One coach who brings a wealth of experience coaching football in the Big 10 is Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. He is in his sixth year as the Badgers's offensive coordinator and quarterback coach and his eight year overall in Madison.
His Big Ten background is believed to be one of the main reasons his name has surfaced in the recent Illinois coaching search. While it's assumed new Illni Athletic Director Mike Thomas is looking for a coach with head coaching experience, Chryst is thought to be a key candidate in the current search.
In the last five seasons, Wisconsin has averaged 31.9 points and 408.6 yards per game. In addition, the names of three quarterbacks he has coached dominate Wisconsin's record book. Scott Tolzien, the starter each of the past two seasons, is at the top of both the career completion percentage and pass efficiency lists. Tyler Donovan and John Stocco rank third and fourth, respectively, in completion percentage while Stocco is second in career passing yards, attempts, completions and touchdowns. Wisconsin has compiled a 49-16 (.754) record during Chryst's five seasons at the helm of the offense.
The 2010 season was an historic one for the Badger offense. UW finished fifth in the country, averaging 41.5 points per game to demolish the school record by more than a touchdown a game. In Big Ten play it was even better, averaging 45.2 points in its eight league games, the second-best average in Big Ten annals. Heading into last season, Wisconsin had not scored 70 points in a game since 1915. The Badgers did it in three different games.
The stength of the offense is its running game. UW nearly became the first team in FBS history to have three different players rush for at least 1,000 yards in the same season as James White had 1,052 yards, John Clay had 1,012 and Montee Ball had 996. The Badgers finished 12th in the country in rushing offense and tied a Big Ten record with 48 rushing TDs.
As a balance to the stellar running game, the passing game featured Tolzien, the 2010 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner, and Mackey Award finalist Lance Kendricks. Tolzien set the Big Ten single-season record for completion percentage and finished sixth in the country in pass efficiency.
The offense boasted three first-team All-Americans (Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt and Kendricks), four national award finalists (Carimi, Clay, Kendricks and Tolzien) and two national award winners (Carimi and Tolzien).
UW ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense, pass efficiency, fewest turnovers lost, third-down conversions, fourth-down conversions, red zone offense, time of possession and fewest penalties per game.
This season isn't over yet, but quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Montee Ball are breaking records that may never be broken. They are tremendous talents, but Chryst must be credited for creating an environment where they can fluorish.
Chryst was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Oregon State in 2003-04. He helped the Beavers rank No. 6 nationally in passing yardage per game (328.1). The 2003 Beavers became the first team in NCAA Division I history with a 4,000-yard passer, 1,500-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers. Among the Oregon State stars he coached were RB Ken Simonton, the school's career rushing leader, QB Derek Anderson (now with the Cleveland Browns), who left as the Pac 10's No. 2 career passing leader, RB Steven Jackson (now with St. Louis Rams), a 2004 first-round draft choice, and TE Tim Euhus, a fourth-round pick of Buffalo in 2004 who is now with Arizona.
Chryst came to Wisconsin in 2002 after serving as an assistant coach with the San Diego Chargers.
Previously, Chryst was an assistant coach at Oregon State (1997-98), the Saskatchewan Roughriders (1996), Illinois State (1995), the Ottawa Rough Riders (1994), UW-Platteville (1993) and the World League's San Antonio Riders (1991-92). He was a graduate assistant at West Virginia (1989-90).
Chryst was a three-time football letterwinner at Wisconsin, where he earned a degree in political science in 1988. He added a master's degree in educational administration from West Virginia in 1990. Paul's brother, Rick, was commissioner of the Mid-American Conference for 10 years. Another brother, Geep, is an assistant with the Carolina Panthers. Paul's late father, George, was a longtime head coach at UW-Platteville and a former Badger player and assistant coach.
WHY PAUL CHRYST WOULD BE A GOOD HIRE FOR ILLINOIS: He knows how to win in this conference. He has built solid offenses at Wisconsin and has made the Badgers major contenders in the Big 12 during his tenure.
WHY CHRYST MAY NOT BE A GOOD FIT FOR ILLINOIS: His lack of head coaching experience is a drawback. And how would the former Badger player feel leading an Illinois team against his former school?