Excited for a New Mix

From a list of 75 names down to two, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema has enjoyed the process of bringing Northern Illinois offensive coordinator Matt Canada and Western Kentucky offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni to Madison.

MADISON - Bret Bielema started with a list of over 75 names.

Out of a titanic amount of interest in the job openings on Wisconsin football's coaching staff, UW coach Bret Bielema came out with two names: newly appointed offensive coordinator Matt Canada and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni.

Bielema said he received a ton of interest in the various open positions on his staff — particularly the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach — but after 12 interviews, Bielema offered only one man the job.

"Actually Matt was my last interview and the only guy I ever offered the job to," Bielema said. "I was happy I waited a long time."

"I really like the fact that Matt has been in a couple different positions and he's had success. He's had to blend in to what's around him and make the most of the strengths of the players of where he's at."

Canada finally found his way to Wisconsin.

The former Northern Illinois offensive coordinator urged anyone who would listen to ask any of his friends and family - they'll confirm it that Wisconsin is a place where he always wanted coach.

"There's no question, I wanted to work at Wisconsin for many, many years," Canada said. "You can call my best friends, you can call anybody you want, this is a place that I wanted to be."

Last season, Canada worked under former UW defensive coordinator Dave Doeren, leading NIU to finish among the top 12 nationally in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense. With such a highly ranked offense, the Huskies finished with an 11-3 record, a MAC championship and a GoDaddy.com Bowl win.

But filling in for an offensive genius the likes of Paul Chyrst could bring some pressure. Just as there is turnover every year, Canada is confident any pressure will be easily handled.

"I think the pressure is for us to be great every day," Canada said. "I think that's the pressure we're going to put on ourselves. Again, I have unbelievable respect for Paul, but it's a new team and every year it's different."

A Michigan native, Azzanni simply wanted the chance to coach in the Big Ten.

After splitting 13 years between Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Florida — under Urban Meyer — and last year at Western Kentucky, Azzanni was finally given the chance to coach in his hometown conference, at a tradition-rich school.

"I've known Bret for a number of years and always kept in touch, and with that a glimmer of hope that I could be a badger one day," Azzanni said. "I'm really excited to be working at a tradition-rich place."

Sifting through hundreds of names, arriving at a list of 75 and eventually having to pick only five sounds like a daunting task, but for Bielema it is merely a chance to improve.

"I wouldn't say stressful," Bielema said. "I really, truly enjoy the process we just went through, still not quite finished, but to me when you have transitions, it's an opportunity to improve … my challenge is to bring in a group of coaches that move forward here at Wisconsin."

Recruiting Territory

With signing day less than two weeks away, Bielema will have his new assistants focused on the small 2012 recruiting class. Bielema said Canada will go on the road next week while Azzanni will balance some recruiting along with his wife, who is seven months pregnant.

Bielema expects to name a tight ends coach and linebackers coach following signing day. The new offensive line coach is expected to be hired within the next "several days."


"I'm extremely excited to be here and I'm extremely excited to be part of Wisconsin. I've known Bret for a number of years and I've always kept in touch with that glimmer of hope that I'd get to be a Badger one day.

"I'm real excited about working in tradition rich place, that's important to me and my family. I love the pageantry of college football and the tradition of college football. This is just a great fit for me and my family."

- Zach Azzanni

"I wouldn't say stressful. I really, truly enjoy the process that we've just gone through. It's still not quite finished. To me, when you have transition it's an opportunity to improve. That's not a slight on anybody that just left. They were great coaches that just left. The reason they got coordinator titles and a lot more money is because they are good coaches. My challenge is to bring in a group of coaches that will continue to move forward here at Wisconsin.

"It's a real exciting time because of the building being built. We're going for our third consecutive Big Ten championship. That's unprecedented in our school history and it's something that is an exciting challenge for all of us. But it's definitely been busy. Since my departure for the Rose Bowl I've been at my house twice. That's since December, 25th. It's definitely the most well-traveled."

- Bret Bielema

"I've got the greatest job in America. There's nothing better than calling plays and being around the guys and going home Sunday night and figure out the matchups with the talent that you have. There's one question, I wanted to work at Wisconsin for many, many years. No matter what offense I've been a part of, I know what the offense is here."

- Matt Canada

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