Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Schools in the News: Wisconsin

News came out this afternoon that Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, who played linebacker at Iowa, has been hired as the new Arkansas Razorbacks head coach.  The Badgers have generally lost to Michigan and other big-time teams in recruiting battles, but they have a few offerees who might be of Michigan fans' interest.

2013 Wisconsin commits: Rob Wheelwright
2014 Wisconsin commits: Conor Sheehy
Current roster players: LB Vince Biegel, RB Melvin Gordon, RB Vonte Jackson, OG Dan Voltz, RB James White

For what it's worth, I really liked Biegel and Voltz when they were coming out of high school; regardless, it's unlikely that Michigan could grab any current roster members from Wisconsin because players usually don't transfer within the conference.  Sometimes it's interesting to think about what could have been, though.

Meanwhile, Sheehy visited Michigan, and the Wolverines were supposedly high on his list, so it might be possible to coax him into decommitting.  Wheelwright never seemed to be seriously interested in the Wolverines, although Michigan would still like to add a wide receiver to the class.  The Badgers also have a commitment from 2014 quarterback Chance Stewart, a pro-style guy from Sturgis (MI) Sturgis. Several Michigan people thought that he would jump on an offer from Michigan, but he never earned that offer and one didn't seem to be forthcoming anytime soon.

I am somewhat surprised by Bielema's departure from Madison because he seemed like a Big Ten guy, but he may have realized that a national championship would be difficult to achieve at Wisconsin.  While he did an excellent job of taking mid-level recruits and turning them into Big Ten champions, record holders, and such, he just didn't seem to garner the elite athletes that one needs to win national championships and dominate the conference.  Now he'll have the SEC name, the weather, and the recruiting territory to build an even more athletic version of his teams at Wisconsin.  The biggest question to me is whether he'll be able to make the guys in the south buy into his program as well as he did with the Badgers.  Personally, I have never been a fan of Bielema because of his pompous attitude, so he'll fit just fine in SEC country.

It may be interesting to see what direction the Badgers go now with their coaching situation.  I would not be surprised to see former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst come back to Wisconsin.  He did a great job of running their offense prior to this season and would seem like a natural fit to keep that program running without any hiccups.  And that would be quite unfortunate for the Pitt Panthers, who could be on the cusp of losing a second coach after just a one-year stint.  Todd Graham coached there for the 2011 season before bolting for Arizona State, and now Chryst's old stomping grounds might lure him back after just one season in Pittsburgh.


  1. Hate to say it but... from Chrysts point of view, wouldn't it be easier to recruit at Pitt than Wisconsin? Pennsylvania has much better talent, and at least Chryst doesn't have to fly everywhere to recruit.

    Not to mention it's much easier to win in the ACC and Penn State will be down for a few years... just enough to win and move on to a better job. Just like how they got Dorian. If BOB were to leave Penn State, even better.

    1. It might be easier to recruit at Pitt, but the infrastructure is already in place at Wisconsin. They've got players and a tradition that could easily carry on - Big Ten championships, good offensive lines, good running backs, solid defense, etc. Chryst has to build up Pitt. Wisconsin is already built.

  2. Would love to hear your thoughts on James White (not potential to come to Michigan, because that's basically 0) but on his potential as a RB in general.

  3. Would love to hear your thoughts on James White, talent wise, as a running back.

    1. I haven't watched Wisconsin a ton, but I like him. He's shifty and has a little bit of speed. I liked him coming out of high school, and I wanted Michigan to grab him. I don't really have a ton of insightful things to say about him, though.

  4. I've liked Wisconsin football for a long time mostly because you know what's coming. There's an easily definable style that fits Wisconsin well and is both easy to understand and explain.

    This is a big help with recruiting. If you're a big, maybe fat and slow western/midwestern lineman, you know that if you go to Wisconsin they are going to get you bigger and stronger and then teach you how to blow people out of a hole. With that education, if you're a big enough and good enough athlete, you have a chance to play on Sunday.

    If you're a tailback type that can break a tackle and deliver a hit, you know that there will be a bunch of the above making holes that will put you in a position to break that tackle or deliver that hit on more than the occasional safety. And that if you're a big and fast enough athlete ......

    I don't think all of that originated with Bielema as much as Alvarez. Bielema did a nice job at Wisconsin, but I'm thinking that a very different culture and set of expectations might make him wish at some point in the forceable future that he had stayed in Madison. Maybe that's just my hope because mostly I don't care that much for Bielema either.

    Wisconsin would be wise to hire an insider who can keep the staff together along with that same style of play and by doing so keep that recruiting pipeline working.

  5. I think he is nuts for jumping into a lower-tier program in the SEC West. He should have consulted with Urban Meyer beforehand. Talk about a meat grinder. Without having pre-existing ties to the program, I don't see Razorback fans being patient with him like they were with Houston Nutt some seasons. It's ironic because Bielema has been vocal about not wanting the B1G to turn into the SEC in terms of cut-throat tactics and shady recruiting. Maybe he is banking on Saban and Miles not being around much longer.

    I'm speculating that Bielema figured he had maxed out Wisconsin's potential, similar to how Saban felt at MSU. Wisonsin's ability to turn lukewarm recruits into good college players has been terrific. But maybe Bielema and his staff have looked into the future and seen the well drying up a bit.

    1. I think Bielema figures out he maxed out Wisconsin's potential, and I think he could continue to compete or win in the Big Ten. But yeah, he's presumably given the best he can, and that results in Big Ten champion-caliber teams, but not national championship-caliber teams. Saban maxed out his potential at MSU, so he jumped to LSU. Then he maxed out his potential there and moved on to a bigger challenge with the Dolphins. That didn't go so well, so he went back to an LSU-level program (Alabama) where he would just have to be satisfied with being one of the best programs in college football.

      I think Bielema's going to struggle in the SEC because of some personality issues, but I don't think he'll be a total failure. As long as he and the Razorbacks are okay with 8-4 or 7-5 seasons, then he could have a fairly lengthy career there.