What new Wisconsin OC Bobby Engram said when he met the media for the first time
MADISON — Wisconsin introduced new offensive coordinator Bobby Engram Friday morning at a press conference in the basement of the McClain Center. The former Baltimore assistant coach had his contract approved by the UW Board of Regents last week and has spent the time since then getting up to speed on the challenges he’ll face in his new position.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst was not in attendance, so there remains some uncertainty about Engram’s role will be in helping the offense improve after two underperforming years on that side of the ball.
Here is a collection of what Engram said when he met the media for the first time:
Q: Can you share what exactly your responsibilities will be as offensive coordinator? Will you be calling the plays? And what position group will you be coaching?
Engram: “I think as a coordinator, I’m going to be involved in all aspects of the game plan. We’re still working and talking through in terms of — that’s a question for Paul — in terms of positions and where we’ll be. I think there’s still some things that solidify on the staff.
“As far as play calling, I’ve been around many places, so there’s different ways to do it. Again, I will be involved in all aspects of the game plan, and we will have some really good plays called. It’ll be a collaborative effort and we’ll be working together. The main thing is to have a great plan, where we can move the ball and score points and help us win football games.”
Q: What strengths do you think you can bring as a recruiter? And do you know which area of the country that you’ll be recruiting in?
Engram: “I do not know the area yet, but my strengths as a recruiter would be just my track record and what I’ve done. Recruiting is just a process. I think just having a process and a procedure, the main thing is getting to know the young men, really understand who they are and making sure they are fit. Because all great players might not be a fit. It will be an honest approach, it would be an open approach and letting people know what Wisconsin is about. Again, it’s about trying to find the right fit, the right young men to bring into this program, offensively, that are going to help us. Or in my area, if there’s a defensive player, passing them over to the defensive staff and doing all the legwork there. But I think communication, follow up, just being persistent, and just really articulating who we are, and what we’re about so that guys really understand what Wisconsin football has to offer.”
Q: In what ways do you think you can expand the offense particularly in the passing game?
Engram: “I think the change will come from really what our players can do. My approach, and I think our philosophy as coaches, is going to be, what can our players do well? I think that’s where it starts. Obviously, there’s a strong tradition here, had a lot of great offenses and running the football. I think, just coming from the NFL, my experiences, just bring some a fresh perspective, bring some new ideas.
“But again, it’s going be a collaborative effort that I think really should be player driven. Because we got some young guys, I know they’re talented guys, I have not had a chance to really watch a lot of film yet in terms of studying it. I’ve watched games. But really, I’m looking forward to that whenever this first week settles down, so I can really get into the film and study personnel and see who guys are and what they do well, and accentuate their strengths, but I think it’s player driven, the changes.”
Q: How valuable will spring practice be to finding out what guys can do and will it take you even more time after that to really get an idea of what the strengths of guys are?
Engram: “I think after the spring, hopefully I will have a good idea of what they can do being with them day in and day out for 15 practices and meetings. Then the natural progression for that is how we grow the offense. Again, the players, what they can do and then the natural progression of how players improve, just always keeping a pulse on how guys are getting better. That’s why we practice, right? That’s the goal. So, we have to be able to monitor that and take advantage of that.”
Q: You coached under both Jim and John Harbaugh. How much of an impact have both of those guys made on you during your coaching career?
Engram: “Jim and John had a great impact. Jim gave me my first opportunity to coach when he was with the 49ers and I’ve spent the last eight years with John and Baltimore. Both of them had a very strong impact on me as a coach. I’ve been fortunate to be around two really good head coaches and two guys that are intense, they pride themselves on preparation and winning. I’ve been able to take a lot from both of those guys and carry that over into my coaching.”
Q: What kind of challenges do you envision just expanding on what you’ve done in your coaching career so far here?
Engram: “Again, it’s about the players and what we need to do to get them better. The challenges will be as a staff, for us putting together the very best game plan every week. I’m really looking forward to this spring. When you’re around guys, day in and day out, in the meeting room, in the classroom, watching them work out and on the field, you get a great sense of who they are and what they can do. Everything we’re doing is pointing towards winning football games. That will be the initial challenge and then the challenges of game planning week in and week out versus our opponent, but that excites me. That’s what we love as coaches, the strategy and the planning and figuring out a way to win games.”
Q: You get to coach your son, Dean, for the first time. What’s that going to be like? And can you give us a scouting report of him as a wide receiver
“Yes, a pretty unique experience. First, I’m real proud of Dean just to how hard he’s worked in this program, and how he’s been able to overcome some adversity that he’s had in his life. But I’m excited about coaching them. I think it’ll be unique in the fact that we’ll be around each other day in and day out on the field. I never coached him in terms of him being on an organized team. I’ve always taken my boys out, and their friends, done football drills, footwork, catching drills, so that’s always been fun. But I’m looking forward to that.
“For as a scouting report, we’ll have to see what he has. Quick, got some good speed, toughness, great ball skills, can really track the ball. But that wasn’t a foregone conclusion. That was a decision that I know seems obvious, but it really wasn’t. It had to come from Paul. It had to be from Dean, it had to be natural and organic and it had to be something that fit the program. It checks all those boxes, so I think it’s the right thing to do for the team.”
Q: There were some reports connecting Wisconsin to former Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams, who was in the transfer portal. I know you have a relationship with him. Can you shed some light on that? Did you think you had a pretty good chance? How close did that come to becoming a done deal?
Engram: “The relationship was intact long before any of the transport portal. The timing of it, I think people really linked us together more than what it might have been. But in terms of the relationship, I’ve got great respect for Caleb, love his family, his father, Carl, his mother, Dana, so the relationship was because of us being down and us going to battle and playing a lot of football games together. But I think Wisconsin as a program, you look at it with a with a portal now, I think you look at any great player that becomes available that’s interested in you, you have to look at it. But I’m happy for Caleb, where he is and I think that’s a great move for him. I’m really excited about the guys that we have, and I’m ready to get to work.”
Q: You spent two seasons working alongside Paul at Pitt several years back. What did you learn about him from working with him that you think this will be a good marriage?
Engram: “I think number one with Paul is his approach and how he deals with the players. I think he really enjoys being around the players and coaching them. Offensively, he’s done some really good things, great things over the course of his coaching career. I think philosophically it’s a good fit the way they run the ball. What I’ve been exposed to as a player and as a coach, I really believe in running the football and being able to assert yourself there. I’m excited. We have a great personal relationship. I just look forward to the next chapter here and building that with him and the entire staff at Wisconsin.”
Q: Do you have to change the way you approach players and coach them coming from the NFL back to college?
Engram: “Yes, because where they are in their lives. These are young men and those were (NFL) guys who kind of went through that path, and they were men. They had families and a career. I think there’s a different approach, ye it’s similar just in how you deal with people. I love the players, I love getting to know them, personally. I love the teaching, the coaching aspect and building that relationship, so it’ll be the same in that respect. But I think the difference is where they are in their journey as men.”
Q: Do you need to address the pursuit of Caleb Williams with your returning quarterbacks, especially a two-year starter like Graham Mertz? Do you expect any issues there?
Engram: “No, I’ve already talked to Graham, talked to Chase (Wolf), those guys are good, we’re all good. They understand the nature of college football now and certain things we cannot control. But they’re excited, I’m excited, and we’re ready to go to work.”
Q: You’re the first African American to hold the position of offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, especially given all the conversation about African American opportunities and coaching, what does it mean to you to be the first here at Wisconsin?
Engram: “It means everything. It’s humbling. I’m grateful, again, for the opportunity, but it means a lot. I’m thankful to be in this position. There’s been a lot of coaches that have gone before me that have worked really hard and done well to give me this opportunity. I give credit to Paul, to Wisconsin. I think the motto here is Forward, right? Forever Forward. I think this is a great example of not just talk about something being a slogan, but real people grasping that and given an opportunity to do something different. I’m excited and I’m grateful to be in this spot.”
Q: How did the process of coming back to college football happen? Is it something you were looking to do?
Engram: “I don’t think you ever close off any door. It was not a move that I was looking to make. I was a really enjoyed the NFL, I was in a great organization, I was growing, I was given the opportunity to move from the wide receivers to the tight ends and that helped my growth exponentially. But again, this was an opportunity and I think the timing of it and the fit — just what I know about the program and the tradition, my relationship with Paul, the opportunity for me to take that next step in my career. Everything just kind of aligned and I think this is the right time and I think it’s a great fit for both sides.”
Q: What do you think Wisconsin is capable of doing as a program?
Engram: “You guys have seen this team for a lot longer up close than I have. I think winning a championship is possible and that’s the goal and why we’re all in it. We got some work to do. But there’s a lot of good pieces in place here. Just being around for the first week, I love what I’m seeing. The camaraderie, the way the guys are working, the intensity of the program. How can you not be excited about being at part of that?”