Rob Ianello, Wisconsin's tight ends coach who returned to the sidelines of Camp Randall Stadium last season after an nine-year hiatus, will revisit the only other college campus he has called home in the past 15 years when the Badgers invade Tucson, Ariz. Saturday.
Ianello, in his second year back at Wisconsin (he was a member of the UW staff from 1990-93), has helped Wisconsin's offense make great strides most notably at the tight end position with the transformation of Owen Daniels from quarterback to tight end.
"We have probably helped each other because we have made the transition to tight end together so I think we have kind of done that together," Ianello said of his relationship with Daniels and his switch from a wide receivers coach to a tight end coach. "I feel like I can coach him in the passing game and teach him as a receiver so that background has helped Owen. I am going to give him a lot of tools that he can use and he can decide which tools to take off the workbench."
During his nine years at Arizona he worked as their recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach and coached Pac-10 leading receiver Bobby Wade and Andre Thurman, who together re-wrote the Arizona record books. His experience working with receivers in the past has already made an impact on the UW passing game as Daniels leads the Badgers in receiving yards, yards per reception and touchdown receptions (tied with two others).
"He coached some record breaking receivers [at Arizona]," offensive coordinator Brian White said. "He coached receivers for numerous years so obviously he can transfer that knowledge to the receiving side of playing tight end."
Although his experience working on the offensive side of the ball has helped UW, in many ways it is his track record as a recruiter that defines him as a coach. Ianello began his career as an assistant recruiting coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 1988. In his two years at Tuscaloosa, he helped build an Alabama team that dominated the SEC. In 1989 the Tide won the SEC championship and received a Sugar Bowl birth. After he left Alabama for Wisconsin in 1990 the Crimson Tide went on to win the 1992 National Championship. He was a part of the staff that signed 17 of the 22 starters from that squad.
"He's organized and he is relentless," White said about Ianello's recruiting abilities. "He really gets involved with the kids and he cares about the families. It's not a very complicated formula but he lives it. He loves to recruit and he loves to organize recruiting and he does a great job at it."
While at Wisconsin during his first stint in Madison Ianello served as the on-campus recruiting coordinator before being promoted to the overall recruiting coordinator. It is no coincidence that Wisconsin built its 1994 Rose Bowl team during those years.
"I like doing recruiting because I like meeting people," Ianello said in a modest voice. "I like meeting young people and I like meeting families and I like to develop relations with people and I find that enjoyable. I guess I find the chase available. If that makes me a good recruiter or not, that's for someone else to decide that."
His familiarity with the Arizona roster—because of the recruiting job he did in Tucson—should provide some help to Alvarez and the rest of the coaches when it comes to the UW game plan for the Wildcats.
"He was there for a long time and he's given us some really good insight to what we can expect when we go out there and has a real good feel for [them]," receivers coach Henry Mason said. "He was a recruiting coordinator out there, so a majority of the guys that are there he knows something about. Certainly that gives you a little bit of an edge. You feel confidant about what you are going to get and what you are going to see."
As for this weekend, the Port Chester, N.Y., native said he is looking forward to going back, but that the rigors of preparing for a quality opponent have given him little time to contemplate his return to Arizona Stadium.
"I really haven't thought much about going back to Arizona as much as we are playing and how we prepare," he said. "The weeks are fast and there is a lot to be done. Maybe by the end of the week I will reflect on it. Friends of mine have called and my wife is going to go back there with our son so they have thought about it more than I have thought about it."
Ianello's wife, Denise Ianello, was an assistant women's basketball coach at Arizona and now holds a similar position at Wisconsin.
"You just try to keep it all in prospective," Rob Ianello said. "The ironic thing is that my last year at Arizona we played here and now we are going back there so there is a little irony, but no I really haven't tried to make it any more than Wisconsin is playing Arizona. And it's nothing more than that."
Nonetheless, Badger fans can be certain that his allegiance will not be questioned when he takes the field with the rest of the Wisconsin football team on Saturday. Although he has spent more time at Arizona (nine years) than at Wisconsin (six years) Madison is a place he feels confidant calling home.
"I have always felt comfortable here," he said. "When I was here before I really enjoyed living here. Everybody has made me feel at home since I came here."
Ianello returns to Arizona Stadium as a Badger
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