Reflecting on his conversation with UCF defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable, Bielema knew he had to make the job offer, seeing as nobody had impressive him with his knowledge, experience and intangibles like Huxtable did.
"I watched his business from afar, (and) I've been a big fan of how they play football," Bielema said of Huxtable. "He reached out through some people indirectly, and when I had a chance to sit down and visit with him, he was probably one of the more intriguing linebacker interviews I've ever had in my career. You could see the detail that he's had and the kids have been very positive with it."
The 54-year-old Huxtable brings 29 years of college coaching experience — including the last three as the defensive coordinator at Central Florida — to his new job as linebackers coach. It's a big loss for UCF, which had one of the top defenses in the nation in recent years. In 2010, the Knights ranked eighth nationally in scoring defense (17.1 points per game), eighth in rushing defense (108.4 yards per game), 15th in total defense (315.4 ypg) and 18th in pass efficiency defense (113.0 rating).
After Wisconsin's Saturday scrimmage, Huxtable talks to Badger Nation about his philosophies, his journey to Madison and his recruiting area.
Badger Nation: It's been fun watching you work because you know immediately whether that player did something right or wrong. Is that something you have always have done and what are some of the positives by doing it that way?
Huxtable: I believe that coaching is teaching. I always want to be teaching, coaching the players and the quicker they can get positive or negative feedback from me, the quicker they can keep doing it or make a correction. I think they learn better that way because it just happened. Let's get it corrected now rather than later so when if it comes up three plays from now, I expect it to be done right.
Badger Nation: Tell me about your decision to move from a defensive coordinator position to solely linebackers. Why did you decide to make the switch and what did you like about this opportunity?
Huxtable: Well, it really was a hard decision because I've coordinated for a long time and really enjoyed doing that. Hopefully, I'll do it again someday, but I was pretty much sold the first time I met Coach Bielema and got an opportunity to sit down and talk with him. I was really impressed with him and when I came up here to visit and met Chris Ash, Charlie Partridge and the other coaches on the staff, the secretaries, everybody here, it's about good people. Fortunately my wife was able to come up here with me for the interview and she fell in love with the place. It's a good decision for us and I'm excited to be here.
Badger Nation: When did you first run into Bret?
Huxtable: It was down in Dallas at the coaches convention. I had talked with Chris and Charlie and then got a chance to talk to Bret. That's really where it started.
Badger Nation: Did you have interest in looking for other things or did this job appeal to you when the coordinators told you about it?
Huxtable: I really wasn't looking to be honest, but when there was an opportunity to come here to the University of Wisconsin, that attracted me. I really do believe this is the best college football program in the nation. That's what attracted me initially and then talking to the coaches, I just felt why not? It's a good move, so let's do it.
My first year at the University of Central Florida in 2004, we came up to play the opener when Coach Alvarez was still in the head coach. Coach O'Leary's mother had passed away that week, he had to go up to New York for the funeral and he made me the interim head coach. So I came up here and got my butt kick the first time I was a head coach. I also came up here when I was with the University of North Carolina and the fans have always been a lot of fun.
Badger Nation: What impressed you when your interview came up here? You obviously got a chance to see different things than the previous two times you came, so what struck you about this facility that made this fit for you?
Huxtable: It really was about the people, the success in the program and the good tradition here. You can feel the great tradition and the story here. All of those things accumulated and were a part of the decision.
Badger Nation: What have you enjoyed about coaching this linebackers group? It's a mix of some older guys and some younger guys learning the position, so I am curious to your feedback about these guys.
Huxtable: The first thing I enjoy about them is they are really good people. I enjoy being around them. They are a lot of fun to be around. Now, they don't say a whole lot. They are a quiet group and I am trying to get them to talk more, but they are good, good guys. I enjoy being around them and I tell them all the time that football is a game of ‘want to,' not a game of ‘have to.' These guys want to play football, they want to learn, and I can see the eagerness. That makes it more fun for me. They all have a real passion for the game, and that makes it fun for me. They've been a lot of fun to coach and that mixture of older guys and younger guys is great in the film room and makes for good chemistry.
Badger Nation: You haven't had a chance to see him on the film yet but just from talking to him and watching him on film, how excited are you to coach Chris Borland in the fall?
Huxtable: I am really excited about Chris. I have seen him on film and what a heck of a football player he is. He does some really impressive things on film. The first week I was here, I came in on a Sunday morning about 8 o'clock and Chris is in the film room at 8 o'clock on a Sunday morning with a notepad and pencil out in front of him and he's watching the Ohio State game. He's writing down notes and right away, I was so impressed. That's what I was talking about when these guys have a ‘want to.' They have an eagerness and Chris has shown me that. I am disappointed that he's not out here during spring, but I am looking forward to seeing him in the fall and getting him into the mix.
Badger Nation: What do you think of Greg Russo's story and what are your impressions of him as he tries to make the team?
Huxtable: What a neat kid. If people haven't gotten a chance to meet Greg Russo and sit down with him to hear his story, they need to because he is a really neat kid. Talking with him the other day, this is his family now and he's so happy to be a part of the Badger football program and be around these guys. I am so happy for him, but it's a neat story and I know he's happy being a part of it.
Badger Nation: What do you think your recruiting niche is going to be?
Huxtable: I am going to have the Atlanta area, Indiana area and the Maryland/DC area. I have not been in the Indiana or Maryland/DC area before, so that will be new for me. I've got to get out there and build some relationship and learn my way around. I am looking forward to do that this spring. I've been in Atlanta for a number of years, but haven't been there the last three years. I was there for a long time prior to that, so I am looking forward to getting down there and seeing if we can get a couple guys to come up here and join us. I am looking forward to getting out there and sell Wisconsin.
Badger Nation: What's harder for you – re-establish old connections or establish new connections in a different area? Where are the challenges within that?
Huxtable: I think the latter is probably the hardest establishing people for the first time and continuing to follow up on those relationships. I am really looking forward to getting out east and meeting those people and see what kind of football they have out there and in Indiana.