Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Turmoil in Buckyland

It's only been a week since the Outback Bowl, but the UW football program is already undergoing some serious changes. Those are--
(A) Jackie I's apparent declaration to go pro, if he's not found guilty of residential burglary;
(B) Purdue courting Badger offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to be its successor to head coach Joe Tiller, though Tiller hasn't even retired yet and may not this season;
(C) Badger offensive line coach Bob Palcic leaving the program to go back to UCLA and coach with Rick New-weasel, ahem, Neuheisel;
(D) Badger defensive coordinator and sexagenarian Mike Hankiwitz getting laid off, allegedly for "performance reasons;" and
(E) one of the Badgers' top recruits, a St. Louis wideout, changing his mind and going to Mizzou.

Here are the takes--
- If Jack runs a 4.4, he'll likely be a pick somewhere in the top two rounds, so sure, he should probably go. He also redshirted his first season, so he's been at UW for four years. What's worrying is that his residential burglary case is going to trial on January 14, in less than a week. If he's convicted, and if he signs with an agent before then, he's in serious trouble, and may be totally screwed career-wise. If I was him, I might wait on signing with an agent until after the trial. That would leave him at least one year of eligibility, in case he, I don't know, goes to prison for two years. Then, after prison, he could go to a JC for a year or something to try to make a case for getting back to the NFL. Grim, I know.

- Chryst's leaving would be unfortunate, although I wasn't impressed with his play-calling against Tennessee, or the offense's preparation for that game (four timeouts wasted, several illegal procedure penalties). He's usually been a good playcaller, someone who does a solid job of playing to his team's strengths, and he looks like a good developer of quarterbacks. He was definitely a huge step up over Brian White. What makes his pursuit of a college head coaching job a little odd is that he doesn't seem like a guy who's a particularly enthusiastic or effective recruiter. In this day and age, unless you're at some huge traditional power, I really feel that you need to have that trait to be a successful head coach. With his head for strategy and development, Chryst is probably better suited to be a pro assistant.

- Palcic was a solid coach, but with UW's traditional plethora of excellent linemen, Bielema should be able to find a capable replacement. Remember, only two years ago Palcic replaced Coach Hueber, who left to be the Vikings O-line coach.

- As a fan, it's hard to judge Hankwitz's performance. Last year's defense was excellent, and, as everyone knows, this year's was far worse. How much of that is due to player turnover, and how much can be pinned on coaching, we can't really know. That said, last season the defense nearly always made good halftime adjustments. This year, the bleeding often got worse in the second half. (The bowl game being a notable exception.) Also, Hankwitz doesn't appear to have been a particularly effective recruiter. (He was responsible for Colorado and the surrounding area, and UW didn't pull in anyone of note from that region during his tenure.) This also may be viewed as a move to keep linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator Dave Doeren around. He seems to have done a good job with his players, and is noted as a top-notch recruiter. He should get the promotion to full d-coordinator now.

- Finally, the defection of the St. Louis wideout, Wes Kemp, is unfortunate. Scout.com had him rated as one of UW's top recruits of the 20 or so "verbal commitments" the school has lined up for national signing day. If anything, this "defection" highlights the absence of Henry Mason, who coaches and recruits wide receivers. Coach Mason's been on leave since late summer, recuperating from a terrifying spinal injury. He's a fine coach, an outstanding recruiter, and, by every account I've read, a great person. UW needs him back pronto.

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