With former offensive line coach and offensive run game coordinator Joe Rudolph’s exodus to Virginia Tech, the future of the leadership of Wisconsin’s offense and play calling is in question. It is being reported by Jeff Potrykus, among others, that ILB coach Bob Bostad will be returning to the offensive side of the ball and coaching the o-line again, so there is one problem solved.
Paul Chryst took on a heavy workload last season, acting as the head coach, offensive coordinator, play caller, and quarterback’s coach. To the average fan, I can understand the sentiment of “well, that’s their job, how hard can it be?”
Well, let me tell you. It’s a lot.
Even for things as seemingly simple as game management, which every person who has a twitter account and has played Madden before will tell you is so simple and easy, becomes a bigger task.
Imagine, you’re not just considering what play call to make on third down, but you’re considering your third down play call, will you go for it on fourth down? What’s a call that Graham Mertz would like? What should we stay away from? Okay, so now I am gonna go for it. What call do I make on third? If we get it, what am I thinking on first down? If we don’t, what’s the fourth down call? Where is the third down play gonna end? Do I call a left or right hash play call? Are we gonna call a rollout? Well our left side is better than out right, we should try to get it to the right hash to give them room to work on the left — wait, should we use a time out here? Are we gonna need them later?
As you can see, there’s a lot going on here, and being able to delegate and allow more time to be dedicated to each aspect will certainly be beneficial to the entirety of the operation.
So, let’s take a look at some potential candidates who could be considered to fill the Badgers’ offensive coordinator opening:
Scott Tolzien, Coaching Assistant, Dallas Cowboys
Tolzien becomes an interesting name, as he obviously is a Badgers’ alum, but also played quarterback in Paul Chryst’s offense. Theoretically, there would be few that would have a better understanding of Chryst’s scheme, what works at Wisconsin, the “fit” we often hear about with who the Badgers recruit and who they look for.
Also, and I know this is an easy target for jokes in Wisconsin, but he played for Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, played with Aaron Rodgers, was a backup to Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. He’s now working in Dallas for Mike McCarthy, Kellen Moore, and others. Tolzien has been around the block a bit, has been around successful people and offenses and teams.
At the very least, he would return to Madison with a strong understanding of what works in Madison, along with some new ideas from the NFL game to bring back. Also, as a former quarterback, he could also fill in that capacity, if Chryst would wish.
Bobby Engram, Tight Ends Coach, Baltimore Ravens
Engram is currently the tight ends coach for the Ravens, but was a successful college and NFL wide receiver back in the 90’s and early 00’s. He also coached wide receivers for Baltimore prior to moving to tight ends in 2018.
However, it can’t be ignored that he coached for Paul Chryst at the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 as a receivers coach. Whoever Chryst selects, it will be a priority for him to hire someone he trusts and is comfortable with.
Engram also has a son, Dean, on the team, so there is very obviously a clear connection to Engram, as well as a familiarity and trust between Engram and Chryst.
Spencer Whipple, Assistant Wide Receivers Coach, Arizona Cardinals
Whipple is the son of current University of Nebraska offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, and played quarterback as a walk-on for Pittsburgh, UMass and Miami during his college career.
Whipple was a graduate assistant and video assistant under Paul Chryst in 2012 at the University of Pittsburgh. In 2014 he was hired at UMass during his dad’s second stint at the head coach for the Minutemen as a tight ends coach, before eventually moving up to wide receivers and quarterback coach and pass game coordinator in 2018.
In 2019, Whipple was hired as a offensive quality control coach for the Cardinals under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and in 2020 was elevated to the title of assistant wide receivers coach.
Whipple is only 32, and would be an interesting addition to the staff, coming from the Air Raid system employed by the Cardinals, added to his history on an offensive staff with Chryst’s pro-style tendencies in Pittsburgh.
Tyler Roehl, Offensive Coordinator, North Dakota State University
This one would be a bit of a wildcard, but I would argue that if there was a FCS program who most closely resembled Wisconsin from a stylistic, schematic and cultural fit, NDSU would be it.
Roehl was a running back and fullback at NDSU as a player, and just came off of his third season as the offensive coordinator for the Bison, who just won their ninth FCS national championship since 2011.
NDSU’s offense is similar to Wisconsin’s in the sense of their use of fullbacks, tight ends, and heavier personnel packages, paired with their quarterback run game and play action passing game. Roehl is a rising star in the coaching industry, and would pretty easily have the strongest resume of coordinating success out of these options.
Overall, it’s clear that whoever Wisconsin hires will either likely have a history with Paul Chryst, or will need to fit the mold of what Chryst believes Wisconsin needs as an offensive identity, as well as a university, in order to move the Badgers forward as an offense.
I will also be curious to see how this moves forward, as there have been reports ($) that Wisconsin is really making an effort to attempt to be more balanced as an offense and put more of an emphasis on improving the passing game, which I think should come as a shock to no one, and is definitely an area Wisconsin will need to improve moving forward if they ever really want to make a run at a College Football Playoff appearance.