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Tuesday, January 17, 2012
O(C), Canada: Badgers name coordinator

By Adam Rittenberg

Wisconsin has found its replacement for Paul Chryst, and he's a familiar name for those who follow football in the Midwest.

Matt Canada is joining Wisconsin as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach after spending the 2011 season in the same capacity at Northern Illinois. Canada, who worked under former Wisconsin assistant Dave Doeren at NIU, returns to the Big Ten after serving as offensive coordinator at Indiana, his alma mater, from 2007-10.

The interesting thing about the hire is that while Canada has run spread offenses in recent years, he'll lead a pro-style offense with the Badgers. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema made it clear in the release announcing Canada's hiring, saying, "I know he is very excited about running a pro-style offense and handling a game the way we typically have at Wisconsin."

Canada has run a pro-style offense before, during a previous stint at Northern Illinois' offensive coordinator in 2003. That year, the Huskies ranked 26th nationally in scoring offense (32.2 ppg) but just 60th in total offense (378.9 ypg). NIU put up big numbers under Canada this past season, finishing 11th nationally in total offense and 12th in both scoring and rushing offense. NIU and Wisconsin were two of just five FBS teams to average at least 230 yards both rushing and passing in 2011.

Canada inherited an excellent quarterback in Chandler Harnish at NIU and helped take the unit to the next level, but he'll be facing some different challenges with Wisconsin.

"In the system we ran, I thought he was as good as they get," Doeren told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "We ran as many plays as we humanly could in a game out of as many personnel groups as we could. We were nothing like [Wisconsin], other than we ran zone and power like them. We had a mobile quarterback that we used in the run game, and he was our leading rusher, so we had a lot different system."

It's interesting that Bielema has hired two assistants -- Canada and receivers coach Zach Azzanni -- with backgrounds in the spread offense. But he says in the release that his offensive staff will "come from different directions to come together to play football the way Wisconsin has traditionally played."

Doeren is confident Canada can make the necessary adjustments.

"He's extremely intelligent," Doeren said. "Obviously, Bret wanted him to do whatever he thinks they're supposed to do, so that's what he's going to have to prove to everybody, obviously. I know he's extremely excited about that challenge. He's really competitive."

In 2007, Canada's first season as Indiana's offensive coordinator, the Hoosiers scored a team-record 412 points. But the offense backslid a bit during his final three seasons, and some Indiana fans voiced their displeasure about Canada.

He inherits a Wisconsin offense coming off of two record-setting seasons. The Badgers lose All-Big Ten quarterback Russell Wilson, All-America center Peter Konz and top wide receiver Nick Toon. Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball returns at running back along with other weapons like receiver Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen, but the quarterback position will be Canada's biggest priority from now until Sept. 1.

Bielema still has two offensive staff vacancies (line, tight ends) to fill and one on the defensive side (linebackers).