Big Ten: Dave Doeren

There was a lot to like about Indiana's hiring of Kevin Wilson as head coach in December 2010.

Wilson had established himself as one of the nation's top assistants at Oklahoma, winning the Frank Broyles Award once and finishing as a finalist another time. He coordinated fast and dangerous offenses at Oklahoma and at Northwestern, worked for a top coach in Bob Stoops and had ties to the Big Ten.

[+] EnlargeKevin Wilson
AP Photo/Andy ManisCoach Kevin Wilson's Hoosiers defense is on pace for another historically bad season.
There was only one major concern, as I wrote at the time.
Can Wilson fix Indiana's chronic problems on defense?

If he can't, he'll meet the same fate as Bill Lynch, Gerry DiNardo and Cam Cameron, offensive-minded coaches who were fired because they couldn't make Indiana's defense respectable. Cameron had star quarterback Antwaan Randle El for four years and still couldn't make a bowl.

Three years later, the concern remains. In fact, it has been magnified.

As expected, Wilson has made Indiana's offense into a quick-striking, touchdown-scoring machine (last Saturday's stinker at Wisconsin notwithstanding). Indiana is second in the Big Ten in scoring and third in total offense, ranking in the top 20 nationally in both categories.

But the defense is still a major drag. The Hoosiers are in a familiar position: last in the Big Ten in both points allowed and yards allowed, and near the bottom of the FBS in both categories (only New Mexico State allows more yards on average than IU). They surrendered 554 rush yards to Wisconsin last week and have yet to hold an FBS team to fewer than 400 yards this season.

Indiana's last four opponents have racked up 2,612 yards and 191 points.

After Wilson's hiring, I listed Indiana's national rankings in total defense for the previous 11 seasons:

2010: 89th (410.2 ypg)
2009: 88th (401 ypg)
2008: 107th (432.2 ypg)
2007: 71st (403.4 ypg)
2006: 109th (402.3 ypg)
2005: 93rd (417.7 ypg)
2004: 110th (453.2 ypg)
2003: 94th (429.7 ypg)
2002: 101st (428.4 ypg)
2001: 72nd (393.8 ypg)
2000: 112th (457.3 ypg)

There are a few more abysmal additions:

2011: 109th (458.7 ypg)
2012: 103rd (463.5 ypg)
2013 (to date): 122nd (534.8 ypg)

The cycle is repeating itself. So is Indiana's inability to make bowl games. Barring a miracle win this Saturday at No. 3 Ohio State, Indiana will miss the postseason for the sixth consecutive season despite eight home games and an offense that strikes fear throughout most of the Big Ten.

"It's my problem," Wilson said Monday. "It's my fault because I am the head coach. As we're sitting here playing in Year 3, it comes down to [Wilson being] an offensive minded guy, we have five coaches on defense and we trust them to do their job. I'm part of the offensive staff, which a lot of guys are like that.

"But when you're head coach, you're in charge of everything, and we've got to make some strides."

The Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz is calling for the firing of Hoosiers defensive coordinator Doug Mallory, writing that a mediocre or even a below-average defense would be enough to get IU to a coveted bowl game. The Hoosiers defense has its own category of bad.

It's my problem. It's my fault because I am the head coach.

Coach Kevin Wilson on the Indiana defense.
Sure, there's youth, as Indiana starts only one senior (safety Greg Heban). Wilson and his staff didn't inherit much talent from the previous regime. And IU's up-tempo style of offense does few favors for the defense.

But the unit should be better than this. Indiana should be going to a bowl this season.

Defensive recruiting seemingly is on the uptick for the Hoosiers, and Wilson sees some promising signs, like the play of freshman linebacker Clyde Newton, who had a team-high 14 tackles at Wisconsin. Newton had a third-down stop that forced a punt and a touchdown-saving tackle that led to a Badgers field goal.

"As great an effort as I've seen since I've been here," Wilson said of Newton bringing down Wisconsin's Jacob Pedersen short of the goal line.

"Our freshmen have been pretty good," Wilson said. "[We're] challenging our older guys to give us their best these two weeks, because I see some young guys gaining on it. The older guys haven't been bad, but we're asking those guys to dig a little deeper."

It's scary to think what Ohio State will do to Indiana's defense on Saturday, and Wilson will have to dig deeper to sort out the defense before the start of the 2014 season. He said Monday he'll examine the attitude and culture of the unit. Although he has backed Mallory so far, he'll likely have to look at the staff, too.

"It should get better, it needs to get better, and it's my job to make sure it's got to get better," Wilson said.

Indiana needs to make defense a priority. It's why I thought Dave Doeren, then the Wisconsin defensive coordinator, would be a good fit during IU's last coaching search.

The Wilson hire didn't bother me, and I understand that programs like Indiana, which need to boost fan support, gravitate toward coaches with exciting offenses.

But wins really excite the fan base, and until Indiana's defense approaches basic Big Ten standards, there won't be enough of them.

Wisconsin could keep some assistants

December, 20, 2012
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The Gary Andersen hire still hasn't been made officially official, and Wisconsin is expected to formally introduce him Friday after digging out of a snowstorm today.

But already there is much speculation about who will be on Andersen's Badgers staff. The Wisconsin State Journal reports that athletic director Barry Alvarez has targeted some current assistants for Andersen to retain, including two who have already accepted jobs with Bret Bielema at Arkansas.

Those are co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge and strength coach Ben Herbert, both of whom took the same roles with the Razorbacks. But the paper reports Partridge has only a $50,000 buyout in his contract if he decides to stay and work for Andersen instead of going to Fayetteville.

Alvarez reportedly would also like to hold onto offensive line coach Bart Miller. He was a graduate assistant until after the second game of this season, when Bielema fired Mike Markuson and elevated Miller to a full-time role. The Badgers' offensive line play greatly improved, and Miller is seen as a rising star.

Andersen's offensive coordinator at Utah State, Matt Wells, has interviewed for the head coaching job for the Aggies and has a great chance to get the gig. If so, that would leave Andersen needing a playcaller. The Badgers' current offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, has accepted that same job at NC State under former Wisconsin assistant Dave Doeren. Could Canada be convinced to stay if Andersen wanted some continuity on the offensive side?

The assistant carousel is still spinning. Stay tuned.
Former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema and former Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Doeren both are assembling new staffs at Arkansas and NC State, respectively.

Both men also are looking to their old stomping ground for quality assistants.

Bielema already has hired two Wisconsin assistants -- defensive coordinator Chris Ash and co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Charlie Partridge. Doeren added offensive coordinator Matt Canada during the weekend and swiped another assistant from a Badgers program still without a head coach.

Eddie Faulkner will join Doeren's staff at NC State as the team's tight ends/fullbacks coach and special teams coordinator. Faulkner, a former Wisconsin running back, spent just one season back at his alma mater coaching tight ends. Like Canada, Faulkner spent the 2011 season coaching for Doeren at Northern Illinois.
"He's a very detailed, ultra-organized, connected recruiter who also has great passion and pride for special teams performance," Doeren said in a prepared statement. "Eddie has coached on back-to-back conference championship staffs -- 2011 in the MAC and 2012 in the Big Ten with Wisconsin -- and has been on championship ball clubs as a player, an assistant coach and coordinator. He also has experience as a tailback in the Big Ten on a Rose Bowl team. I look forward to working with him again."

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez expressed his disappointment Sunday in losing so many quality assistants in recent days. He didn't cite Bielema or Doeren by name but made it known he didn't appreciate coaches giving Wisconsin assistants short deadlines to make decisions on offers. The flip side of that is that both Bielema and Doeren are trying to assemble their staffs as quickly as possible.

Only three Wisconsin assistants haven't accepted offers elsewhere: running backs coach Thomas Hammock, who reportedly has an offer from Bielema at Arkansas; offensive line coach Bart Miller and secondary coach Ben Strickland.

UW's Matt Canada leaves for NC State

December, 15, 2012
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As mentioned in a post earlier Saturday, several Wisconsin assistants are making moves or considering them as the school's search for a head coach continues.

One of those assistants, offensive coordinator Matt Canada, has made his decision. He'll be joining NC State in the same capacity.

Canada reunites with Dave Doeren, whom he worked for at Northern Illinois in 2011. Canada will remain with Wisconsin through the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

He had an up-and-down season at Wisconsin, drawing some criticism early on as the offense struggled but plenty of praise for calling a brilliant game in the Big Ten championship against Nebraska.

Big Ten's best assistants in 2012

December, 12, 2012
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Head coaches are like quarterbacks. They get too much credit and too much blame.

Assistant coaches are like nose tackles. They don't get nearly enough credit despite playing vital roles.

Today, we'll change it up and give some recognition to Big Ten assistant coaches who did exemplary jobs with their position groups or, in some cases, units in 2012. Each of these coaches fostered improvement this season. Some took units in bad shape and made them better. Others took units in decent shape and made them very good. Some entered the season with skeptics and quieted them.

We came up with 13 assistants who deserve recognition. Yes, we realize we're leaving out some quality folks, but we had to cap it somewhere and wanted to spread the love around to the different teams.

Here's the rundown in alphabetical order:

Chris Ash, Wisconsin, defensive coordinator/secondary: All the attention on the offense's turbulent season took the spotlight away from the good things happening on the defensive side. Wisconsin finished in the top 25 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense. The Badgers held nine opponents to 21 points or fewer and gave an inconsistent offense chances to win every time out. Ash will be missed as he joins ex-Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema at Arkansas.

[+] EnlargeTim Beck, Bo Pelini
AP Photo/Nati Harnik, FileTim Beck, right, coordinated Nebraska's Big Ten-leading offense for head coach Bo Pelini.
Tim Beck, Nebraska, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: The second-year play caller oversaw the Big Ten's top offense, which averaged 462.2 yards per game (24th nationally) and 35.1 points per game (28th nationally). Junior quarterback Taylor Martinez made significant strides under Beck's watch, and Nebraska survived the loss of star running back Rex Burkhead for most of the season thanks to contributions from Ameer Abdullah and others.

Tracy Claeys, Minnesota, defensive coordinator: An improved defense sparked Minnesota to a 4-0 start and eventually to bowl eligibility for the first time since the 2009 season. The Gophers pass rush showed life for the first time in years as senior end D.L. Wilhite and others put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Minnesota was especially good against the pass, ranking 11th nationally and 20th in pass defense efficiency. Although the offense remains a work in progress, Minnesota should be pleased with the direction on defense under Claeys.

Adam Cushing, Northwestern, offensive line: Cushing's recruiting ability always has stood out, but his coaching skills had been questioned as Northwestern struggled to convert promising line prospects into powerful blockers. The Wildcats went from a finesse offense to a power offense this season, blasting off of the line to the tune of 230.9 rush yards per game. Red zone offense went from a weakness to a strength as Northwestern tied for 17th nationally. Cushing's line paved the way for star running back Venric Mark.

Rich Fisher, Nebraska, wide receivers: Nebraska isn't known for its wide receiver play, but things are changing under Fisher's watch. Led by standout sophomore Kenny Bell, the Huskers' top three receivers combined for 1,657 yards and 11 touchdowns on 115 receptions. Just as important, the receiving corps helped Nebraska's bread-and-butter run game with effective blocking throughout the season. Fisher's hiring after the 2010 season raised some eyebrows, as he had taken a break from college coaching, returned to the high school ranks and also served as a golf instructor in Massachusetts. But he definitely looks like a great addition to Bo Pelini's staff.

Patrick Higgins, Purdue, wide receivers: Higgins played a significant role in Purdue's late-season surge, as he took over the offensive play-calling duties after coordinator Gary Nord suffered a severe back injury. Purdue won its final three games with Higgins and head coach Danny Hope handling the play calls. Higgins also did a nice job with Purdue's wide receiving corps, despite the fluctuating quarterback situation. Three veteran Boilers receivers eclipsed 40 catches and 300 receiving yards, and redshirt freshman Dolapo Macarthy showed promise.

Seth Littrell, Indiana, offensive coordinator/tight ends/fullbacks: Head coach Kevin Wilson brought in Littrell to boost Indiana's passing attack, and Littrell delivered despite losing starting quarterback Tre Roberson in Week 2. Indiana went from 80th nationally in pass offense to 19th, leading the Big Ten with 311.2 yards per game. With help from assistant offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kevin Johns, Littrell managed the quarterback situation pretty well as both Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld had success. Littrell will go largely unnoticed because of Indiana's low profile and 4-8 record, but he was one of the Big Ten's best coaching additions for 2012.

Curt Mallory, Michigan, secondary: Michigan's defensive line dominates the spotlight because that's where coordinator Greg Mattison and head coach Brady Hoke put their primary focus, but Mallory has done a really nice job with a secondary that struggled mightily under the previous regime. Despite losing promising cornerback Blake Countess to a torn ACL in the season opener, Michigan still finished second nationally (behind Nebraska) in pass defense (155.2 ypg allowed). Safety Jordan Kovacs has blossomed under Mallory's watch, and while the depth in the secondary isn't where it will be eventually, Mallory has managed things well.

[+] EnlargeBart MIller
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsBart Miller went from grad assistant to coach of a Wisconsin O-line that pummeled its way to Pasadena.
Bart Miller, Wisconsin, offensive line: Miller began the season as a graduate assistant and moved into one of the team's top assistant roles in Week 3 after the surprising dismissal of veteran line coach Mike Markuson. Although Wisconsin's line didn't have its typical dominant performances every time out, Miller fostered obvious improvement and cohesion during the course of the season. The finished product showed up in the Big Ten championship game against Nebraska, as Wisconsin bullied the Huskers to the tune of 70 points, 539 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.

Reese Morgan, Iowa, defensive line: Iowa didn't have much to cheer about in 2012, and some of the staff changes Kirk Ferentz made led to some growing pains. Morgan faced a significant challenge in moving from offensive line to defensive line, which returned only a handful of players who had logged field time in 2011. Given the youth and inexperience along the Hawkeyes' defensive front, Morgan did a nice job in Year 1. Joe Gaglione had a nice senior season (9 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) and young players like Louis Trinca-Pasat showed promise. The line held its own in the first half of the season before struggling late.

Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State, defensive coordinator: Many of these assistants took questionable units and improved them. Narduzzi led an elite defense that entered the season with high expectations and met them. Make no mistake: Michigan State's defense is the only reason the team found itself in every game this season. The Spartans had a few standouts, namely linebacker Max Bullough, but their overall team defense and stinginess stood out. Narduzzi is one of the nation's premier coordinators and should land a head-coaching job in the near future.

John Strollo, Penn State, tight ends: Although O'Brien's offense is a tight end's dream, Strollo did a terrific job of developing young and unproven players this season. Redshirt freshman Kyle Carter emerged into one of the Nittany Lions' top passing threats, and junior Matt Lehman and true freshman Jesse James also stepped up at times. Of Penn State's top five receiving-yards leaders this season, three players are tight ends (Carter, Lehman and James).

Ed Warinner, Ohio State, offensive line/co-offensive coordinator: Warinner took an underachieving Buckeyes offensive line with serious depth questions and turned it into quite possibly the best line in the league. The Buckeyes' front five turned a corner in Big Ten play and created lanes for Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde and the Big Ten's top scoring offense. Warinner was the Big Ten's best assistant hire of the last offseason and earns our vote as the league's top assistant in 2012.

UW's Ash to join Bielema at Arkansas

December, 11, 2012
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Bret Bielema is taking one of Wisconsin's top assistants with him to Arkansas.

Badgers defensive coordinator Chris Ash will join Bielema in the same role with the Razorbacks, Arkansas announced Tuesday night. Ash will remain with Wisconsin through the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO on Jan. 1 against Stanford.

"I am excited to welcome Chris to our staff," Bielema said in a prepared statement. "In the last three years working together, I gained a great respect for the way Chris teaches the game and develops student-athletes. I've followed his career for a long time, and his knowledge of the way we run our program and specifically the defense will be valuable for us moving forward in our transition. Chris helped us improve drastically in our pass defense at Wisconsin where his defenses consistently ranked in the top 25 nationally in all the major categories."

Ash did a terrific job in two seasons as the Badgers' defensive coordinator after taking over for Dave Doeren. Wisconsin's defense ranks in the top 25 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass-efficiency defense this season.

His departure isn't a huge surprise, as Wisconsin doesn't have a permanent head coach and Ash appeared likely to be in high demand. There was some talk he'd join Doeren at NC State, but he's off to Hog Country.
Former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren isn't a candidate to return as the Badgers' next head coach, a source close to Doeren told ESPN.com on Wednesday morning.

NC State hired Doeren as its head coach Saturday, the day after he led Northern Illinois to its second consecutive Mid-American Conference championship. Doeren went 23-4 in two seasons at NIU after serving as a Badgers assistant from 2006-2010, the last three seasons as defensive coordinator.

Doeren is on the road recruiting for NC State, and has no intentions of leaving the job.

The interesting question here is whether Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez should have reached out to Doeren before Doeren accepted the NC State job. Alvarez reportedly knew about Bret Bielema's potential departure for several weeks, although he said in a statement Tuesday night that he was "very surprised" when Bielema took the Arkansas job.

With Doeren out of the mix and Pitt coach Paul Chryst, the former Wisconsin offensive coordinator, affirming his commitment to the Panthers, it will be interesting to see where Wisconsin's search turns next.

Keep an eye on two NFL assistants who played at Wisconsin: Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Mel Tucker.

Bret Bielema didn't start his career at Wisconsin, but he appeared to feel right at home in Badger Land.

He had good and sometimes great teams. He had a great boss in athletic director Barry Alvarez, who handpicked Bielema as his coaching successor after the 2005 season. He made pretty good coin ($2.6 million). He seemingly had much more job security than most major-conference coaches. As long as Alvarez was around, Bielema was safe. He talked before this season about the promise of the 2013 squad.

But he evidently didn't have enough resources to keep him in Madison. Why else would he leave such a good situation? He'll also inherit much better facilities and more money to hire top assistants.

[+] EnlargePaul Chryst
David Stluka/Getty ImagesIf asked, might Paul Chryst be willing to return to Wisconsin?
A decent portion of Wisconsin fans never fully embraced Bielema, despite his success in continuing what Alvarez had built with the Badgers. Although Alvarez played at Nebraska, he's a Badger, through and through. Alvarez is the reason the program is nationally relevant. Bielema never achieved that status despite winning 12 games his first season, as well as three consecutive Big Ten titles. Badgers fans never truly felt Bielema was one of them. His in-game coaching was questioned, especially after the 2012 Rose Bowl.

Bielema's surprising exit, on the heels of Wisconsin's dominating performance in the Big Ten championship game, leaves Alvarez scrambling to find the Badgers' next coach. He'd be wise to hire one of Wisconsin's own.

Alvarez could pull a Bill Snyder and reinstate himself as head coach. Crazier things have happened, and although Alvarez, who turns 66 on Dec. 30, seems more than content in his current role, he still loves the game.

A much likelier approach would be to bring Paul Chryst home.

Chryst grew up in Madison, played for Wisconsin, coached the Badgers' tight ends in 2002 and returned in 2005 as the team's co-offensive coordinator. He moved into the permanent coordinator role in 2006, which he occupied until becoming Pitt's head coach following the 2011 season. Chryst led record-setting Wisconsin offenses in 2010 and 2011 and had been coveted for several jobs before taking the one at Pitt.

The loyalty questions (fair or unfair) that sometimes surfaced among fans with Bielema likely wouldn't be there with Chryst. He knows the program, knows the town and knows the fan base. He makes a lot of sense.

Darrell Bevell's name also will come up. Bevell played quarterback for Alvarez and led Wisconsin to a Rose Bowl championship after the 1993 season. Although he started his career in the college ranks, he has been in the NFL since 2000 and serves as the Seattle Seahawks' offensive coordinator. Like Chryst, he has Wisconsin roots and would make a lot of sense.

Would Dave Doeren take Alvarez's call? Doeren, the former Badgers defensive coordinator under Bielema, accepted NC State's head-coaching job on Saturday, hours after winning his second straight MAC championship at Northern Illinois. Although Doeren's Wisconsin ties aren't as strong as Chryst's, he has spent much of his career in the Midwest.

It's a tough day for Wisconsin, which enjoyed stability and success under Alvarez and saw it continue with Bielema. The Badgers' program is a lot closer to Ohio State's and Michigan's than it is to the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. To see a coach leave for a good but not great SEC job can't be easy.

Wisconsin needs to decide what it wants to be. It'll soon have an upgraded athletic facility. Will there be additional resources to attract top assistants? Bielema lost six, including Chryst, after the 2011 season. So there had better be. The challenges in recruiting always will be there, but Wisconsin has found ways to overcome them with player development.

This is a very good program that shouldn't be viewed as a stepping stone, especially to a place like Arkansas.

Alvarez needs to hire someone who sees Wisconsin as a potential destination job.

Hope he didn't lose Chryst's number.
The final regular-season polls are out, including the coaches' poll, which on Sunday revealed the final ballots from 59 FBS head coaches.

Six Big Ten coaches voted in this year's poll: Illinois' Tim Beckman, Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Michigan's Brady Hoke, Nebraska's Bo Pelini and Indiana's Kevin Wilson.

Politics and biases undoubtedly play out in the final balloting, so let's check out some notable votes from the Big Ten contingent.
  • After Wisconsin smashed his team Saturday night, Pelini ranked the Badgers at No. 16, the highest vote they received (Washington's Steve Sarkisian also had UW at 16). Bielema, meanwhile, had the Badgers at No. 18. Bielema didn't think a whole lot of the Huskers after Saturday night's stomping, putting Nebraska at No. 24, the lowest vote Big Red received among the Big Ten coaches.
  • Wilson, whose Indiana team Wisconsin crushed Nov. 10 in Bloomington, had the Badgers at No. 25, lowest among all the Big Ten coaches. Wilson had Nebraska at No. 22. Hmmm ...
  • Hoke was one of three coaches to give Michigan its highest ranking at No. 15. The others? Notre Dame's Brian Kelly and ... wait for it ... Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, who coached the Wolverines from 2008-10. Nice to see Rich isn't bitter. Dantonio put his in-state rival at No. 20.
  • Hoke played and coached in the Mid-American Conference for Ball State, but he had little loyalty for the league on his ballot. That, or he just hates Northern Illinois. Hoke had the Huskies at No. 25, the lowest vote they received among any of the coaches. Beckman, who previously coached NIU's top rival Toledo, had the Huskies at No. 17.
  • Bielema gave his former boss Bill Snyder some love, ranking Kansas State at No. 4 on his ballot. Dantonio, who is good friends with Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, had the Sooners at No. 8 and BCS buster Northern Illinois all the way down at No. 22. Wilson, who worked for Stoops at Oklahoma before coming to Indiana, had the Sooners at No. 11. So did Pelini.
  • A quick check of where the Big Ten coaches ranked their upcoming bowl opponents. Bielema had Stanford at No. 5, Hoke had South Carolina at No. 10 and Pelini had Georgia at No. 6.
  • All six Big Ten coaches had Notre Dame at No. 1 and Alabama at No. 2.

Other notable coach votes:
  • NC State coach Dave Doeren, the former Wisconsin defensive coordinator who coached Northern Illinois this season, didn't rank the Badgers on his final ballot. He had Nebraska at No. 18. Huh?
  • Kent State coach Darrell Hazell, a former Ohio State assistant, didn't have much love for the Big Ten, not ranking Northwestern or Nebraska. He had Michigan at No. 23.
  • Ohio coach Frank Solich, who played and coached at Nebraska, had the Huskers at No. 23 on his ballot.

Here's a quick look at the voting for each Big Ten team in the final poll (Ohio State and Penn State weren't eligible).

No. 17 Northwestern

High vote: 14, from Kentucky's Joker Phillips and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (who also jabbed at the Wildcats on Sunday)

Low vote: Not ranked by multiple coaches

No. 21 Nebraska

High vote:15, by Oklahoma's Stoops, Spurrier and Arkansas State's Gus Malzahn

Low vote: Not ranked by multiple coaches

No. 22 Michigan

High vote: 15, by Hoke, Kelly and Rodriguez

Low vote: Not ranked by multiple coaches

No. 23 Wisconsin

High vote: 16, by Pelini and Sarkisian

Low vote: Not ranked by multiple coaches

As expected, Purdue decided to part ways with head coach Danny Hope, firing him on Sunday. Athletic director Morgan Burke will address the dismissal at a news conference scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.

Hope went 22-27 in four seasons at Purdue, recording just one winning campaign in 2011 when the Boilers went 7-6 and beat Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. He went 12-19 in Big Ten play, including an 0-5 start this season. Rivals.com reports that Hope's dismissal has been in the works since an Oct. 13 blowout loss against Wisconsin. He will receive a $600,000 buyout.

Assistant coach Patrick Higgins, who took over the offensive play-calling duties late in the season, will lead Purdue in its upcoming bowl game.

Dismissing Hope was a fairly easy decision despite the Boilers' three-game win streak to the end the season. The hard part comes next for Purdue -- finding the right coach and investing in him. The school went the cheap route with Hope, a former Boilers assistant who returned to Purdue after coaching FCS Eastern Kentucky, his alma mater, from 2003-07.

He was the lowest-paid coach in the Big Ten -- making just $950,000 this season -- and had the lowest-paid staff. In today's college football world, you tend to get what you pay for, and Purdue got mediocrity.

Hope's career peaked with two home wins against Ohio State (2009 and 2011) and the bowl win last year. He touted the 2012 squad as his best at Purdue, but after a 3-1 start, the Boilers dropped their first five Big Ten contests, four in blowout fashion. Attendance at Ross-Ade Stadium had plummeted, and Hope had very little support among Boiler fans. Although Hope recently talked about needing more time and resources to implement his plan for Purdue, he had enough talent to compete better in a weak Big Ten this year and failed. He also made two defensive coordinator changes in three seasons and wedded himself to a quarterback rotation that rarely worked.

Maybe if Purdue made one more play Oct. 20 at Ohio State, things would have been different. But Hope's teams always seemed one mistake away and didn't show enough consistency in all three phases. This move makes sense.

[+] EnlargeDanny Hope
Pat Lovell/US PresswireDanny Hope had a 22-27 record in four seasons with the Boilermakers.
Burke has been good at managing the bottom line during his tenure as AD, but he nearly lost stud basketball coach Matt Painter last year and certainly didn't shell out for Hope or his assistants. Another cheap hire likely will put Purdue in a similar place a few years down the line.

Purdue needs to reinvigorate its program and its fan base, which played a role in this move by not coming to games.

From The Lafayette Journal and Courier:
Purdue averaged 43,588 fans, a nearly 1,700 decrease from the 2011 season. The program has seen a decline in average attendance the last five seasons, including [Joe] Tiller’s final year.

It needs to aim for some big names, even if they don't seem realistic. Some are throwing out Jim Tressel's name as Hope's successor. While that would be a truly bold move filled with risks, it would get folks talking about Boiler football again. Cincinnati coach Butch Jones also has been mentioned, but Purdue would have to make a really good push to get him. We don't see either of those men ultimately taking the job.

I'm fine with Purdue looking to the MAC for its next coach. Some Big Ten fans thumb their noses at the MAC, but there are some very good possibilities out there in Northern Illinois' Dave Doeren, Kent State's Darrell Hazell and Ball State's Pete Lembo. A top coordinator like Texas A&M's Kliff Kingsbury or Michigan State's Pat Narduzzi would be interesting.

No matter what route Burke takes, he needs to assure the coach the resources will be there to compete.

Winning in the Big Ten has gotten more expensive. Every team is doing some sort of facilities upgrade. Teams are paying their head coaches more and assistant coaches more. Purdue had it good with Tiller for a long time, but the game has changed.

According to Rivals.com, Purdue has been putting together a fund of approximately $4.5 million to pursue its next coach.

That's an encouraging sign, but the school must now deliver.

Early Week 1 preview: Iowa

July, 12, 2012
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Preseason camps open in less than a month, and it will be time for the season before you know it. To get you prepared, we're taking an early look at each Week 1 matchup in the Big Ten. Iowa's schedule gives the Hawkeyes a chance to get off to a good start in 2012, but they can't look past anybody. Here's what's in store for Iowa in the opener.

(For more Week 1 matchups, click here).

Week 1 opponent: Northern Illinois (at Soldier Field)

Coach: Dave Doeren (second season, 11-3)

2011 record: 11-3 (8-1 MAC, won GoDaddy.com Bowl)

Returning starters: 12 (four offense, eight defense)

About the Huskies: Former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren successfully followed Jerry Kill as Northern Illinois won 11 games for the second straight season and captured its second straight bowl game. The Huskies won their first outright MAC title since 1983 and carry a nine-game winning streak into 2012. The team set school records in points and yards, finishing 12th in the FBS in scoring and 11th in total offense. However, the Huskies must overcome the loss of MAC offensive player of the year Chandler Harnish, who was ninth in the FBS in individual offensive production a year ago. Junior Jordan Lynch looks to take over at quarterback. Doeren says Lynch may actually be faster and have a stronger arm than Harnish. The offense could take a step back in '12 because it returns just four starters, including only one offensive lineman (left guard Logan Pegram). But the defense does bring back eight starters, including free safety Jimmy Ward, who collected 100 tackles last season.

Random factoid: Doeren's college football career has roots in Iowa. He played at Drake University in Des Moines for four years and began his coaching career there, overseeing linebackers and rising to defensive coordinator between 1995-97.

Series with Iowa: The Hawkeyes lead 7-0. Iowa won the last meeting in 2007, also at Soldier Field, by a score of 16-3.



Totally unscientific percentage chance Iowa wins: 62 percent. Don't underestimate Northern Illinois. Kill built a solid foundation in DeKalb before taking the Minnesota job, as this program has been to four straight bowl games. This is technically a home game for the Huskies, though Iowa fans are sure to fill up a large portion of the stands in Chicago. A highly potent offense could spell trouble for the Hawkeyes' young and inexperienced defensive front. But while the NIU defense should improve in its second year under Doeren, James Vandenberg and his receivers ought to be able to exploit a unit that allowed more than 30 points and nearly 250 passing yards per game a year ago. Give Iowa the edge on overall talent. But don't be surprised if this is a close game throughout.
After an offseason jam-packed with change, most players and coaches in the Leaders Division haven't had time to examine anyone but themselves.

"I have no idea," first-year Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. "I'm only concerned about one program, and that's Penn State."

The Big Ten had three head-coaching changes in the offseason, all of them in the Leaders Division (Penn State, Ohio State and Illinois). Wisconsin, the two-time defending Big Ten champion, had to replace six assistant coaches, including premier playcaller Paul Chryst and offensive line guru Bob Bostad. Purdue replaced its defensive coordinator, while Indiana brought in a new offensive coordinator.

[+] EnlargeBret Bielema
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireBret Bielema's Badgers are coming off back-to-back trips to the Rose Bowl.
All six teams have some new flavor and the uncertainty that comes with it. All six teams also sense opportunity in what could be a wide-open division race.

"Everybody has new people," Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill told ESPN.com. "Even Wisconsin, they've got six new assistants, and in most cases, the assistants are who deal with the players the most. So I feel it's wide open. Not that I don't feel that every year, but it's more than usual."

Wisconsin has reached the past two Rose Bowls and won 32 games during the past three seasons. The Badgers return Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball, the Big Ten's offensive player of the year in 2011, and recently added another quarterback transfer in Danny O'Brien, the former Maryland signal-caller.

Although the staff turnover is significant, Bret Bielema has replaced key assistants before, like defensive coordinator Dave Doeren after the 2010 season. There's still a strong case to be made that the Leaders Division title still goes through Mad-city.

"We are the targeted team in the Big Ten because of what we've done the past two years," Ball said. "Everyone is shooting and gunning for us."

Added Bielema: "Everyone thinks it's complacency that's going to affect us, but here at Wisconsin we've become greedy."

Ball lists Ohio State as the team Wisconsin is gunning for, and the Badgers and Buckeyes have a spicy rivalry brewing. Some think Ohio State will end up as the division's top team, but the Buckeyes are banned from postseason play and the Big Ten title game, adding a subplot to the division race.

"We have a great opportunity right now," Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short said. "We've got a lot of starters coming back. ... Ohio State can't get back in conference championship, so it just gives us a little edge.

"We've got to take advantage of it."

Purdue likely will be a popular pick as a sleeper team in the division. The Boilers return nine starters on both sides of the ball and three quarterbacks -- Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve and Rob Henry -- who have started multiple games. They also have recorded two wins against Ohio State during coach Danny Hope's three-year tenure.

Indiana has a bigger hill to climb after a 1-11 season in 2011. But the Hoosiers are a year older and more familiar with the demands of coach Kevin Wilson and his staff.

"Last year we struggled in my first year, didn't play up to our capabilities," Wilson said. "Hopefully that'll lead to giving ourselves an opportunity to compete with some of those teams as they go through some transition."

While Ohio State can't make it to Indianapolis in Urban Meyer's first year, the other two division teams with new coaches could surprise people. Both Penn State and Illinois have similar profiles, boasting strong defensive front sevens but question marks on offense.

"At this time, everybody is saying the same thing, whether it's Illinois, Ohio State, Wisconsin," Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase said. "... It really comes down to who’s going to go out there every day and get better, who's going to put in the extra work to be the best football team.

"Everybody wants to be, but ultimately one team is going to do it more so than anybody else."
Wisconsin's new-look coaching staff is complete.

Bret Bielema has made his final assistant coaching hire by naming former Wisconsin player Eddie Faulkner as the team's new tight ends coach. Faulkner, a former Wisconsin running back who backed up Ron Dayne during his career from 1996-2000, replaces Joe Rudolph, one of three Badgers assistants who left to join former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst at Pitt.

Faulkner spent the 2011 season as Northern Illinois' running backs coach and special teams coordinator, working under former Badgers assistant Dave Doeren. Here's the interesting part: he had left NIU's staff last month to join Chryst at Pitt but now jumps to Wisconsin. Maybe this is Bielema's way of telling Chryst: two can play this game.

Those conversations between Bielema and his former assistants at Bielema's wedding next month will be fascinating. Chryst took three assistants from Bielema, who took Faulkner and offensive coordinator Matt Canada away from Doeren and Faulkner away from Chryst.
"I'm excited to be able to bring Eddie back to Madison," Bielema said in a statement. "It's always special to be able to hire a former letterwinner. In addition to coaching our tight ends, Eddie brings great experience coaching special teams and has tremendous talents as a recruiter. He's obviously worked with Matt and he is highly-respected among the coaches on our staff."

Faulkner's special teams expertise is key, as he also coached special teams at Ball State, serving under current Michigan head coach Brady Hoke from 2003-08. He hasn't coached tight ends before in his career but inherits a talented group led by Jacob Pedersen.

Barring any more changes in Madison, here's what has transpired with Wisconsin's staff.

WHO'S GONE

Paul Chryst, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Bob Bostad, offensive line coach
Dave Huxtable, linebackers coach
Joe Rudolph, tight ends coach
DelVaughn Alexander, wide receivers coach
DeMontie Cross, safeties coach/special teams coordinator

WHO'S IN

Matt Canada, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Mike Markuson, offensive line
Zach Azzanni, wide receivers
Eddie Faulkner, tight ends
Andy Buh, linebackers
Ben Strickland, assistant for defensive backs and special teams
Bret Bielema made a rapid rise up the college coaching ladder.

Big Ten position coach at 26 ... Big 12 co-defensive coordinator at 32 ... Big Ten defensive coordinator at 34 ... Big Ten head coach at 36.

[+] EnlargeBret Bielema
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireWisconsin coach Bret Bielema says he isn't upset after losing 11 assistants in the past three seasons.
Bielema's ambition helped put him on the fast track. And when he's hiring assistant coaches at Wisconsin, he wants to see the same qualities.

"When you talk to a coach, if he doesn’t want to advance in this profession, we probably won’t talk very long," Bielema told ESPN.com on Thursday. "I want guys that want to be coordinators, or guys that are coordinators who want to be head coaches. If they don't want to sit at the front of the room, we're probably dealing with the wrong type of coach. I want guys who want to advance."

Bielema has had plenty of assistants advance in recent years.

He lost two after the 2009 season, one of whom, Randall McCray, went from position coach to coordinator. He lost three after the 2010 season: defensive coordinator Dave Doeren became head coach at Northern Illinois, while running backs coach John Settle and nickel backs coach Greg Jackson both departed for posts in the NFL.

Wisconsin has lost six assistants in recent weeks, a number that has raised eyebrows in college football circles. The team is coming off of back-to-back Big Ten titles and back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances. Bielema's job is very secure. While one assistant (Paul Chryst) left for a head-coaching job and two others (Bob Bostad, Dave Huxtable) went from position coaches to coordinators, the exodus has left some wondering whether there's something wrong at Wisconsin.

Bielema views things differently.

"It's really not that unusual," he said. "It's unusual at a program that has as much success as we've had, where we're able to keep that continuity of winning in place. I take it as a compliment to what we've been able to do. All those coaches are moving on. Two of them didn't get coordinator jobs, but everybody else got coordinator jobs or titles that made it significantly better for them where they were going.

"To me, it's a tremendous challenge that I love, I embrace and I have a lot of fun with it."

Bielema has filled two vacancies with offensive coordinator Matt Canada and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni. After an extensive interview process for the coordinator job, Bielema went with Canada, in large part because Canada has called plays in different systems (spread, pro style) and can adapt.

"I interviewed a lot of coaches of different levels: NFL, college, big college, small college," he said. "I'm not a résumé guy. I want a football coach. And as this thing gets moving forward, I kept coming back to him. I just think he’s going to be a great fit for what we're going to blend together at Wisconsin. I'm going to hire four new offensive coaches that are going to come from different areas of the country and come together and play the style of football we like at Wisconsin."

Wisconsin's staff will be two-thirds new in 2012, but Bielema won't be surprised if he's doing more hiring a year from now.

"I have every year," he said. "Usually the NFL takes two, took two from me last year. It’s just one of those things, the beauty of the beast here at Wisconsin."
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).

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