- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
TURNOVER ON COACHING STAFFS IS A STAPLE OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL. Even so, what transpired in Madison this off-season was dramatic—particularly for a winning program. The Badgers' "reward" for a second straight trip to the Rose Bowl was the departure of six assistants, three of whom went to Pitt, where Wisconsin's former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was named coach. Bret Bielema has dealt with this in the past. "We had four coaches leave the year before and two in 2009," says the Badgers' coach. "You can't hold a guy back." Besides, he says, "It's good to switch things up. We don't see it as a problem but an opportunity."
Bielema can afford to be magnanimous because his roster remains well stocked. Star runner Montee Ball (a Heisman candidate) is joined in the backfield by James White and Melvin Gordon; the latter dominated the spring game with 159 yards and a TD on 30 carries. The main imponderable is at quarterback, where for the second straight year a transfer from the ACC will take the helm. While Danny O'Brien (formerly of Maryland) lacks the explosiveness of predecessor Russell Wilson, he compares favorably with former Badger Scott Tolzien and will keep Wisconsin's play-action attack humming. White thinks the unit won't lose a beat. "Our offense is about being efficient and everyone being on the same page," he says. "I think our younger guys can step up."
The defense is anchored by linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland, whom Bielema calls "two of the best I've ever coached." Bielema is similarly excited about a front four that was affected by injuries last year but now has more depth than he's ever seen in Madison. The unit was mostly solid in Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge's first season as co-coordinators, but it did give up backbreaking plays in Wisconsin's three losses. Borland feels that a growing familiarity with the schemes can keep those plays to a minimum in 2012. "There's a temptation to relax with our offense scoring as many points as it does," he says. "We're working hard in practice to become the type of defense that wins games instead of one that performs well enough to win."
In other words, while faces on the Camp Randall sideline may come and go, on the field the Wisconsin brand of football—a successful brand—remains happily unchanged.
COACH Bret Bielema (7th year) 60--19 (33--15 in Big Ten)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Matt Canada
CO--DEFENSIVE COORDINATORS Chris Ash, Charlie Partridge
2011 RECORD 11--3 (6--2, T-1 in Leaders Division)