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February 5, 2014

UPDATED: Hammock off to NFL

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Hammock will join the Baltimore Ravens staff in the same position, according to head coach Gary Andersen.

Hammock's departure is a big blow for the Badgers, who depended on him to keep their 2013 recruiting class together during the coaching change.

"This is something that Thomas has wanted for a long time," Andersen said at his Signing Day press conference Wednesday. "Some people want to coach professional football and it's been a driving force of his for quite a few years and it's where he sees the best spot for him and his family, which I have the upmost respect for."

"Thomas was coaching the running backs this morning at 6:30," Andersen said. "It was important for Thomas to be able to get in front of his players and communicate with them. It was a very difficult decision, but Thomas has made that decision."

Hammock tutored three very productive running backs during his time at Wisconsin, and their contributions kept Wisconsin's offense afloat at times when the passing game couldn't get off the ground.

"He's had some very talented players and he's made them very good football players," Andersen said. "He's been a big part of making them good football players."

Wisconsin running backs had great success under Hammock's supervision. Montee Ball finished the 2011 season as a Heisman Trophy finalist after he scored 39 touchdowns in his junior season. Ball set the career rushing touchdown record as a senior in 2012, finishing his college career with 77 total rushing scores. Hammock also tutored James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement, who combined to rush for 3,600 yards and scored 32 rushing touchdowns in 2013.

Hammock spent the last three seasons with the Badgers after coaching at Minnesota for four seasons. His departure comes on national signing day, just a few hours after the Badgers received national letters of intent from their committed prospects in the 2014 signing class.

Rivals.com listed Hammock as the primary recruiter for four players who signed with Wisconsin in their 2014 class: running backs Taiwan Deal and Caleb Kinlaw and Georgia prospects Jeremy Patterson and Krenwick Sanders. He also served as Wisconsin's recruiting coordinator under Andersen and Bret Bielema, and was a key cog in both coaching staffs.

Andersen mentioned his desire to fill the void left by Hammock's departure by the end of the week. Gordon, among other players, will be involved in the search.

"He's not a search firm, that's for sure," Andersen joked about Gordon before getting serious. "I always believe it's important to talk and communicate and have an open forum with the kids. When I say that, it's going to be myself educating them on the type of coach that I want to bring in here."

Andersen continued by saying, "I owe that to every kid on this football team to let them lay their heads down on their pillows at night rest assured that I'm doing my best to bring a quality person around them that's going to care about them and allow them to move along in life in a quality way."

There are two qualities that Andersen will be looking for in his next running backs coach. First and foremost, someone whom he believes can take cares of the kids and then someone who can recruit.

While the loss of Hammock to the NFL is a tough pill to swallow, Andersen and his remaining staff are thankful for what Hammock has meant to this program, but also know that they have to move on.

"We'll move on and we'll be fine and he'll move on and he'll be just fine," Andersen said. "I think I have a good friend in Thomas Hammock and a guy that I can trust and I believe many coaches on our staff feel the exact same way."

John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.

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