Varsity - The Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics

Varsity - February 9, 2012

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Bielema excited for new staff's potential LUCAS AT LARGE MIKE LUCAS • UWBADGERS.COM S ounding more like a first-year assistant eager to impress on a new job than one of the lon- gest tenured head coaches in the Big Ten, Bret Bielema says he can't wait until his first staff meeting. "My three coaches who stayed,'' said Bielema, listing Chris Ash, Charlie Partridge and Thomas Hammock, "can attest to the fact there's a whole new excitement and energy around here.'' That's because of the addition of six new assistants. "We've got a chance to retool some things,'' Bielema went on. "I've been on the road and my phone has been blowing up with different ideas and thoughts that my staff has been giving me. "Obviously I've been around my new assistants individually during the interviewing, but I haven't had much time with them collectively.'' Bielema conducted one meeting last week in Madison before cutting everybody loose for some R & R. That was before he completed his staff by hiring Eddie Faulkner to coach tight ends. "We needed some experience on the offensive side and I think we got it,'' Bielema said. "I'm really ex- cited about the potential recruiters and their involvement on special teams.'' That's part of the message that he wants to send to high school coaches in Wisconsin. "Everybody realizes that there have been some personnel changes in Madison,'' Bielema said. "But 8 » VARSITY FEBRUARY 9, 2012 "My three coaches who stayed can attest to the fact there's a whole new excitement and energy around here," Bielema said, referring to his six new assistants. nothing has changed as far as who we are as a program. "We're still going to focus on in- state prospects first and their abil- ity to help us win championships. That's never going to change.'' But many of the voices have changed, and Bielema feels the state prep coaches "are going to benefit from being around a bunch of new assistants and their new ideas and ways of doing things.'' On assigning recruiting areas, Bielema said, "It's a work in prog- ress. I've got some different ideas jotted down. I think there are a couple of recruiters who can be strong in areas where they've been. "But we've got certain guys who can be strong no matter where you put them.'' Because some of the new as- sistants have diverse backgrounds as recruiters in different regions, Bielema hinted that their experi- ence "could open some doors that haven't been opened before.'' But he stressed that the pro- gram's "identity will continue to move forward'' in traditional recruiting territories, starting in Wisconsin and extending to Ohio, New Jersey and South Florida. While reiterating the "in-state area, including Minnesota and Illinois, has to be a stronghold'' in order to sustain that identity, he said, "A lot of things we do offen- sively will also carry forward.'' But there may be tweaks, subtle or otherwise, to how things are presented. "One thing we haven't had here is a lot of freshmen tight ends or wide receivers or quarterbacks play early. With our current system, the verbiage is very unique and hard to grasp for some players. "The more we can clean it up and allow good players to play early, the more it will benefit us.'' One potential example is incom- ing freshman wide receiver Reggie Love, who has played just one year of organized football at the high school level because his focus had been on basketball. "He's a big, rangy kid,'' said UW assistant Zach Azzanni of the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Love, who hails from Boynton Beach, Fla. "It looks like he's been in a col- lege weight program for a couple of years already. "We have a lot of development work to do with him as an actual wide-out-slash-football player. But he's got the physical tools to be pretty good.'' Azzanni can't wait to tap into his potential. The same can be said of Bielema and his new staff.

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