NCF Nation: Joe Rudolph

Pitt receiver Devin Street was always around this spring. He was there to give his teammates a ride, to pick them up, to take them to their tutor, to help with a team book report, to get in an extra lift in the weight room, and to set an example.

Street decided this offseason that he was going to be a leader -- and one of the best receivers in the country.

“I try to seize the day,” he said. “As soon as I wake up, I’m always trying to think of ways to better myself, whether it be in football or outside of football. The biggest thing as we go through everyday life is growth and opportunities and learning through things. That’s the biggest thing I’m going through right now. When I get over here, it’s a mindset where I’m coming in and going to work and really fine-tuning my game and being able to bond and spend time with the guys around here and just feed off of them and try to make this whole team better.”

With a new quarterback, a new starting running back, and new roles for the offensive linemen, Street has become one of the most recognizable faces of the Panthers’ offense. With the graduation of receiver Mike Shanahan, who played opposite Street last year, Street will be the focus of opposing defenses until another dependable receiver emerges.

[+] EnlargeDevin Street
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicAn inexperienced Pitt offense will be counting on receiver Devin Street for guidance in 2013.
He started all 13 games last year and led the team with 73 catches for 975 yards and five touchdowns. He finished second in the Big East in receptions per game and had three 100-yard receiving games. Despite those accomplishments, those within the program say there’s another level he can reach, and Street took steps this spring toward getting there.

“I think he’s a much better player right now than he was last year, and he’s a much better teammate and much better leader,” said offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph. “I think he’s had as much growth as anyone we’ve had here. You can see his approach to a practice or to a play. He provided that consistency and accountability. He didn’t do it with words, he did with actions and how he performs. I’m excited for him. I love his approach. He has the same urgency about what he’s doing and his own preparation, but also serving as an example, if it’s a matter of going in and digging out a guy on a block, you see him go after it with the same passion as when we’re calling his number in a pass route. From your senior group, that’s what you hope and that’s what he’s delivering now.”

Street was a second-team All-Big East selection last year but said his goals for this fall include surpassing the 1,000-yard receiving mark, winning the ACC, and finishing atop the national rankings in receiving.

“I’ve dedicated my life to this sport,” he said. “I think it would be crazy not to say you want to be the best at it.”

His teammates say he is getting closer.

“We compete every day,” sdefensive back K’Waun Williams said. “We’re always buttin’ heads. He definitely got better. He got faster, his routes are more crisp, and he’s become a leader on the offensive side of the ball.”

It’s a necessary role for a rookie offense that returns just six starters, including Street.

“I feel like with every great team -- you see the Pats, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick -- those are great leaders,” Street said. “The Ravens this year, look at those guys, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed. You just see it around. All of these great teams have great leaders, guys who know what to say. Of course a leader isn’t going to do everything right, but the point is to rally the troops. That’s why there are generals appointed in the military, things like that. When it comes down to crunch time, that guy has to take responsibility for his soldier or his team. That’s what I’m willing to do, whether it be negative or positive feedback. No one is bigger than the team, but there should be a leader who can bring it all together.”

Q&A with Pitt OC Joe Rudolph

May, 21, 2013
Pitt offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Joe Rudolph is entering his second season with the Panthers and he has six returning starters to work with. It’s a young group that’s facing a lot of questions, but Rudolph addressed some of those concerns and his quarterback competition in a spring interview. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

[+] EnlargeJoe Rudolph
Courtesy of Pittsburgh athleticsJoe Rudolph, in his second year as the Panthers' offensive coordinator, has a young group of players in key roles for 2013.
How did Tom [Savage] look this spring? A lot of fans haven’t seen him play. What does he look like as a quarterback?

Joe Rudolph: For the position in general I think there’s excitement. Tino [Sunseri] had held that down for the last couple of years, and somebody new being in that spot, I think everyone is excited to see. Tom, it’s a unique group with Tom being a fifth-year senior and having some experience and some success early in his career and then really some young guys and Chad [Voytik] being the one who is pushing … and Tra’Von [Chapman] coming in as a high school senior and starting his career early. And Trey [Anderson] is doing a good job. He’s wearing a coach’s hat. Todd’s been fun to watch this spring. I think you truly can see the urgency in his approach to it and I think he takes that very seriously. I think he’s going to be a player who truly wants to play fast and play with a full knowledge base. As he gains that, you can see him having more fun and playing faster and being more in the moment, so I’m excited to see how hits fall camp. Once you actually go through it, you gotta get it out of your mouth. You gotta get the signal from the sideline, you gotta get the guys up, you gotta shift, motion, see the defense. As that becomes more second-nature to him, I think you’ll continue to see him play faster and faster. He’s got really a great length of time in summer where he can study what we’ve done, study some things from the past, put it together. I think he’ll take a great approach to it. When you see a fifth-year senior taking that type of approach, it’s great for those guys. It’s a unique group in the room with the age difference, but pretty complimentary in a lot of ways.

Is it hard for him to take an assertive leadership role because he hasn’t played a snap for you guys?

JR: By the nature of the position you’re going to have to. You’re in charge of the huddle, you’re getting them up, you kind of have to be that, but as he gains that confidence in the details of his position, I think you’ll see that emerge and his comfort level will continue to emerge.

Did he read the defense well this spring?

JR: Yeah, and I think that’s it, it starts with where are my guys going to be? How will my read roll into it? You go up there, you get it out of your mouth easy from calling the play, you know where your guys are going to be, and then it’s supposed to be easy enough to say let me look at this picture and go through my read. I think there’s some progression to all of it. I think that’s really what we saw the last week of spring from him, where he was starting to really put it together. It’s a good place to be, now hopefully we keep taking advantage of the summer, and I think he will. I think he’ll work his tail off.

From the outside looking in, the perception is there is a question at quarterback, nobody on the offensive line who has really played the same position, Rushel Shell transferring, a lot of questions. Where is your comfort level at right now with all of those things?

JR: A huge comfort level is in the coaching staff. Those guys do an outstanding job. Their relationships with their players in the room is outstanding, and so I have great comfort in that. I also have great comfort in the approach of the guys to work and learn. You’re right, we have two tackles who are moving to guard, but their approach to that, how does the experience last year help them be good players this year? It doesn’t the first day of spring, but I think as they get comfortable with their assignments and their job at guard, the experience of them being a tackle will really come into play for them, and their experience of being out of the field will add to that communication. It’s going to be a young group. You say that and you’ve got a wide receiver in Devin Street we’re obviously excited about who has a lot of ability and will be a senior. Quarterback might be exactly the same, a fifth-year senior, but other than that, looking around, there are a lot of young faces. There could be two freshmen starting in the O-line. J.P. Holtz at tight end, he’s still in a freshman year even though he started 10 games, so, you’ll have some young players out there. I think the approach of our guys and how they take advantage of the summer will be big for them. Rushel is a loss, and you wish him the best. You hope everyone finds the best thing for them to be successful, but I’m excited about the guys in the room. I think they sense the opportunity and they have taken advantage of things this spring to bring that out. There will be a nice influx and we’ll see who can help from the guys who walk in the door here in a few months.

Check back tomorrow for Part II of this interview.
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst gave his team two playbooks to master this offseason -- one containing Xs and Os; the other a New York Times bestseller.

This spring, the Panthers are reading “The Traveler’s Gift,” a fictional story written to inspire readers to overcome obstacles. Every week, each position group presents a book report to the team.

“We go through it, talk about the main points, how can it affect our team and help our team, and how it affected you individually, what lines spoke to you,” receiver Devin Street said. “It’s a chance for guys to get up and interpret things and just be themselves in front of everyone. It’s a chance for guys to come together. I think it’s a great tool that coach has used to bring us together and teach us and prepare us for this upcoming season.”

When Chryst was hired at Pitt in December 2011, the program turned the page on instability.

[+] EnlargePitt's Paul Chryst
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicThose within the Pitt program are responding to coach Paul Chryst's consistency and commitment.
After a tumultuous time in which Chryst became the program’s third different head coach in three straight seasons, there was no greater affirmation of Chryst’s commitment to the Panthers than his disinterest in the Wisconsin job when it came open just one year after he was hired. Chryst spent seven seasons on the sidelines with the Badgers, where also played and graduated from. Instead of flirting with the possibility of becoming head coach of his alma mater, though, Chryst didn’t even discuss it with his staff. Instead, he made it clear he was sticking around in the ‘Burgh to bring stability to a program in desperate need of some. While the Panthers still have a long way to go on the field, those within the program say Chryst has made important changes that have it heading in the right direction.

“I think it changed when Paul took the job,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “It might not have been felt yet -- it’s kind of that deceleration getting ready to accelerate in the opposite direction, but that is when it changed, and it is the right guy. His approach to what this group needs is really all based around stability, and consistency, and accountability. When that is your mantra, when that is everything you want from these young men, you do have a chance to get there a little bit faster.”

Chryst is not a rah-rah guy. Not even close. His blue-collar, down-to-earth personality fits in well in the Steel City, and it has helped earn the trust of his players. There weren’t any phony lines, but there were changes -- some major changes, like a higher standard of accountability and better leadership, but there were also more subtle changes, like eating together in the cafeteria, and a set of Dominoes in the locker room.

“As simple as that sounds, guys are sitting down there and we’re playing Dominoes, and starting conversations, and build that bond a great team needs,” Street said. “For him to see that, something so simple, a little game of Dominoes, that speaks volumes about his character right there.”

Quarterback Tom Savage said Chryst -- and the opportunity to play in his offense -- were the two biggest selling points to him when he decided to transfer for the second time in his career.

“I think they really built the family atmosphere here,” Savage said. “It’s not like you walk in here and it’s strictly business. You can walk in here on Saturday, and there will be some people around, and you can sit and talk and relax. It’s not just a business like it is at a lot of other schools. That’s a huge foundation for where an elite program has to be, where it’s fun to be around.”

While the intangibles are coming together, the spring game was evidence that there is still plenty of work to do on the field before the Panthers open their first season in the ACC on Labor Day against Florida State.

Pittsburgh enters its second season under Chryst with far more questions than answers. There are offensive linemen who have changed positions, a quarterback (Savage) who hasn’t taken a snap in a game in two years, and the leading returning running back, Rushel Shell, has decided to transfer. With each new obstacle, though, Chryst never seems to flinch, and his message stays the same -- keep working.

“You don’t come in and tell people, ‘Hey, trust us,’” Chryst said. “Actions speak louder than words. Part of it is just being myself, or the assistant coaches, just being that same guy last spring, this fall, winter. Probably more than anything that helps, and I think, too, that there’s been some addition by subtraction for various reasons. Guys are choosing to be here. The most important thing is being consistent, and for all of these guys, it’s the same faces.”

Pitt doesn’t need another new chapter. It has already begun to write its own report under Chryst.
Wisconsin athletic director/interim football coach Barry Alvarez met with local reporters Sunday after practice and discussed his search for a new head coach.

Alvarez said he has one more coaching candidate to meet with before deciding "on the best person." He reportedly has met with two candidates -- Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and recently named South Florida coach Willie Taggart. Tucker said early last week that he's not interested in the position, although his name keeps coming up. It seems unlikely Taggart would make another move after accepting the USF job on Dec. 7.

[+] EnlargeBarry Alvarez
AP Photo/Morry Gash"For those that are panicking, don't panic. We'll take care of business here and this program will be in excellent hands," AD Barry Alvarez said.
Would Alvarez consider returning to the sideline on a permanent basis? He said Sunday that he considered the possibility for "like a day" last week, noting that he felt badly for some of the assistant coaches he wants retain but who received offers elsewhere and tight deadlines to decide their futures.

"I was thinking of doing it myself just to keep them," he said. "But if I did it for a year we'd be in the same situation next year."

(Alvarez could coach for a year and name a coach-in-waiting to stabilize recruiting. Say, former assistant and ace recruiter Joe Rudolph? Just sayin' ...)

Alvarez acknowledged that several potential candidates on his short list already had been hired by other programs, while other coaches he had interest in are remaining loyal to their respective programs. Although he didn't mention any names, potential targets like Pitt's Paul Chryst, Miami's Al Golden and Oregon State's Mike Riley all are staying put.

Although angst is building among Wisconsin fans the longer the program is without a head coach, Alvarez doesn't sound worried. He noted that university policies prevent him from hiring anyone until later this week (Thursday specifically). He also pointed out that it's a dead period in recruiting at the moment and that Wisconsin's verbal commits for 2013 appear to be on board.

"We're spoiled here because we were probably one of the most stable programs in the country with me being here 16 years and elevating an assistant [Bret Bielema] for seven years," he said. "This happens around the country. I'll hire a good coach. This program will continue being very good. For those that are panicking, don't panic. We'll take care of business here and this program will be in excellent hands."

Alvarez expressed some frustration at the quick deadlines given to assistant coaches for other jobs. Wisconsin has lost five assistants from Bielema's staff -- defensive coordinator Chris Ash, co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, offensive coordinator Matt Canada, wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and linebackers coach Andy Buh. Both Ash and Partridge joined Bielema's new staff at Arkansas, and Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Hammock reportedly also has an offer from Bielema.

All the assistants will remain with the team through the Rose Bowl, and there's some talk Ash could be in the mix for Wisconsin's top job.

"I'd like for them to stay, but they had to protect their families," Alvarez said. "A coach says you’ve got 24 hours to make this decision or the job isn't there, they have to do something. I couldn't promise them that the next coach would retain them. ... I couldn't have sped the process up. I have to get to the people that I want to talk to. I just have to do it right. I feel bad for losing some very, very good coaches."

Alvarez didn't rule out the possibility of Wisconsin trying to bring back some of the assistants it will lose after the head coach is named.

Several of the departing assistants also spoke Sunday, including Canada, who sounded particularly peeved at how things have played out.

"There is some frustration with the way all this went down," Canada told reporters. "... I came here with the intention of being here for a long, long time. “That's what we came here for. That was the plan. Sometimes plans change and you have to trust that and move forward."
Tino SunseriJeanine Leech/Icon SMITino Sunseri is ready to move on from last season's disaster and run a pro-style offense again.
The son of a former linebacker and a former gymnast at his current school, Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri learned how to take criticism at an early age.

"My parents really instilled that in me," Sunseri told, adding, "They never really sugarcoated anything. They gave me straightforward answers every time I asked them, and they made sure that I was always told the truth."

Last season, the truth was that Sunseri threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10) in a campaign that went south following the loss of running back Ray Graham, as the Panthers dropped three of five games to finish 6-7. The truth was also that Sunseri was charged with running new coach Todd Graham's option-read, shotgun offense — a system that hardly fit him or his offensive teammates, though Graham often publicly voiced his displeasure with the unit.

But Graham's abrupt winter departure for Arizona State led to the hiring of former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who has brought a return to the pro-style attack that Sunseri and his teammates ran in 2010, his first year as a starter. And Sunseri is hoping that translates into a productive fifth and final season with the Panthers, who have become the popular darkhorse pick to win the Big East in their final year before moving to the ACC.

"I think the biggest difference is Coach Chryst really has brought us in and said, 'You have to forget about the past; only worry about the present and future,' " Sunseri said. "And I think that's what a lot of our guys have really done in the way that we've practiced. We really haven't thought much about what's happened. We're getting ready for this kind of offense, this kind of team, making sure that we're doing everything possible to work and get better each day."

Chryst, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph and quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger have demanded decorum across the offense as a whole, Sunseri said, making sure every player is on the same page from the routes they run to the way they line up before plays.

"Last year it was a little bit of a zoo," Sunseri said. "Guys were running the wrong routes each game, guys were making mistakes. So for us to really just focus in on each game, each player has to do their part. Obviously it's sports, and everybody works good as a unit."

The carry-over effect is felt under center, where Sunseri arrived in 2008 to play for Dave Wannstedt.

The son of Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, Tino said that he feels blessed to return to a pro-style system after the rough 2011 campaign, during which his frustration became evident in his teammates' eyes.

"Last year he was doing something that he wasn't really comfortable with, and I think we all could really tell that he wasn't really comfortable with all that," fifth-year receiver Cameron Saddler said. "He's confident again and he's a senior, man. I feel like once you become a senior you kind of just get a feel for the game. You're confident."

Sunseri has carried that confidence into this season, ignoring the public and in-house criticism from a year ago and recognizing his mistakes on his own through film study and practice.

It's all in the name of making the next play count more than the last, as Sunseri refuses to look at his final college season with the typical "last chance" narrative that follows so many seniors, especially at his position.

"Ever since I stepped into college, you never know what could happen," Sunseri said. "So each day I don't take for granted. I come out here ready to work great and try to push my team, make sure that we can accomplish something each day. And each day that I'm able to go out there and practice and perform, I honestly feel like I'm blessed and I'm lucky and I just wanna make sure I can keep on going out and keep the same approach."
Pitt opens spring practice Thursday morning with yet another new coaching staff, another new scheme, and more questions than answers.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, this has become a familiar story line. Going on their fourth head coach since the end of the 2010 season — five if you count interim coach Keith Patterson — has brought Pitt its fair share of negative ink, along with upheaval for players who have to adjust to new coordinators and terminology all over again.

[+] EnlargeTino Sunseri
Charles LeClaire/US PresswireOffensive coordinator Joe Rudolph says QB Tino Sunseri should be effective in Pittsburgh's new offensive system this season.
Nobody is quite sure what to expect. That goes for new head coach Paul Chryst, who embarks on his first practice as a head coach. Chryst understands there will be a "feeling out period" for the players to get to know the coaches and vice versa, along with the natural anxiety that comes along with figuring out what is being asked.

Pitt is going back to a more traditional offensive style, and switching back to the 4-3 defensive scheme that Pitt has historically run with success. The good news is that the majority of the players on the team were recruited to play those particular styles. The bad news is their brains may feel like football mush given all the tumult of the last year.

But the spring is always a time for renewal and hope for every team, and every position. That goes for quarterback, where Tino Sunseri will be under the microscope for the third straight season. Though the Pitt defense has many more holes to fill, Chryst cannot go through an interview without being asked about Sunseri, and what he can do to improve himself should he be the starter again.

"I'm glad he's here," Chryst said. "I'm looking forward to working with him. I know Brooks (Bollinger) is, I know Joe (Rudolph) is. We're fired up about that."

Sunseri never got adjusted to the hurry-up spread system former coach Todd Graham installed, and withstood withering criticism not only from fans but from Graham himself. Never once did Sunseri lash out or complain. He took every single hit on the field and off the field and kept coming back up. Rudolph, the newly installed offensive coordinator, believes Sunseri has a skill-set the Panthers can utilize effectively this season.

"You look at the offense that we run, we had two really different quarterbacks in the last two years at Wisconsin," Rudolph said in a phone interview. "You had Scott Tolzien and you had Russell Wilson, and you wouldn't watch film and mistake those guys for each other. They're different, but both had great success. You can have people with different skill sets, but if you teach them to make good decisions and grow the offense to highlight their skill set, they have a chance to be successful. That's what you feel about Tino. He has the skill set. Now it's can he make those decisions, can you be consistent, can you play within the offense? We'll find out."

The offensive line in front of him was an area of weakness last season, having to fight through injuries and inexperience as well as a scheme that did not lend itself to their strengths. But last season can stay there as far as Chryst is concerned.

"I didn't spend a lot of time watching or caring what their scheme was last year," he said.

Run-blocking generally suits an offensive lineman better than pass-blocking, so there is hope -- especially if Chryst is able to translate the success he had with the ground game at Wisconsin to the Panthers. Ray Graham is out for the spring, but that gives some young players an opportunity to gain some reps and earn playing time come the fall. Isaac Bennett, Corey Davis and Malcolm Crockett will get a majority of the carries.

Defensively, Pitt has to replace linemen Brandon Lindsey, Myles Caragein and Chas Alecxih, along with leading tackler Max Gruder, and needs to work on depth along the line and at linebacker, the two positions that took the biggest hits. Starting linebacker Todd Thomas also will be out for the spring.

So yes, there is plenty of work to be done on both sides of the ball. Chryst and his staff are eager to get started on building this team — for the long run.
Pitt has lost two assistant coaches in the span of several weeks in a bit of unusual timing.

Both running backs coach Eddie Faulkner and offensive coordinator Bob Bostad were in place to help out with recruiting and seemingly committed to new coach Paul Chryst. But each left for different opportunities -- Faulkner to return to his alma mater at Wisconsin, Bostad to become offensive line coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

That has forced Chryst to do some staff reshuffling with less than a month to go before spring practice. Quarterbacks coach Joe Rudolph moves to offensive coordinator and Jim Hueber moves from tight ends to offensive line. Chryst still needs to hire a running backs coach and quarterbacks coach.

It never is good to lose coaches after such a brief period of time, but Chryst said in a phone interview he didn't think the twin departures would have a major impact on his team.

"Other than it impacting the players, I'm comfortable with what happened," Chryst said. "The communication was good so if something like this happened ... the players on recruiting trail, you weren't saying something that wasn't real. I'm not concerned about what happened or how it happened, and I really am fortunate where I feel like the current players are still going to get great, great coaching."

In the case of Bostad, Chryst seemed to anticipate something like this potentially happening. He, Bostad and Rudolph all worked together at Wisconsin.

"I've been fortunate to have been able to work with Bob for five, six years and I knew what goals and aspirations Bob has and then also he's a good friend of mine. I knew that was something if an opportunity like that came along he'd be excited about that. I'm happy for him. The only negative is I've enjoyed working with him, but would like to work longer with him. For Bob and his wife, Karen, it's a great opportunity.

"I also knew going in I wanted to be strong [at offensive line]. I felt real fortunate to hire Jim Hueber. I knew he could step right in for him. He's as good as a line coach as there is. And with Joe having been on the staff as well. I knew if anything like this happened, we had guys that are more than ready to step into those different roles. I'm excited for Bob and also excited for our players to be with Jim and Joe."

A few other notes:
  • Chryst said running back Ray Graham is on schedule with his rehab from a torn ACL and should be ready for the start of the season.
  • The quarterback competition is open going into the spring, but Chryst also made it sound like Tino Sunseri would have an advantage because of his starting experience. "Tino's got to learn and begin to understand the offense and how he fits into it and play within the structure," Chryst said. "It's always an open competition, and yet he's a guy I'm excited to work with because he's played a lot of football. If we're going to be good this year, we have to be productive at that spot."
  • Guard Chris Jacobson did get his sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after hurting his knee this past season, which is good news for an offensive line in major need of an upgrade.

Pitt names Rudolph new O-coordinator

February, 18, 2012
Pittsburgh has elevated quarterbacks coach Joe Rudolph to offensive coordinator, after losing Bob Bostad to Greg Schiano and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Coach Paul Chryst also announced Saturday that Jim Hueber, previously the tight ends coach, will now coach the offensive line. Bostad came with Chryst from Wisconsin and was named offensive coordinator/offensive line coach of the Panthers in January. He will now coach the offensive line for the Bucs.

Rudolph came with Chryst as well. He will also coach the tight ends, a position he coached with the Badgers.

“Joe Rudolph and Jim Hueber will be tremendous assets in their new assignments,” Chryst said in a statement. “Joe and I worked closely on the offensive side of the ball at Wisconsin. He has a thorough knowledge of our systems and what we want to achieve offensively.

“Jim has coached some of the finest linemen in the game, pro and college. He is tremendously accomplished as a teacher of offensive line play, and his overall experience as a coach benefits our entire staff and program.”

Chryst has two openings left to fill on his staff: quarterbacks and running backs coach.
When Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada met with reporters Wednesday, he didn't mask his excitement about his new gig.

"This isn't recruiting talk," Canada told reporters. "This is a place -- you can call my best friends, you can call anybody you want -- I wanted to be."

[+] EnlargeBret Bielema
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesWisconsin coach Bret Bielema will try to win a third straight Big Ten title in 2012 with a new-look coaching staff.
That's good news for the Badgers, especially since some are questioning how appealing it is to work for Wisconsin right now.

DeMontie Cross on Thursday became the sixth assistant coach from Bret Bielema's staff to leave Wisconsin in the past few weeks. Cross, who spent the 2011 season as Wisconsin's safeties coach/special teams coordinator, is leaving to coach linebackers on Charlie Weis' staff at Kansas.

What should we make of all the coaching departures from Madison?

When viewed individually, most if not all the departures make sense. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst left for a head-coaching job (Pitt). Offensive line coach Bob Bostad and linebackers coach Dave Huxtable left to become coordinators for Chryst. Tight ends coach Joe Rudolph became Chryst's assistant head coach and returns to his native Pennsylvania. Wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander made a lateral move to Arizona State, but he's a Los Angeles native who spent much of his career on the West Coast.

Cross is leaving to coach a position (linebacker) he oversaw from 2007-10 with the NFL's Buffalo Bills. He's a St. Louis native who played at Missouri, so he'll be closer to home at KU. He also has been a bit of a job-hopper lately, spending a few weeks on Purdue's staff last winter before taking the Wisconsin job.

So you can make good cases why each coach left Wisconsin. But the entirety of it -- six coaches leaving a team that has won back-to-back Big Ten titles and reached back-to-back Rose Bowls -- is highly unusual.

Usually when six coaches are departing a staff in the same year, the head coach is part of the group. Bielema, meanwhile, is extremely secure in Madison, having built Wisconsin into a new Big Ten power.

Assistants typically want stability (i.e. Penn State) and would rather remain with a proven winner.

Bielema has hired two offensive assistants (Canada and receivers coach Zach Azzanni) and reportedly has found Huxtable's replacement (Nevada's Andy Buh). He now needs to add three more assistants to his 2012 staff.

Although coaches like to see their assistants succeed elsewhere, they also value continuity, which usually translates into success. Penn State and Iowa have had few changes until this year, and Mark Dantonio has kept his staff together for the most part at Michigan State.

Bielema might just be unlucky to lose so many assistants at once, but so much staff turnover often has consequences, at least in the short term. As Bielema continues to interview assistants, he needs to look for guys who can coach, who can recruit and who want to be in Madison for a little while.

Pitt announces assistant coaches

January, 7, 2012
New Pitt coach Paul Chryst announced the hiring of six assistant coaches Saturday, including three from Wisconsin -- Bob Bostad as offensive coordinator, Dave Huxtable as defensive coordinator and Joe Rudolph, who will serve as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.

Here is a brief profile on each:

Bostad spent the past six years at Wisconsin as offensive line coach. The past two years, Bostad coached four first team All-Americans on Wisconsin’s offensive front (center Pete Konz and guard Kevin Zeitler in 2011, and tackle Gabe Carimi and guard John Moffit in 2010). The Badgers rushed for more than 3,000 yards each of the past two seasons en route to a pair of Big Ten titles.

Huxtable spent this past season coaching linebackers at Wisconsin, where he produced a pair of first-team All-Big Ten performers in Chris Borland and Mike Taylor. Before joining the Badgers, Huxtable spent seven seasons at UCF (2004-10), including the final three as defensive coordinator.

Rudolph, a graduate of Belle Vernon Area High School, returns to Western Pennsylvania after coaching the tight ends at Wisconsin the past four seasons. He also served as Wisconsin's recruiting coordinator. As a coach at Wisconsin, he oversaw the development of three NFL draft picks at tight end.

Chris Haering will serve as linebackers coach. He joins Pitt from nearby Mt. Lebanon High School, where he served as head football coach the past 17 years (1995-2011) and compiled a 111-71 record. Under Haering’s direction, Mt. Lebanon won the 2000 WPIAL Class AAAA championship and advanced to the playoffs 13 times.

Jim Hueber will serve as tight ends coach. He has nearly four decades of coaching experience on both the collegiate and professional levels. Hueber most recently served five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings (2006-10) working with the offensive line. He spent 33 years coaching college football, including an exceptional tenure under Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin (1992-2005), where he helped the Badgers evolve into a national power.

Todd Rice will be strength and conditioning coach after spending the past five years as director of strength and conditioning for the NC State football team. Before his time with the Wolfpack, Rice served five years in the same capacity at Boston College.
After getting some good news Thursday on star running back Montee Ball, Wisconsin's personnel exodus is continuing.

Badgers star center Peter Konz will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft, the Wisconsin State Journal and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel are reporting. Wisconsin has yet to make a formal announcement, but it looks like Konz is gone, giving the Badgers three starting offensive linemen to replace.

Although Konz missed three games this season because of a dislocated ankle, he earned second-team All-America honors. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Konz as the nation's top junior center, and a source tells the State Journal that Konz "was rated very high" by the NFL draft advisory board. Konz started 31 games for the Badgers.

Wisconsin also could be losing yet another assistant, as Joe Rudolph reportedly is interviewing at Pitt today. Not sure why Rudolph would need to interview with his good friend Paul Chryst, the Panthers' new head coach and the former Badgers offensive coordinator. Rudolph recently was moved from tight ends coach to offensive line coach, but he might be angling for a position with a coordinator title in it.

The Badgers already have lost four assistants: Chryst, Bob Bostad, Dave Huxtable and DelVaughn Alexander. Bostad and Huxtable both are joining Chryst at Pitt, reportedly in coordinator roles.

Rudolph would be a significant loss for Wisconsin on the recruiting trail. He's one of the Big Ten's best recruiters and has helped Wisconsin upgrade its recruiting profile in Florida and other regions. Although coach Bret Bielema might want to hire a different offensive coordinator, he should try to hang onto Rudolph.

What a wild week in Madison.
LOS ANGELES -- Outside the Wisconsin locker room is a wall full of plaques honoring the school's All-Americans. Guard Kevin Zeitler walked past that every day last offseason dreaming of hanging his picture up there next to John Moffitt, who earned All-America recognition last year.

Zeitler was lightly recruited until late in his high school career and had never even made an All-Big Ten team. But after an outstanding senior season, he now has his own spot on that wall.

[+] EnlargeKevin Zeitler
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireAll-American Kevin Zeitler was a member of an O-line that helped Wisconsin lead the Big Ten in scoring.
"We have a lot of pride in our offensive line here, and all of us want to live up to expectations," he said. "And I guess when you live up to expectations, that equals All-Americans."

Churning out offensive line talent may just be the state of Wisconsin's No. 1 industry at this point. Last year, Moffitt and tackle Gabe Carimi were named All-Americans. Both of them and guard Bill Nagy were drafted by the NFL and started as rookies. That exodus would decimate some programs. The Badgers simply reloaded with two more All-Americans in Zeitler and center Peter Konz.

The offensive line has been the program's signature position since the days of Barry Alvarez. While linemen at most schools are an anonymous bunch, the Badgers big fellas become stars, as evidenced by how many interviews the starting linemen gave at Friday's Rose Bowl media day.

"There's just something about that Wisconsin tradition," guard/center Travis Frederick said. "If you're from Wisconsin, you almost want to grow up and be a Wisconsin offensive lineman. And if you get a chance to play at Wisconsin, you take that chance."

The only thing more remarkable about the Badgers size on the line -- the starters measure an average of 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds -- is the fact that every key contributor is from the state of Wisconsin. Whether they were stud recruits like left tackle Josh Oglesby and Konz or a former walk-on like Ricky Wagner who gained 70 pounds after arriving on campus as a tight end, they all seem to develop into some of the best linemen in the country. Maybe it's all that cheese in the Dairy State. Milk apparently does a big body good.

But it's more than just the Scandinavian stock or whatever accounts for all that homegrown size. A standard has been set.

"You look back, and you see Gabe Carimi, and Joe Thomas, both Outland Trophy winners," Konz said. "You've got Chris McIntosh. You've got a lot of guys that you really have to live up to.

"You've got to live up to the strength standards, the weight standards. You've got to live up to the knowledge that they had about the game. We pride ourselves on being extremely smart, understanding blitzes, understanding formations, and really being on target so that we can be as successful as possible."

A major factor in Monday's Rose Bowl will be whether Oregon can handle that offensive line. The Ducks are bigger and better up front defensively than many people think, especially at defensive tackle with Taylor Hard (6-6, 283) and Wade Keliikipi (6-3, 300). Still, outside of Stanford and USC, Oregon isn't used to seeing lines like Wisconsin's. Because there aren't many.

Oregon's defensive players are downplaying any beef disadvantage in the trenches.

"They've got huge offensive linemen just like Stanford," said defensive end Brandon Hanna, whose Ducks have manhandled the Cardinal in recent years. "We're not too worried about that. Size doesn't bother us."

The Rose Bowl will mark the end of an era of sorts for the Wisconsin offensive line, as position coach Bob Bostad is moving on to Pittsburgh to join offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. He oversaw the development of four All-Americans since 2008. Tight ends coach Joe Rudolph will take over the group once Bostad leaves. Rudolph was an All-Big Ten guard for the Badgers.

"He's got a lot of pride in the position because he played it," Zeitler said. "To see what he's done with all the tight ends who've gone on to be All-Americans here, you know he knows how to coach. So it will be a new personality, but I believe the production will stay the same."

The names and faces may change, but Wisconsin keeps adding plaques to the wall.

Bielema names Rudolph new O-line coach

December, 27, 2011
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema confirmed this afternoon what had been reported and rumored: offensive line coach Bob Bostad is leaving to join Paul Chryst at Pittsburgh.

Bielema also said that tight ends coach Joe Rudolph would move up to replace Bostad as offensive line coach. But he did not name a successor to Chryst as offensive coordinator, saying any other staff appointments will be announced after the Jan. 2 Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Rudolph has overseen some outstanding tight end play during his four years coaching the position, and he also is known as one of the best recruiters in the Big Ten. Can he keep up the Badgers' terrific tradition on the offensive line, which seems to produce new All-Americans every year? Well, Bostad made the same move as Rudolph a few years back, and the program has the blueprint on how to recruit and develop those big guys up front.

Bielema's decision not to name an offensive coordinator is interesting. There has been speculation that running backs coach Thomas Hammock could be elevated to that role. He called plays for Minnesota two years ago. Does this signal that Bielema will look outside the program for an offensive coordinator? Or does he simply want more time to weigh his options? His m.o. has mostly been to promote from within, but Chryst leaves some awfully big shoes to fill.

We shall see. We know this: Losing both Bostad and Chryst -- especially with Russell Wilson and probably Montee Ball also leaving -- will pose quite a challenge to the offense and Bielema.

Big Ten lunch links

February, 20, 2009

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

I've got Friday on my mind.