MADISON – After transforming Wisconsin’s 4-3 defense into a stingy 3-4 unit in just two years, Dave Aranda had plenty of opportunities for employment after Gary Andersen resigned to take the head coaching job at Oregon State in early December.
For the soft-spoken Aranda, the only job he really wanted was the job he currently had.
“(Staying here) was something I wanted to do right from the start,” said Aranda. “My family is awfully comfortable here. My wife loves it here. My kids have a great school environment, have kids over to the house about every other day. I love the kids here, especially the group that’s coming up. I am excited about their potential and what they can accomplish.”
Aranda was one of six hires made by new Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst in the past 24 hours. In addition to Aranda, Chryst retained running back coach Thomas Brown and hired Inoke Breckterfield (defensive line), Chris Haering (special teams), Joe Rudolph (offensive coordinator/associate head coach/offensive line) and Mickey Turner (tight end) from Pittsburgh.
The Wisconsin ties run deep on this new staff, as Rudolph was an All-Big Ten lineman under current Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and later coached tight ends with Chryst at Wisconsin on Bret Bielema’s staff. He also coached Turner, who was a four year letterwinner for the Badgers from 2006-09, serving as a captain his final season.
Even new strength and coaching coach Ross Kolojziej has Wisconsin ties, starting 45 games for the Badgers from 1997 to 2000. He just completed his first year as head strength coach at Pitt.
“I think it’s important to have guys that know and appreciate Wisconsin,” said Chryst. “It doesn’t mean you have to play here or have coached here. I think that’s important. I feel fortunate right now that I’ve been able to build (the staff) the way we want to build it.”
This past season, Wisconsin ranked fourth in the country in total defense (294.1 ypg), 17th in scoring defense (20.8 ppg), 23rd in rushing defense (126.1 ypg) and fourth in passing defense (168.0 ypg). UW’s defense also had 93.0 tackles for loss and 37.0 sacks to rank among the nation’s top 20 in both categories.
Under Aranda's watch, converting Wisconsin from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme two years ago, Wisconsin’s defense has allowed an average of 299.4 yards per game, ranking third among FBS programs over the last two seasons and trailing only Louisville (280.5) and Michigan State (282.9).
The Badgers have also allowed an average of 18.6 points per game over the last two seasons, the sixth-best mark in the FBS during that span. Wisconsin also ranks No. 5 nationally in passing defense over the past two seasons at 184.6 yards allowed per game and No. 7 in rushing defense at 114.7 yards allowed per contest. The Badgers have allowed just 27 rushing touchdowns in the 27 games Aranda has coached.
The day after officially being named the head coach Dec.18, Chryst sat down with Aranda and recognized the philosophy between the two matched.
“Dave has a great reputation as a football coach,” said Chryst. “I knew enough people that knew him as a person, people I know and trust…He thought it was going to be a good fit, and I was really excited.”
In his first stint with the Badgers, Rudolph spent four seasons as UW’s tight ends coach from 2008 to 2011, spending four players to the NFL. He contributed to the two highest-scoring offenses in school history, with the Badgers averaging 44.1 points per game in 2011 and 41.5 points per game in 2010. At Pittsburgh, the Panthers enjoyed its most productive year offensively under Rudolph in 2014, averaging 31.8 points and 435.4 yards per game.
The Panthers committed the fifth-fewest turnovers in the FBS over the last three seasons with a total of just 46. They also ranked 14th nationally over that span with an average time of possession of 31:51.
“I’ve always had incredible passion for Wisconsin,” said Rudolph. “Being a part of it back when I coached, spending time here in every aspect, as an alum and a former player, it’s just a great feeling.”
Still needing to hire a wide receiver, secondary and outside linebacker coach, Chryst said he is “close” to completing the rest of the staff in the next couple days before the live recruiting period begins Thursday.It’s been rumored that former Chicago Bears linebacker coach Tim Tibesar has been hired to coach the outside linebackers, and Hawaii secondary coach Daronte Jones has been hired for the same position at Wisconsin, but no official word has been released. Former Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jay Norvell, a Madison native, remains the leading candidate for the UW receivers job.
“Bottom line is in all the coaches, I think it’s who they are as people and how they do their job,” said Chryst. “It’s so much more than just the football coaching.”
Rudolph on Turner
“I think the one thing you truly appreciate about Mickey, and I had a chance to work with him for two years, is there is a willingness there to not only learn but to kind of own it, to learn it at a different level. You appreciate it with him as a player. You also saw an ability in him as a person to create and build relationships.
”I think there was a time going into his senior year where I really thought as a team we needed a leader and we needed guys to step up in that respect. And the way he was passionate about doing it, and the way he invested in making that happen, I just have always seen a great ability in him. So for it to come to this point is pretty fun. I think he'll do an outstanding job.”
Chryst on Breckterfield
“I think he's just a guy that truly cares about all the things. What he values in coaching are things that I appreciate a ton. Then part of coaching, so staff wise, a tremendous staff person, tremendous family and just the way he goes about every day, he's a guy that I think you want to be around and you know that when you watch him and see how he interacts with players. And I think what he did with Aaron Donald (NFL first-round pick), I think it's all what coaching is about, and that is helping a guy be the best he can.”
Aaron did a ton of it. Nokes didn’t make Aaron Donald. But I think he certainly helped him. I got to see that day in and day out. It was pretty I think Nokes is pretty special that way as a coach.
Chryst on Haering
“I first met Chris when I GA'd at West Virginia. He was a player, captain of the team, heck of a player. Grew up. Chris took a recruiting visit here (to Wisconsin) as a high school recruit, so we just kind of hit it off. Again, a lot of the core fundamental values we saw eye to eye on. He grew up, his dad was a coach, his brother was a coach and I always stayed in touch with him. It worked out that he was coaching high school in Pittsburgh, but wherever, if something (a head coaching opportunity) would have ever happened wherever, I would have asked him to see if that was a good fit for him. I would like him on that staff, and it worked out.
“I thought he did a heck of a job with our players. I think he gets kind of the ‘mission statement.’ Again, great family. I was fired up when both Nokes and Chris said, ‘Yeah, Madison would be a great opportunity, coaching at the University of Wisconsin.’ It all fit. Really excited about that.”
Chryst on Brown
I think I've been fortunate to be with some really good running backs coaches. You know, when I was first here I loved working with Sett (John Settle). I loved working with Thomas (Hammock) and then I feel like I've got a pretty good Ollie Wilson, I worked with in San Diego -- I think I've been around some really good ones. Actually, some great ones.
So you have a sense it's a pretty high bar. Also I think that was one thing, really with all the coaches, I was impressed with all the coaches because I was here and able to watch bowl practices. That's a strange dynamic because I'm not there to evaluate them. I'm not there but the kids would come up and talk to me about Thomas. Obviously had a chance to visit with Melvin (Gordon), and then had a chance to sit down and talk with him (Brown). I think a lot of the things that I saw in those other running backs coaches that I've been around with, he had some of those core principles that you say that's pretty darn good. So I think that was, like anything, you kind of just take in a lot of different things.
Joe had a chance to visit with him and kind of maybe confirm what you were thinking, so I thought that was pretty fortunate there. As I said, it's a pretty good bar that's been set.