No. 17 Wisconsin looks for defensive renewal
Dec. 23, 2014
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — It appears as if No. 17 Wisconsin will have some continuity on defense under new coach Paul Chryst.
The Badgers' incoming offensive-minded leader can't make job offers to assistants because of a Dec. 29 application deadline, according to university hiring policies. Announcements about positions aren't expected until after Wisconsin's game Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl against Auburn.
But linebackers Marcus Trotter and Vince Biegel are talking like they already know that defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is staying put with the new boss.
"The way they both prepare and get players ready is second to none," Trotter, one of the team's senior leaders, said Monday. "Aranda's back next year, so everyone should be happy for that. Keeping the same system as the last two years really helps this defense out."
The Badgers finished fourth in total defense and fifth in passing defense this season under Aranda, who was hired two years ago by former coach Gary Andersen. Wisconsin was 13th in scoring defense and 17th in rushing defense.
Biegel said the Badgers assistants haven't skipped a beat with preparing the team for the bowl game.
The sophomore, though, acknowledged he's had a tougher transition than most players with Andersen's surprising departure earlier this month to take the same job at Oregon State. Andersen was also Biegel's position coach.
"It's been a distraction but we have great senior leaders on this team," Biegel said. "We're focusing on Auburn; the past is the past, and we're moving on."
Chryst will be just an observer for the Outback Bowl. Athletic director Barry Alvarez — also a former Wisconsin coach — took over as interim coach just for the bowl game.
Still, Biegel is happy to have Chryst back in Madison. A former Wisconsin player, Chryst was the Badgers offensive coordinator from 2005-11.
"To have a guy who can bring an offensive mastermind, and having him with Coach Aranda around, I think it's going to be a dangerous combination to reckon with," Biegel said.
There's a more pressing matter to prepare for in Auburn's up-tempo offense. To help match up, quarterback Tanner McEvoy has been working at safety and linebacker with the No. 1 defense in practice.
McEvoy played 11 games at quarterback this season. He played 11 games at safety in 2013, including three starts. He'll likely have an opportunity to work at both positions in the Outback Bowl.
"It's going pretty smoothly, so far, and has been awesome," McEvoy said of practicing with the defense. "I'm excited to get out there on both sides, and hopefully make some plays."
Trotter said he likes the talent and physical dynamic that the 6-foot-6, 222-pound McEvoy brings to the defense.
"I'm used to trash talking with him on the other side of the ball, but he's with me now," Trotter said. "He's very, very skilled and very athletic, so having more athleticism on defense only helps."