Assistants Playing the Waiting Game

While many Wisconsin assistants dodged questions about their future, they were in agreement that the focus currently is on a tough Auburn opponent in the Outback Bowl Jan.1.

MADISON – A good portion of the University of Wisconsin’s football assistant coaches are in the unenviable position of not knowing whether or not they are going to be retained as assistants under new head coach Paul Chryst’s first staff.

That normally would be a burden if it weren’t for the fact No.17 Wisconsin faces a tremendous challenge against No.19 Auburn in the Outback Bowl Jan.1.

“The focus is on Sammie Coates, Nick Marshall and everybody else,” said defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. “Decembers used to be fun when I was a kid growing up. They’ve gotten harder the older I get.”

According to the school’s hiring policies, Chryst cannot make any offers to assistant coach candidates until the application deadline of Dec. 29 passes. A UW spokesman said there is no plans to make any official announcement on assistant coaches until some point after the bowl game.

Current assistants would in essence have to apply for their own job. Chryst said in his introductory press conference that he was going to meet with staff members who wished to stay this week.

Available to the media for the first time since Gary Andersen surprised his staff by resigning to take the head coaching job at Oregon State Dec.10, most assistants were mum on their future plans but many, including Aranda, made it clear they would love to remain with the program.

“I love it here; I love the players number one,” said Aranda. “I love their attitude, their work ethic, how they approach their business. They are what I see as being the biggest plus of this place.”

A year after Aranda guided the Badgers to a top-20 ranked defense in scoring defense (6th), total defense (7th), rushing defense (5th) and passing defense (17th), Wisconsin (10-3) enters the bowl game fourth nationally in total defense (283.2 per game), fifth in pass defense (164.3), 17th in rush defense (118.9) and second in third-down percentage defense (28.1 percent).

His quick success was one of the reasons Aranda was one of four candidates athletic director Barry Alvarez interviewed for the head coaching vacancy that went to Chryst.

“I’m impressed with Dave Aranda,” said Alvarez. “He’s very quiet but when you talk football with him and you talk kids with him, he gets very talkative and very knowledgeable.”

Alvarez confirmed that offensive line coach T.J. Woods and defensive line Chad Kauha’aha’a will join former Andersen at Oregon State, but said the coaches will stay on and coach the bowl game.

Wisconsin has lost four straight bowl games dating back to a 20-14 win over Miami in the since-renamed Champs Sports Bowl in 2009.

“I’ve talked to both of them and they are excited about the bowl,” said Alvarez. “They care about the kids, and they’ve been good as far as coaching the kids, game planning, etc.”

Auburn (8-4) ranks 17th nationally in total offense (489.2) and tied for 22nd in scoring offense (35.8), providing a stern test for a defense looking to rebound from a humbling 59-0 defeat to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game Dec.6 in Indianapolis.

“The bottom line is I’ve never been around a group of kids like this before as far as resilient and what they’ve done, win 10 games and all that stuff right there,” said safeties coach Bill Busch. “It is really easy to step back from it all and try to win 11 (games).”

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