With Wisconsin on a bye week this weekend, it was a good time to reflect on the Badgers through the first 10 games of the season. There have been some close calls for Wisconsin, including a 23-21 win at Nebraska and a 31-24 victory at Maryland, but the Badgers have lost just twice and those losses have come against a surging Alabama Crimson Tide and surprisingly undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes squad on pace to appear in the Big Ten Championship Game. One sportswriter in Wisconsin says the first year under Paul Chryst already helps show the program is on more solid ground than it was under his predecessor, Gary Andersen. He’s not wrong.
“While understandable given how UW has generally steamrolled lesser opponents in recent years, such concern is unfounded,” Tom Oates of Madison.com says of Wisconsin’s season to date. “If anything, people should be encouraged about the future because the program is headed in a better direction today than it was a year ago at this time.”
When Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas, athletics director Barry Alvarez opted to bring in Andersen from Utah State to take over the program. Andersen was coming off a 11-2 season with the Aggies, with one of those losses coming at Wisconsin (16-14) and a victory in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. By most accounts, it was a solid hire for the Badgers, and in fact it was. Wisconsin went 9-4 in Andersen’s first season in Madison and 10-3 the following season, which ended in a 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. Between the Big Ten title game blowout loss and the bowl season, Andersen skipped town and headed west to take over at Oregon State after Mike Riley accepted a job offer from Nebraska. That led Wisconsin to bringing Chryst home after the former Badgers player and assistant coach got some head coaching experience at Pittsburgh. The benefit of hindsight has allowed Oates to suggest the entire hiring of Andersen was an error.
“Instead of laughing derisively as Andersen’s losses pile up, they should be thanking him profusely for realizing what has become apparent in the 11 months since he left: His hiring at UW was a colossal mistake.
Please, don’t misunderstand that. UW athletic director Barry Alvarez hired a good coach in Andersen, he just hired the wrong coach. Andersen has solid credentials and is a great guy, but he was a bad fit for UW. It’s as simple as that.”
Some programs benefit from having a coach in place that truly understands the program and what it takes to lead it on and off the field. Chryst is about as close to home as Wisconsin could have gotten from the start, and perhaps the wait was worth it as Chryst got seasoned as a head coach at Pitt before returning to Wisconsin. Chryst may not be a flashy guy that will serve up a handful of quotes to fill sportswriters’ columns, but he gets Wisconsin from top to bottom and is a very good fit for the program.
For the second time this spinning of the coaching carousel, a Left Coast FBS program has lost an assistant to its little brother level of college football.
First, it was Cal losing offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin to the head job FCS Cal Poly. This time around it’s San Diego State, with FCS Lamar officially introducing Blane Morgan as its new head football coach.
Morgan spent the past five seasons as the quarterbacks coach at SDSU. Before that, he was at alma mater Air Force for a dozen years as, at various times, wide receivers coach, quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.
ROCKY LONG, HEAD COACH, SAN DIEGO STATE
“Blane has been a key part of our 48-18 record over the past five years. He understands what it takes to win and is a proven winner. He’s gotten the most out of his players, and their consistent play is a big reason for our two conference championships since he’s been here. He should make an outstanding head coach.”
FISHER DEBERRY, FORMER HEAD COACH, AIR FORCE
“Blane Morgan is going to be a great college head coach! He was a tremendous quarterback as a player and was one of the most competitive players and coaches that we had in the program at the Air Force Academy. Being the son of a great and very successful high school coach, and also being on the staff of one of the nation’s premier defensive coaches in the college game makes him well qualified and ready for this responsible job. He will be a great role model and mentor to the players! Players and supporters will love his beautiful family and they will be inspired by his leadership. Lamar University has found a nugget.”
TROY CALHOUN, HEAD COACH, AIR FORCE
“In Blane Morgan and his family, Lamar is getting a first-class leader that bleeds for their home state of Texas. He’s a superb coach and will be a tremendous representative of the university.“
It goes without saying that Jeff Traylor has hit the ground running in San Antonio.
Monday, Traylor was officially introduced as the new head football coach at UTSA. Thursday, Traylor announced that he has brought in five new assistants and retained another as part of his first coaching staff with the Roadrunners.
Those assistant coaches are:
- Daniel Da Prato (special teams coordinator)
- Nick Graham (cornerbacks)
- Julian Griffin (running backs)
- Jess Loepp (safeties/recruiting coordinator)
- Matt Mattox (run-game coordinator/offensive line)
- Rod Wright (defensive line)
Wright is the only holdover from Frank Wilson‘s last staff at the school.
Da Prato (special teams), Griffin (offensive quality control assistant) and Loepp (offensive analyst) all come to UTSA from Arkansas. Traylor spent the past two seasons as the associate head coach and running backs coach with the Razorbacks.
Graham (defensive assistant) and Mattox (offensive coordinator) were both at McNeese State for the 2019 season.
With yesterday’s developments, Traylor has just four more openings on his on-field staff to fill. Unless he gets raided by another football program, of course.
For the second time Thursday, Eli Drinkwitz has added an assistant to his new Missouri coaching staff. And, for the second time, it’s a member of his old Appalachian State.
First, Charlie Harbison was announced as a defensive assistant whose specific duties will be spelled out later. Next, it’s Erik Link being the second confirmed addition as part of Drinkwitz’s 10-man on-field staff.
Unlike Harbison, though, Link’s role has already been defined — special teams coordinator. That’s the same job Link held with the Mountaineers in 2019, his first and only season with the Sun Belt Conference school.
“Erik is a man of high character with a background in teaching and coaching,” said Drinkwitz in a statement. “His special teams units are detailed and very sound, and his guys play hard. They focus on effort, execution and high energy.”
Link was the special teams coordinator at Louisiana Tech in 2018, his first season as an on-field assistant at the FBS level. In 2011-12, he was the special teams coordinator at FCS Montana State.
In two separate stints at Auburn, he served as a quality control assistant (2010) and special teams/offensive analyst (2013-15).
The Lane Train is wasting little time rolling out members of his first coaching staff in Oxford.
Officially confirmed as Ole Miss’ head coach Saturday, Lane Kiffin on Thursday unveiled the first two members of his on-field staff — offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and offensive assistant Kevin Smith.
While Smith wasn’t given an official title, he spent the past three seasons as Kiffin’s running backs coach at FAU. That was the 43-year-old Smith’s first on-field role at any level of football as he had spent the previous three seasons at his alma mater UCF as both a coaching intern and quality control coach.
Smith, a consensus All-American as a running back at UCF, played five years for the NFL’s Detroit Lions and one season in the Canadian Football League.
Lebby, coincidentally enough, spent the past two seasons at UCF, the first as quarterbacks coach before being promoted to coordinator following the 2018 season. Prior to that, he was an assistant at Baylor for five years, primarily as running backs coach.
Lebby’s father-in-law is disgraced former Baylor head coach Art Briles. His brother-in-law is Kendal Briles, who was Kiffin’s offensive coordinator at FAU for one season before leaving for the same job at Houston and then, ultimately, Florida State.
In addition to those on-field hires, Wilson Love was announced as the Rebels’ head strength & conditioning coach. Like Smith, Love was a part of Kiffin’s Owls program the past three years.