- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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For the second time in a week, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema has raided the staff of another league member for an assistant. And the Big Ten's incredible offseason trend of assistants switching jobs within the conference continues.
Wisconsin has hired Minnesota running backs coach Thomas Hammock for the same position. Hammock replaces John Settle, who recently left to coach running backs for the NFL's Carolina Panthers.
Earlier this week, Bielema hired Purdue assistant DeMontie Cross, a move that didn't sit well with Boilers coach Danny Hope.
“Much like the hiring of DeMontie Cross, Thomas is a coach that I have watched grow and am excited to finally have as a part of our staff,” Bielema said in a prepared statement. “I first met Thomas when I was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin eight years ago and I have been impressed with his coaching ability and work ethic ever since. He has worked his way up in the coaching ranks, and is a great addition to our coaching staff. He will help us in all three phases that are important to us, recruiting the right players for Wisconsin, developing players on the field and molding them into successful young men off the field.”
Hammock served as a graduate assistant at Wisconsin from 2003-04 before returning to his alma mater, Northern Illinois, to coach running backs. He mentored NIU star Garrett Wolfe before joining Tim Brewster's staff at Minnesota. Hammock was the only assistant coach from Brewster's staff whom Jerry Kill retained when he took the Gophers' top job.
Kill announced Wednesday night that Brian Anderson, a defensive quality control assistant, has been promoted to fill Hammock's role. Anderson served as Kill's tight ends coach at Northern Illinois for the past three seasons.
"This is a situation where the stability in our staff hurt us a bit," Kill said in a prepared statement. "This had nothing to do with money. It had to do with advancement in his career. Thomas felt that the stability of our coordinator situation meant that the opportunity to advance from running backs coach to offensive coordinator would come quicker at Wisconsin than it would here. I appreciate what Thomas has done for us in the transition and I wish him the best."
Some interesting words from Kill on Hammock's career path. Hammock served as Minnesota's co-offensive coordinator in 2010 and took on more play-calling duties after Brewster was fired midseason. Kill brought in his own offensive coordinator, Matt Limegrover, from Northern Illinois.
Perhaps Hammock sees a future coordinator opportunity at Wisconsin, where Paul Chryst is a hot commodity.
Hammock is good position coach who knows the Midwest and should help Wisconsin's regional recruiting efforts. He inherits two excellent running backs in James White and Montee Ball and returns to a program that thrives on producing elite ball-carriers in a power offense.
Anderson has served on Kill's staff for the past 10 seasons.
"He'll step right in and be ready to go," Kill said in a statement. "Brian had every right to be upset with me when I took this job and asked him to take an off-the-field position here. But he swallowed it up for the team. I told him if he came here and something like this happened, then I don't have to worry about the transition. That shows what kind of team player Brian is."
What a wild offseason for Big Ten assistant changes.