is not just a one sided deal. As much as, when we had time to visit, I thought it was as important not just for me to get to know Dave, but for Dave to get to know me. So when he came in and thought that it would be a good fit, I was really excited."
Chryst told reporters that Rudolph would coach the offensive line and Aranda would coach the linebackers. When asked whether this meant Aranda would coach the inside linebackers as he did this past season, Chryst avoided pegging him to that particular role, only saying the team is "going to have probably an inside backer and outside backer coach." While there’s no reason to read much into this, the exchange gave the impression that some details are still flexible as Chryst looks to bring in another linebackers coach.
Chryst had warm words for Pitt-to-Wisconsin hires Inoke Breckterfield (defensive line) and Chris Haering (special teams), both of whom he first met during their playing careers. In regards to Breckterfield, Chryst specifically mentioned his experience coaching Aaron Donald, who was just named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America:
"I think what he did with Aaron Donald, I think it's all what coaching is about, and that is helping a guy be the best he can. Aaron did a ton of it. Nokes [Breckterfield] didn’t make Aaron Donald. But I think he certainly helped him. I got to see that day in and day out…. I think Nokes is pretty special that way as a coach."
Chryst also spoke about the decision to retain Thomas Brown as running backs coach. He said at bowl practices multiple players approached him to talk about Brown, and that after meeting Brown in person he was reminded of the "great" running backs coaches he has previously worked with:
"I think a lot of the things that I saw in those other running backs coaches that I've been around with, he had some of those core principles that you say that's pretty darn good."
As for filling out the rest of the staff, Chryst hopes to have that squared away in time for the final recruiting push:
"I feel pretty close to getting it done. Certainly we get to go out Thursday, so we'll be ready to do all that and have it in place. It will be soon."
Aranda excited to keep working
Aranda, for his part, reiterated that despite the many offers he received he always felt Wisconsin was the ideal situation for himself and his family. Aranda said the pair had not discussed X’s and O’s at length — such as whether the Badger will remain their 3-4 defense or switch to Chryst’s preferred 4-3. However, it seems that Chryst may end up sticking with Aranda’s 3-4.
Aranda also outlined a number of ways in which he hopes the Badgers can improve their defense in the coming year:
"We can improve in all areas, and I say that with full confidence. We've got the ability to do that. I look back at whatever success that we've had, and we can build on those things. Whether it was being a stout front without a lot of movement, without a lot of pressure the first year, and then this past year movement every snap, the ability to create pressure. You'd like to have a balance somewhere there in between to where we can dictate that as opposed to, at times, that being dictated to us. Then, two, the ability to create takeaways. I feel I have failed in that area the last two years. We can be better in that area."
Rudolph glad to be back
Joe Rudolph, after leaving Wisconsin to follow Chryst three year ago, is happy to be back in Madison:
"I always have had incredible passion for Wisconsin. And being a part of it, being back when I coached and spending time here in every aspect I think as an alum, as a former player, you just do. It's just a great feeling."
Rudolph also expressed his eagerness to take on the challenge of coaching the offensive line and spoke well of newly-hired tight ends coach Mickey Turner, whom he coached at Wisconsin.
Rudolph, when asked whether he had a "blueprint" for a quarterback in his offense, did not reveal much that could give insight into the situation at the position next season and beyond:
"I think we're familiar with Joel (Stave) because he was here, so we got to know him. But I think for the most part we'll enjoy kind of learning about them and finding out their strengths. I think that is the strength of the offense, is trying to help guys have ownership so they really know it and understand it and have confidence in execution."
Rudolph also added that he was impressed by the improvements to Wisconsin's facilities since his previous stint as an assistant in Madison.