Who will replace Bret Bielema at Wisconsin?
In one of the biggest surprises of the offseason coaching carousel, Bret Bielema decided to depart Wisconsin for Arkansas. Bielema led the Badgers to three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances and was coming off back-to-back Big Ten titles. However, whether it was the attraction of coaching in the SEC or some friction with athletic director Barry Alvarez, Bielema chose to depart and won't coach Wisconsin in the 2013 Rose Bowl.
10 Replacement Coaches for Bret Bielema at Wisconsin
Chris Ash, defensive coordinator, Wisconsin – Could the Badgers choose to stay in house for a Bielema replacement? Ash is a rising star in the coaching ranks, coming to Wisconsin in 2010 to coach defensive backs, before a promotion to defensive coordinator in 2011. In addition to his time in Madison, Ash had stops at San Diego State and Iowa State but has no head coaching experience. Bielema was a young defensive coordinator when he was promoted to head coach - could Wisconsin choose to do the same path this year?
Darrell Bevell, offensive coordinator, Seattle Seahawks – Since all signs point to Paul Chryst staying in Pittsburgh, Wisconsin’s next option might be Bevell. The former Badger quarterback has been an assistant coach since 1996, starting his career at Westmar University. He worked at Iowa State and Connecticut, before jumping to the NFL to serve as an offensive assistant with the Packers, Vikings and Seahawks. Bevell has been Seattle’s offensive coordinator for the last two years and has played a key role in developing rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
Bob Bostad, offensive line coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bostad is regarded as one of the nation’s best offensive line coaches, developing top units at Wisconsin and in the NFL with the Buccaneers. He also has experience during stops as an assistant at San Jose State and New Mexico from 1997-2005 but has never served as a head coach. Bostad worked under Bret Bielema at Wisconsin, so there’s some natural ties to the program. However, not having head coaching experience has to be a drawback for athletic director Barry Alvarez.
Paul Chryst, head coach, Pittsburgh – Even though Chryst has expressed his commitment to Pittsburgh, Wisconsin still make a run for his services. Chryst played at Wisconsin from 1986-88 and coached in Madison in 2002 and 2005-2011. He also has experience from stops at Oregon State and in the NFL with the Chargers. Chryst is the perfect candidate for Wisconsin but leaving Pittsburgh after one season will be difficult.
Dave Clawson, head coach, Bowling Green – Clawson took a lot of heat for Tennessee’s struggles on offense in 2008, but he is a proven head coach at three different stops. The New York native went 29-29 in five seasons at Fordham (1999-2003), which also included a trip to the FCS playoffs in 2002. Clawson jumped to Richmond in 2004 and led the Spiders to two playoff appearances, including an 11-3 mark in 2007. After the failed season at Tennessee, Clawson landed at Bowling Green and went 7-6 in his debut year and 8-4 in 2012.
Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame – If Wisconsin chooses to look in the assistant ranks, Diaco should be in the mix to replace Bielema. The New Jersey native played at Iowa, so he’s certainly familiar with life in the Big Ten. Diaco has spent time as an assistant at Eastern Michigan, Western Illinois, Central Michigan, Virginia, Cincinnati and for the last three years at Notre Dame. Diaco has no head coaching experience but has helped to lead the Fighting Irish to a rank of No. 1 overall in points allowed (10.3 ppg).
Butch Jones, head coach, Cincinnati – Jones has been a hot name in coaching searches this offseason, interviewing at Colorado and Purdue for openings at those schools. He has six years of head coaching experience, spending three years at Central Michigan and recording a 27-13 mark. During his time in Mount Pleasant, the Chippewas made three bowl appearances and claimed two MAC Championships. Jones moved to Cincinnati in 2010 and guided the Bearcats to a 23-14 mark over the last three seasons. Cincinnati has claimed a share of the Big East title in each of the last two years after going 4-8 in Jones’ first season in 2010.
[NOTE: Since publishing, Jones has been hired at Tennessee.]
Pete Lembo, Ball State – Lembo is a proven winner at three different stops during his coaching career and is ready to move up the coaching ladder after two years at Ball State. He recorded a 44-14 mark in five years at Lehigh and a 35-22 record in five seasons with Elon, which included an appearance in the FCS playoffs. Lembo is 15-9 in two years with the Cardinals and improved his win total by three games from 2011 to 2012.
Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State – Narduzzi doesn’t have any head coaching experience but is regarded as one of the Big Ten’s top assistant coaches. The Connecticut native started his coaching career at Rhode Island in 1993 and stayed until 2000 when he left to go to Northern Illinois. After three seasons with the Huskies, Narduzzi spent one year at Miami (Ohio) and joined Mark Dantonio’s staff at Cincinnati in 2004. Narduzzi followed Dantonio to Michigan State in 2007 and has helped to build one of the Big Ten’s best defenses over the last few years. The Spartans ranked fourth nationally in total defense this season.
Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Taggart is one of the rising stars in the non-BCS ranks and is ready for a promotion to a bigger program. He is 16-20 in three years with Western Kentucky, including back-to-back seven-win seasons in 2011-12. Taggart is from Palmetto, Fla., which is just under 50 miles to Raymond James Stadium. In addition to his time as a head coach at Western Kentucky, Taggart worked as an assistant under Jim Harbaugh for three seasons at Stanford.
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