Wisconsin opens spring practice with a new look offensive coaching staff

Wisconsin’s offense was not good enough the last two seasons and that’s at least partially why coach Paul Chryst essentially overhauled his entire staff on that side of the ball this offseason.

“I had a feeling that changes needed to be made,” Chryst said on how he approached the restructuring. And that doesn’t necessarily always mean personnel changes either, but if we were going to move forward we had to do some things differently.

“So I had a pretty good sense of some of the direction I thought it might go, but wasn’t certain. A lot of staff changes but I don’t want to say they were all because we need to make changes to get better, especially offensively. I thought we needed to make some changes. I don’t know, at that time (after the bowl game), that I was thinking that meant that we had to have almost a whole new staff.”

But that’s is what he has as Wisconsin gets set to open up spring practice Tuesday. With long-time assistant Joe Rudolph leaving for Virginia Tech, Chryst moved inside linebackers coach Bob Bostad back to the offensive line, a group he led for Wisconsin from 2008-2011.

“Well, if you know me and you know (Bostad), that’s not going to be real long conversation,” Chryst joked when asked how the move came about. “I asked him, ‘Are you still good line coach?’ He said he thinks he is. And I said, ‘Alright, you want to do it?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ That was the end of it.”

Chryst also hired two guys from outside the program, though both have worked for him before. That included new offensive coordinator Bobby Engram, who will coach the quarterbacks after spending the last eight seasons as the wide receivers and tight ends coach for the Baltimore Ravens. Keller Chryst, Paul Chryst’s nephew, played quarterback at Stanford and Tennessee will help out with the group as well.

The other outside hire on that side of the ball was Al Johnson as the running backs coach where he’ll replace Gary Brown. He was an All-Big Ten lineman for the Badgers in the early 2000s and returned as a graduate assistant in 2016 and 2017. The Wisconsin native ran the East Central University program for the past four seasons. The choice of Johnson caught some off guard because he has never coached the position before.

“I think it’s a good fit for him,” Chryst said. “I think players want a few things from their coach. They want to know that the coach cares about them and they want to know that the coach can help them get better as a player. There is no question in my mind that Al truly does care about the players he coaches and there’s no question in mind that Al, along with them, can help them be the best players they can be.”

Wisconsin won’t have a dedicated special teams coach for the first time under Chryst after he moved Chris Haering from that role to oversee the tight ends. He replaces Mickey Turner, who was moved to an off-field role leading the program’s recruiting efforts.

Chryst rounded out his staff by bringing in Bill Sheridan as Bostad’s replacement with the inside linebackers. He also brought in former Badgers Jack Cichy (offense) and Michael Caputo (defense) as analysts.