MADISON - While serving as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Western Kentucky this past football season, Zach Azzanni watched running back Bobby Rainey rush for 1,695 yards, the second most yards of any tailback in the country.
When the 2012 season kicks off this September, Azzanni will be one of the newest members of Bret Bielema's staff and an offense that returns the only running back that rushed for more yards than Rainey.
He'll serve as UW's wide receivers coach, replacing DelVaughn Alexander who recently took the same job at Arizona State.
"Zach is a great fit for Wisconsin," Bielema said via press release. "He is a terrific coach who stresses fundamentals and is also a great recruiter. His coaching philosophy, personality and character fit perfectly with what we do here and how we do it.
"I've known Zach for a number of years and I'm very excited to be able to add him to our staff."
Azzanni, who spent one year with the Hilltoppers after previous coaching stops at Florida (wide receivers, 2010), Central Michigan (assistant head coach, wide receivers, 07-09), Bowling Green State (wide receivers, 03-06), Bowling Green (GA, 01-02) and Valparaiso (wide receivers, 99-00).
He was a member of current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer's staff at Bowling Green and his last staff at Florida, prior to Meyer's departure.
"My family and I are ecstatic about coming to Madison and joining the Badgers," Azzanni said. "I've known Coach Bielema for a number of years and I jumped at the opportunity to become a part of one of the Big Ten's best programs.
"I look forward to getting started and continuing the great tradition at Wisconsin."
Azzanni will spearhead a position with 13 players scheduled to return, including experienced players such as Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Duckworth and Manasseh Garner.
So far there is only one verbal commitment at the wide receiver position, in Reggie Love.
Azzanni becomes the first coach to fill one of the five vacancies left open following Paul Chryst's departure to become head coach at Pittsburgh. Former offensive line coach Bob Bostad, tight ends coach Joe Rudolph and linebackers coach Dave Huxtable all left Wisconsin to join Chryst's first staff.
The aforementioned Alexander left to coach the Sun Devils as part of Todd Graham's first staff in Tempe.
Azzanni is widely regarded as a solid recruiter, one who has roots in the Florida area. Though he'll most certainly have a presence in the Sunshine State, that might not be his primary focus considering Charlie Partridge, UW's co-defensive coordinator with Chris Ash handles duties in south Florida.
Azzanni played collegiately at Central Michigan and has a wife (Julia) and two daughters (Ava and Lyla). He was named Wide Receivers Coach of the Year in 2009 while at Central Michigan.