Spring Q&A: Jeff Genyk

The last member to join Gary Andersen's first staff at Wisconsin, tight end/special teams coach Jeff Genryk talks about his experiences as a head coach, his excitement about Wisconsin and the philosophies he brings to the tight ends, special teams and recruiting.

Tell me about your transition to Wisconsin, getting the job a couple days before spring ball and then having to come out here and run tight end and special teams drills.

Jeff Genyk: It was kind of a unique situation because at the time I was the running back and special teams coach at Nevada. I got a call from Coach Andersen, we talked a couple times over the weekend and he offered me the job over the phone. I worked with Coach Ludwig at the University of California for one year. It was quick a whirlwind to say the least.

I came in on a Monday evening, went through some paperwork and etc. on Tuesday and started on Wednesday from a preparation standpoint. Given the fact that we play zero to three tight ends is a lot offensively, but the fact that I worked with Coach Ludwig in a very similar offense the transition wasn't as difficult. It's very similar techniques and responsibilities.

From a special teams standpoint it was challenging because a lot of things being implemented were things from Utah State and my experiences from Cal, Eastern Michigan and Northwestern. Transitioning all that information so it's in a presentable form to the Wisconsin players is very challenging. It was a long three days to get prepared. Once we started rolling on practice times, things started rolling without much problem and it was fun.

When you got the job offer, what did you evaluate? Is it the move cross country, the personnel you are going to be working with, the coaching staff or a mixture?

Genyk: I think it's really a combination. In my particular case it was my family. We spent three great years in California, but most of my and my wife's family is from the Chicago area. It was a chance to get close to home. We love the Big Ten. My wife went to a Big Ten university and I got a master's degree from Northwestern.

The chance to be at Wisconsin was very significant. Seeing Wisconsin from a far for 12 years at Northwestern, it was a very inevitable spot with everything they have here in Madison. In conjunction, we have a great group of tight ends. We have three seniors, I had the opportunity to recruit Jacob Pedersen when I was at Eastern Michigan, so that was a unique opportunity along with the standpoint of going to a program with a winning tradition. All those things played a factor.

How much did you tenure as head coach at Eastern Michigan help evolve you as a coach? What did you take from that which you still carry with you?

Genyk: I have quite a few. It's an interesting transition. Everyone would like to be a head coach, then all of a sudden when you have that plaque on your office door and the relentless process that is being a head football coach, or a CEO, it's the players, the media, the alumni and so on and so forth. It becomes relentless, so I think you learn going through that how to be a better assistant coach because you understand what the head coach is under. You really want to take your area of responsibility and really try to take it to the absolute maximum as it pertains to the responsibility that you have.

I think it also is a factor on gameday because of the time management that you have to practice as a head coach and execute as a head coach. I think the poise, adjusting with poise, showing that you are getting too emotional and really being strategic are things to take away.

Has it helped your transition because you have those three senior tight ends of a group who have a lot of experience?

Genyk: It's absolutely important. With this group of tight ends, I think it'll be the best group of tight ends in the United States. That's easy to say, but it's realistic. I think Jacob has a chance to be the best tight end in the country. That type of leadership, football knowledge, toughness and ability to execute under pressure is great. Along with Sam Arneson, who is a junior and really good, too. There are four legitimate BCS Division 1 tight ends in the program. What is your philosophy with the special teams and how have these guys embraced what you are preaching to them?

Genyk: First of all from a specialist perspective, we are really having the young men focus on the process and the actual execution, not the results. So far, Kyle French and Drew Meyer have really responded well. I am really pleased with those gentlemen along with the long snappers.

From a special teams standpoint, it's about creating an environment that is really about ‘want to,' understanding field position, understanding the importance of special teams and making it fun and exciting is really part of it. Those types of things along with 20 years of experience at different institutions get me excited to work with these guys.

Do you think you have good special teams players on this team?

Genyk: I think there is a great deal of focus. In meetings, guys are a very focused. They have great football knowledge and they are eager to simulate the knowledge on the field, which is just awesome. I think that at this point in time, you really never know until you have the ability to test it, but so far so good.

When Ludwig calls for two or three tight end sets, how is that a positive for your group and how does that formation need to be fine tuned?

Genyk: I think the diversification is very challenging for a defensive coordinator. In our case to have four, maybe five, guys that can line up at all three positions at tight end, either on the line, off the line or blocking responsibilities, to be a threat in the passing game with multiple formations, diversity and gap formations. The challenge is to be able to play all three and not get focused on only having to do one responsibility. To be able to play all three, that's what we are attempting to do is really juggling the young men and understand the concepts of the play.

Getting back to your decision, was it based on being comfortable with Ludwig and how much did working for Andersen impact your choice? How much did you know about Gary and how has the staff developed since the start of spring?

Genyk: It's worked really well, but from afar I followed Utah State. I felt Eastern Michigan and Utah State was the same program six, seven, eight years ago. They were very similar programs and he obviously had a great deal of success and some very significant wins. I have really enjoyed the process. The relationship with Coach Ludwig was a significant factor. It's been real comfortable.

Having been at Eastern Michigan and Northwestern, how much fun do you get out of recruiting the Midwest?

Genyk: I have recruited all the Big Ten footprint states if you will. I'll be in Michigan and Ohio, which will be great because I went to college in Ohio and coached In Michigan, but also dabble in the Bay Area because I spent three years out there and it will be a fun aspect. I really enjoy recruiting.

Lower Michigan is a recruiting area that hasn't yielded a lot of results for Wisconsin. What's the trick to recruiting Michigan when you are going against Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State?

Genyk: The aspect is insuring you are getting on the young men early enough in the process, which certainly has been accelerated over the past two years, and doing our best to get them here, which is coming to visit a three time Big Ten champion. Get them here for a game and understand what it's like, because there are very few places on gameday like this where it's just the pageantry and as festive as it is. It's really about awareness. When you grow up in Michigan, you are right in the middle of Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame and the whole MAC. It's really just having a little bit more awareness of what's on the other side of Lake Michigan and wanting to check that out.

Do you think you want to be a head coach again someday or are you happy being an assistant?

Genyk: I am really not sure. I really feel like having spent 12 years at Northwestern, I think it'd be great to spend 12 years here.

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