Amid the usual optimism of national signing day, Wisconsin got a bit of jarring news on Wednesday: running backs coach Thomas Hammock is leaving for the same job with the NFL's Baltimore Ravens.
CoachingSearch.com first reported the news, which since has been confirmed by head coach Gary Andersen. Hammock joined the Badgers in 2011 from Minnesota. In Hammock's first season with Wisconsin, Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders' FBS record for touchdowns. Ball won the Doak Walker Award in 2012, and last year Melvin Gordon and James White set the FBS record for most rushing yards by a pair of running backs in the same season.
Hammock was also Wisconsin's recruiting coordinator and one of the Badgers' aces out on the recruiting trail. The most impressive thing about his coaching tenure in Madison wasn't necessarily the success of the team's running backs, because the Badgers have been churning out top-flight tailbacks for years. It's that he fostered such an unselfishness among the group, as White patiently waited for his turn behind Ball, and Gordon and White shared the spotlight without any noticeable tension.
You can't blame Hammock for wanting to give the NFL a try, and his outstanding track record of success surely made him an attractive target not just for pro teams but for other college teams around the country.
Wisconsin will be fine next year at running back with Gordon and promising sophomore Corey Clement around to handle the load. I would imagine other assistants are climbing on top of each other to send Andersen their résumés for the chance to work with such a talented and historically excellent position group. But Hammock is a popular guy, a coach the program will definitely miss.