Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big Ten [Print without images]

Friday, February 21, 2014
Brown has big shoes to fill at Wisconsin

By Adam Rittenberg

Gary Andersen would be the first to admit that much of his job description at Wisconsin is simply not to screw things up.

Thomas Brown's is similar, albeit on a smaller scale.

Brown, expected to be named Wisconsin's new running backs coach, steps into one of the more prestigious position coaching posts in the Big Ten. When you think of Wisconsin football, you think of exceptional running backs. While the men carrying the ball -- and the bigger men paving the way -- have a lot to do with the tradition, the coaches guiding the running backs play a big role, too.

The past two Wisconsin running backs coaches, Thomas Hammock and John Settle, both left for NFL jobs after having success in Madison. Brown, a 27-year-old former Georgia running back who has only one year as an FBS position coach, steps into some very big shoes.

Wisconsin has yet to announce Brown's hiring, but Brown has been responding to congratulatory messages on his Twitter page, which lists him as the Badgers' running backs coach.

Andersen brings in a young assistant with ties to the fertile Southeast as Brown hails from Tucker, Ga. Brown spent last season as Marshall's running backs coach after working previously at FCS Chattanooga. His recruiting success plays a significant role in the hiring, especially since he replaces an exceptional recruiter in Hammock. As Tom Mulhern notes, Marshall signed eight players from Georgia in its most recent recruiting class. Wisconsin clearly wants to have a bigger presence in Georgia after doing well in Florida during the Bret Bielema era.

Like his predecessors, Brown inherits a talented group of backs led by All-Big Ten selection Melvin Gordon, who rushed for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore and led the nation in rushing for a stretch early in the season. Corey Clement, who gained 547 rush yards on only 67 carries as a true freshman, also returns.

Wisconsin has produced a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the past nine seasons and in 19 of the past 21.

Despite Brown's inexperience as a coach, I like the hire. His task is simple: keep Wisconsin's running back tradition going. Or, more bluntly, don't screw things up.