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December 16, 2012

Can't deny eye for talent





Wisconsin fans were left with a sour taste in their mouth after Bret Bielema left for Arkansas. And while plenty of criticism has been dished out, the former head coach deserves a good deal of praise for his ability to identify coaching talent.

BadgerBlitz.com analyzes Bielema's hires since he took over the Badgers' program in 2006.

Assistants Under Bielema
Position Coach A look back Grade
OC/QBs Paul Chryst Bielema doesn't actually get credit for hiring Chryst, who was on Alvarez's last staff at UW. But credit Bielema for hanging on to one of the top offensive minds in the game before he left in 2012. Chryst put up video game-type numbers during his final season in Madison and qualified for a bowl game in his first year as the head coach at Pittsburgh. A
DC Mike Hankwitz Hankwitz, a veteran defensive coach, was added to provide some experience to an otherwise young group of assistants. He didn't last too long, however, as Bielema decided to fire Hankwitz in January of 2008, a move that allowed Dave Doeren complete control of the defense. Hankwitz has since had success under Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern. C
WRs Henry Mason Mason was another holdover from Alvarez's final staff and was regarded as an excellent recruiter with strong ties to Ohio, among others places. Mason's career was suddenly cut short in 2007 after he suffered a serious spinal cord injury. This was a significant blow for Bielema early in his coaching career. Incomplete
RBs John Settle Settle will never be remembered as a weapon on the recruiting front, but he coached his position as well as anyone in the college game. Under Settle's tutelage, John Clay earned Big Ten Offensive POY honors and P.J. Hill was the national and Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2006. Settle is currently the running backs coach for the Carolina Panthers. B+
OL Bob Palcic Palcic was another coach from the original staff who brought some experience to the offensive side of the ball. And like Hankwitz, he didn't last too long in Madison, as Palcic eventually took the same job at UCLA in 2008. In 2007, Palcic's unit paved the way for 200.8 yards on the ground per game. He's now the line coach at SMU. C
TEs/OL Bob Bostad Bostad started as the tight ends coach but will always be remembered for the production and culture he established on the offensive line. At the end of his career at UW, Bostad was considered one of the top line coaches in the country. He left to become the offensive coordinator for Pittsburgh in 2012 before accepting a job in the NFL with Tampa Bay. A+
LBs/DC Dave Doeren Doeren is right up there in the discussion of Bielema's top hires. He quickly rose the ranks of college football and is now the head coach at N.C. State. Doeren, who recruited south Florida and also landed Montee Ball for the Badgers, was likely Bielema's top recruiter during his time in Madison. A+
DBs
Kerry Cooks
Cooks' secondary at Wisconsin was never considered a strength during his time on staff. He's credited, though, for landing three of the four starting defensive backs -- Marcus Cromartie, Devin Smith and Shelton Johnson -- on the current Rose Bowl roster. Cooks was with UW for four seasons before leaving for Notre Dame, where his is today. B-
DL/OLBs Randall McCray McCray was high energy all the time and it showed on the practice field. He was also a decent recruiter and had the title of recruiting coordinator for a few seasons. But as a position coach, he was largely ineffective and was moved from the defensive line to outside linebackers in 2008. He left in 2010 to become the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State. D
WRs DelVaughn Alexander Alexander stepped into a difficult role at Wisconsin and never really appeared to get comfortable with his position on staff. He was assigned to recruit Michigan, a state he had no ties to, and had little success there. Alexander eventually left UW in 2011 and is now coaching at Arizona State. C
DL Charlie Partridge Partridge, who recently accepted a position at Arkansas, is right up there with Bostad and Doeren in terms of highly successful hires by Bielema. He kept Wisconsin active in south Florida and turned the defensive line into an area of strength at Wisconsin. The loss of Partridge will be huge for the Badgers' program both on the field and on the recruiting front. A
TEs Joe Rudolph Rudolph is rivaled only by Doeren for his success as a recruiter during his time at Wisconsin. The former Badger lineman dove into Ohio and quickly created a pipeline to UW. He followed Chryst to Pittsburgh and spent 2012 as the offensive coordinator for the Panthers. Partridge is still in conversation for the head coaching vacancy in Madison. A+
DBs/DC Chris Ash Another very good hire for Bielema, Ash's unit was great in 2012 and a big reason why Wisconsin is playing in its third consecutive Rose Bowl. Ash recently accepted the defensive coordinator job at Arkansas but his name in now being tossed around as a candidate for the head coaching job at UW. As a recruiter, Ash did a good job in Illinois for the Badgers. B+
Nickel/LBs Greg Jackson Jackson entered his career as a 12-year veteran of the NFL. After just a few months on the job, he returned to what he was most familiar with. Jackson left Wisconsin to join the staff at San Francisco. Incomplete
LBs Dave Huxtable Huxtable was only in Madison for a few months but received a good amount of praise for his work with the linebackers, particularly Mike Taylor and Chris Borland. Huxtable, who never really made an impact as a recruiter, followed Chryst to Pittsburgh but recently accepted the defensive coordinator job at N.C. State under Doeren. B
DBs/Specials DeMontie Cross Cross probably deserves an incomplete because he never really got anything going at Wisconsin. Bielema said he tried for years to get him on staff at UW but Cross left after just one season to join Charlie Weis at Kansas. Cross was supposed to give the Badgers a recruiting presence in Missouri. C-
RBs Thomas Hammock Hammock was a great hire and one of just two running backs coaches Bielema had at UW. But unlike Settle, Hammock recruited as well as anyone on Bielema's most recent staff. With strong ties to the East Coast, Hammock was a huge weapon for Wisconsin. On the field, his trio of Montee Ball, James White and Melvin Gordon rushed for over 500 yards and eight touchdowns in a win over Nebraska to clinch a birth in the Rose Bowl. A
OL
Mike Markuson
Markuson will go down as Bielema's worst hire at Wisconsin. He lasted just two games before being fired and replaced by Bart Miller. At the time, Markuson's experience in the SEC appeared to make him qualified to replace Bostad. But he never meshed with the players and was quickly shown the door. F
OC/QBs Matt Canada It would have been interesting to see what Canada could have accomplished in his second season at Wisconsin. Instead, he'll be calling plays for Doeren at N.C. State in 2013. Canada received a good amount of criticism throughout the year but hung up 70 points in the Big Ten championship game while showing a ton a new wrinkles in his playbook. C
WR Zach Azzanni Azzanni's unit wasn't terribly productive in 2012 but at the same time, he didn't have much to work with. He's considered an up-and-coming young coach who will be at Tennessee next year. In a few years -- and if he can find a home with the Volunteers -- we'll see if Azzanni lives up to the high praise given to him by Bielema. B
LBs Andy Buh You have to like what Buh did in a short amount of time at Wisconsin. The linebackers were great, with Taylor, Borland and Ethan Armstrong all having huge seasons. And on the recruiting front, Buh landed four-star safety Tyler Foreman and kept the Badgers in contention for California natives Sean Harlow, Cameron Walker and Darius Allensworth. The latest rumor has Buh headed to Cal as its new defensive coordinator. B+
DBs Ben Strickland Bielema took a chance on the 27-year-old Strickland, who was a graduate assistant in 2011. He didn't disappoint on the recruiting front and was also successful on the field. The secondary was an improved unit in 2012 under Strickland and Ash. It will be interesting to see where Strickland, a former Wisconsin captain, coaches in 2013. B
TEs Eddie Faulkner Faulkner had quiet first season on staff. He made a big splash on the recruiting front in four-star Darius Latham, though the standout from Indiana later decommitted and pledged to the Hoosiers soon after. Faulkner's natural coaching position is probably at running back, so give him credit for focusing an unfamiliar spot in 2012. C
OL Bart Miller It's very likely had Bielema stayed at Wisconsin, Miller, a graduate assistant when the 2012 season started, would have officially been hired as the offensive line coach. Miller did a great job in the wake of Markuson's firing and stabilized the line. In the Big Ten title game, the offense gained over 500 yards on the ground and the players spoke very highly of Miller throughout the season. B+


BEST HIRE: Bob Bostad

WORST HIRE: Mike Markuson

BEST RECRUITER: Dave Doeren





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