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'Working back to front is critical because of the spread'

With the hiring of Alabama secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt made official yesterday, reporters asked Jimbo Fisher about the interview process for his new defensive coordinator, and if they found some time to get on the board.

"Oh yeah, the whole time...for hours," Fisher responded. "How would you handle this? How would you handle that? How would you block this? How would you deal with that? It's a very intense, very hard thing to do when you go interview for jobs."

"It's an extensive break down of what to do and how to do it, and the different ways to do it." Fisher explained.

Then, at about the 5:45 mark, Fisher noted that because of the way that the game is played today it's more important to find someone who works from the secondary forward rather than the other way around.

"In today's game, being able to go back to front is very critical because of the spread. To be able to match your secondary coverages to your fronts and who's going to fit and how they're going to fit, and how you're going to handle certain play actions and how you're going to handle certain coverages."

"I think it's more important to be able to go back to front than it is to go from front to back."

Also, notice at about the four minute mark how a stray punt makes its way to their gathering, and the reporters and Fisher don't miss a beat.

Gary Andersen embraces all things Wisconsin on Day 1 in Madison

Gary Andersen had every intention of staying at Utah State. A few other suitors had come calling, but after four seasons in Logan, he had his program right where he wanted it: 11-2 WAC champions with a move to the Mountain West on the horizon. 

Then Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez called. 

"The second Coach Alvarez contacted me I knew that I was going to take this job," said Andersen. "When Coach offered me the job, I just said yes. I think I shocked him a little bit, I didn't ask any questions."

Andersen got a chance to take a long, close look at the Wisconsin program in preparing throughout the summer for Utah State's visit to Camp Randall Stadium on Sept. 15. He liked what he saw.  

"You could see how a team plays, the commitment, the toughness," Andersen explained. "It was very easy to see on film.Tough minded kids that care about growing academically, care about growing socially, football's important to them."

Andersen plans to be a fly on the wall as Wisconsin prepares for its third straight Rose Bowl. In that time, he will go about building his staff and future rosters. 

He will make recruiting within the state of Wisconsin a priority, stating that he plans to reach out to as many Wisconsin high school coaches as he can in the coming days.

"When I went to Utah State four years ago, there were 18 young men from the state of Utah. Now there's 55," said Andersen. "There's something special about playing in your own state. You can't underestimate that."

Before his hiring was announced by Wisconsin, Andersen took the time to call all 106 of his players at Utah State. He explained the how and why on Friday.

"(Utah State Director of Football Operations) Zach Nyborg and I agonized for hours over how we were going to contact the kids but somehow respect Coach Alvarez and get to Wisconsin without everyone in the world knowing. 

"The kids deserved that. If they're frustrated, they deserved to tell me they were frustrated. They understood the situation. They were able to be on that field and see the stands, the crowd and the city.  It was emotional 106 times. I never said goodbye and I won't say goodbye, I'll be there for them if they need me, and they know that."

A pair of hires to his Wisconsin staff have already been confirmed by Andersen. He told BTN that defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will follow him from Utah State and serve in the same capacity, and Andersen also stated that former Badger and current secondary coach Ben Strickland will stay in Madison. "Ben Strickland, he's going to stay. I want him on the staff in the worst way. He is Wisconsin, if you will."

In looking for his assistants, Andersen demands that his players-first mentality permeates throughout the staff.

"When I look for an assistant coach, the number one priority that can guarantee me he's going to put the kids first," he explained. "Last time I looked, there's no one coming out on Saturdays to watch nine coaches walk the sidelines."

Andersen wants his staff to be a mixture of current Wisconsin assistants, his Utah State assistants and outside hires, saying, "I'm highly interested in retaining coaches on this staff. I'd be crazy not to be. I've got to understand how and why and who's important in Wisconsin. I will bring three or four of them (Utah State) and then I'll reach out to some coaches at other programs."

The most important hire awaiting him is the offensive coordinator. Utah State offensive coordinator Matt Wells has since been promoted to head coach. Andersen has a clear vision for what his Wisconsin offense will look like, and it won't be a great difference from Badger offenses of the past.

"At Utah State, we had the opportunity to be a physical run team," said Andersen. "The biggest thing I can tell you, I had to work all summer to find a way to hang in there against this offensive line and running backs. We're going to be run-first, and our goal will be to wear you down and out-physical you. I don't want to be predictable. I do want to have a touch of option in the game plan to force teams to prepare it."

 

Much has been made of Bielema's decision to leave and the loss of assistant coaches that followed, but Andersen sees everything he could ever need already in place at Wisconsin.

"The new facilities are unbelievable," he said. "The kids are in one place, their academic world, they can eat, they can get treatment, they can get to the weight room and the coaches offices in one building. I think that's very important as far as building a family."

Alvarez served as a steadying hand in an uncertain two weeks for the Wisconsin program. Their head coach had surprisingly departed, but with the Badgers' third straight Rose Bowl just weeks away, Alvarez knew things weren't broken. In the end, the Wisconsin athletic director summed up his decision to hire Andersen in one sentence, telling BTN, "He built his program at Utah State on the things we built our program on."

The Scoop on the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl - UCF vs. Ball State

The fifth annual Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl will take place on Friday night under the roof at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., as Central Florida battles with Ball State (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). 

Outside of two slip ups to Tulsa, George O'Leary's team has not lost since Sept. 29., scoring 41.3 points per game in the process. Quarterback Blake Bortles has been hot, connecting on 70-of-128 passes for 912 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions over his last five games. Senior running back Latavius Murray has also come on strong, after missing three games he has run for 927 yards and 13 scores over his last eight outings. 

The Knights' backfield duo will attack a Ball State defense that ranks 103rd nationally in rushing defense and 106th in total defense. 

Ball State has won six straight entering Friday's game, although Pete Lembo's team is doing it in spite of its defense (as alluded to above). The Cardinals allow 31.5 points per game (89th nationally) and has managed to rip off half a dozen consecutive wins despite allowing 25.7 points per game during the streak. 

Ball State's offense has scored 31 points or more in 11 games this year. Northern Illinois is the lone MAC team to compile more yardage than Pete Lembo's team this fall. Sophomore running back Jahwan Edwards trigers the Ball State offense with 125 rushes for 786 yards (6.29 ypc) and nine touchdowns over the second half of the season.

Central Florida makes its return to the postseason after a one year absence, while Lembo guides Ball State to its first bowl game since 2008, when the Cardinals started 12-0 but lost its last two games in Brady Hoke's final season. 

Kirby Hocutt explains why they announced Kingsbury via twitter

Kirby Hocutt's announcement of Kliff Kingsbury as the new head coach at Texas Tech was a great example of the power of social media. Even though the sideways video was a little awkward.

In a recent interview with the Avalanche-Journal Hocutt explained the reasoning behind making the announcement via Twitter. He said that the idea came from associate athletic director for media relations Blayne Beal.

“I’m more traditionalist and old-fashioned, but Blayne said, ‘Kirby, you really need to do this. The excitement and the unexpectedness of that would be the right thing to do.’ So I have to give it to him, that that was good counsel," Hocutt said. "I’m just happy that we were able to shoot the video and tweet it. I wasn’t sure I could pull that off.”

To land a former player who has seen so much success in a relatively young coaching career was a huge coup for Hocutt and the Red Raider fan base. But the excitement that they've experienced as an athletic department since the announcement has exceeded even their initial expectations.

“I anticipated it would create excitement, but the tremendous amount, I think, is unprecedented," continued Hocutt. "I have not experienced anything like this before."

Hocutt added that they've sold 1,200 new season tickets since introducing Kingsbury and have added over 150 individuals to a waiting list for their (already sold out) club-level seats.

It all started with a tweet.

Un/Underemployed Coaches: Round One

Earlier this week, we posed the following question on Twitter:

 

The feedback we received was heart warming. Here is a look at some of the men who were recommended by their peers as hidden gems in college football. By no means is this a definitive list, think of it more as a starting point. 

To avoid confusion... Some of these guys are happily employed. However, their peers recommended them to us as "underemployed". We could add a hundred different coaches to the list, but again, these are a handful of guys that were recommended by their peers.

Chad Walker - Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi College. Walker got his start as a student assistant under Nick Saban at LSU in 2000. GA positions at ULM and West Virginia brought him back to LSU, where Walker ultimately followed Saban to the Miami Dolphins, where he worked under Will Muschamp as a defensive quality control assistant. He spent two years as the defensive coordinator at Bryant before arriving at Mississippi College, where he has developed two All-America cornerbacks and a conference Rookie of the Year at safety.

Brian Crist - most recently: Wide Receivers, Massachusetts: Every Sunday when you watch Victor Cruz streaking down the field and salsa dancing in the end zone, remember that it was Brian Crist who developed him at UMass. One former player said of Crist, who has been out of the game for a year, "if a head coach wants an assistant coach that can recruit with passion, develop talent and inspire young men, he's your guy."

Jimmy Lindsey - Defensive Line, Furman. Lindsey has produced great results Chattanooga, Tennessee - Martin, Miami (Ohio), Gardner-Webb and, most recently, Furman. He was described to us as someone who "recruits the Atlanta area as well as anyone on any level."

Chris Malone - most recently: Offensive Line, James Madison. Malone's offensive fronts put James Madison's attack at the tops of the CAA offensive charts annually. He also developed a handful of all-conference honorees, including former Pittsburgh Steeler Dorian Brooks. Malone also helped produce fantastic results at VMI, Massachusetts, Virginia Tech and Fork Union Military Academy.  

David Braun - Co-Defensive Coordinator, Winona State (D-II - MN): Braun has spent most of his adult life in the Winona State program, wearing the Warriors' purple as a player, graduate assistant and now as a co-defensive coordinator. He made one-year stop as the defensive coordinator at Culver-Stockton, where his unit created 25 sacks and 25 turnovers. Braun helped produce multiple all-conference honorees in his first season back at Winona State.

Penn State guys - Tom Bradley, Kermit Buggs, Galen Hall, Bill Kenney, and Jay Paterno, that led an 8-1 team before scandal hit State College last November.

Vernon Hargreaves - most recently: Defensive Ends/Special Teams, South Florida: Hargreaves spent a dozen years coaching linebackers at Connecticut and coached linebackers during the Butch Davis/Larry Coker glory days at Miami. His NFL proteges could fill a Pro Bowl roster. But he has bounced around since leaving Miami in 2005, spending one year at FIU, a spring at Bowling Green, three years at East Carolina and three seasons on Skip Holtz's staff at USF.

Dave Johnson - Tight Ends, Cincinnati. Johnson developed a number of NFL tight ends at Georgia before coaching at West Virginia, his alma mater, under Bill Stewart. Johnson has spent the last two seasons on Butch Jones' staff at Cincinnati. 

There certainly are plenty more excellent coaches out there who should be working at a higher level. Who needs to be on here next time? Email us at  with your suggestions.  

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