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Posts Tagged ‘Bret Bielema’

Pick 10, F.B.S. Notebook: Week 3 (Sept. 15)

Do you remember the last time Notre Dame took a trip to East Lansing? You might not remember the game’s first 60 minutes and change, but that’s fine: things didn’t get wild until overtime, when Michigan State answered a Notre Dame field goal with the most audacious coaching decision of the 2010 season. Now you remember, right? Dan Conroy is lined up for the potentially game-tying 46-yard field goal; Aaron Bates, the punter and team captain, was the holder; tight end Charlie Gantt was lined up one spot inside from the edge to Conroy’s right. The call: “Little Giants.” The snap went to Bates, as expected – and then came the unexpected. You’ll see the rest of the play later tonight, when the Irish and Spartans meet in one of the day’s marquee games. Let’s run down the entire weekend’s action.

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    Bielema Makes a Quick Staffing Change

    Bret Bielema hired six new assistant coaches this winter. One didn’t make it to October. Bielema fired first-year offensive line coach Mike Markuson on Sunday, one day after the Badgers’ running game sputtered in a 10-7 loss at Oregon State. Said Bielema: “I did due diligence bringing him in. But it was at a point on Sunday that I had contacted people early in the morning, made sure that a transition could happen. And I sat down with [Markuson] Sunday afternoon, had a conversation with him and really wished it wasn’t going to end the way it did.”

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      No. 11: Wisconsin

      At Tennessee, replacing seven assistant coaches isn’t so much cause for alarm as it is a sign of the times: Tennessee has suffered back-to-back seven-loss seasons, so it’s not surprising to see that Derek Dooley and the Volunteers are nearly starting from scratch — because assistant coaches value many things, but no one thing more than job security. But at Wisconsin, with the Badgers fresh off back-to-back trips to Pasadena, the changing cast of assistant coaches is met with some degree of surprise, if not outright skepticism: Wisconsin has been so good over the last three years, was so dominant over the last two years, that you’d almost expect every one of Bret Bielema’s assistants to remain in the fold until a head coaching opportunity opened up, as was the case with former coordinator Paul Chryst at Pittsburgh. While Tennessee and Wisconsin share this overhaul, the similarities end there: U.T. wants to regain some of its lost luster in the SEC; Wisconsin wants more of the same — more wins, more intimidation, more points, another Big Ten title and another shot at the Rose Bowl.

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        Raining on Wisconsin’s Parade (Sort Of)

        Continuity, the supporting cast and the knowledge that he’d be in good hands are the prime factors that drew Danny O’Brien to Wisconsin ahead of Penn State, Vanderbilt and Mississippi, the other three schools on his final shortlist of transfer destinations. O’Brien touched on these points during yesterday’s teleconference, saying that “the vibe [he] got at Wisconsin was special,” and noting how the path blazed by Russell Wilson last fall proved that it’s possible — especially in Madison — for a transfer to hit the ground running at a high level during his first season in a new offense.

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          O’Brien’s Transfer Path Leads to Wisconsin

          The early leader for Danny O’Brien’s services was Vanderbilt, thanks to O’Brien’s connection to James Franklin, his former offensive coordinator at Maryland. That Randy Edsall and the Terrapins denied O’Brien an opportunity to transfer into Vanderbilt, and then accused the university of tampering with its former quarterback before O’Brien announced his decision to transfer, only lent further credence to the idea that Vanderbilt was the team to beat. More recently, thanks to two visits within two weeks, Penn State seemed to hold the lead for O’Brien’s signature. Eventually, however, O’Brien chose the school that made the most sense for all parties: Wisconsin.

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            The Year in Review: Wisconsin (11-3, 6-2)

            It’s not quite Tennessee, but it’s close. The Volunteers lost seven assistants off last year’s staff. Bret Bielema and the Badgers lost six assistants, though it seemed, for a day or two, that the total would jump to seven: Earlier this month, running backs coach Thomas Hammock flirted with the St. Louis Rams before choosing to remain with Wisconsin. But you can see why coaches were leaving Derek Dooley and Tennessee en masse; one former assistant, Eric Russell, openly cited the lack of stability in Knoxville as his rationale for joining Mike Leach at Washington State. Other former Dooley assistants couldn’t be faulted for feeling the same way.

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              A Year Later, Wisconsin’s Woes Resurface

              Bret Bielema’s options are growing thin. This time a year ago, Wisconsin was poised to enter the fall with Jon Budmayr, a sophomore, as its starting quarterback. If that had come to pass, Budmayr would have been the Badgers’ first sophomore to start at quarterback since John Stocco did so in 2004. Of course, those plans changed once Russell Wilson opted to finish his college career in Madison. Budmayr would eventually miss the entire 2011 with nerve issues in his right elbow – his throwing arm – which in turn left redshirt freshman Joe Brennan as Wisconsin’s primary backup. In short, Wilson’s transfer did more than just help the Badgers return to the Rose Bowl: Wilson delayed Wisconsin’s quarterback concerns for one calendar year.

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                Future Members of the Hall of Fame: Coaches

                So there are issues with the College Football Hall of Fame’s eligibility criteria for coaches, as discussed at length earlier today. Eliminating those whose career spanned less than 10 years is silly; excluding those with a career winning percentage less than 60 percent is ridiculous. But rules are rules: Howard Schnellenberger deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame, but he’ll continue to be ineligible until the National Football Foundation alters its criteria. For now, active or recently active coaches who deserve Hall of Fame consideration must meet the Foundation’s existing — and puzzling — stipulations for inclusion.

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                  The Countdown

                  A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.