Badgers: Players surprised when OLB coach Bobby April told them he was leaving

New Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell did not retain a single on-field assistant coach from former coach Paul Chryst’s staff when he took over the program, deciding to go with a mix of coaches that were with him at Cincinnati and a host of new faces. But that apparently wasn’t the plan all along.

During a Thursday appearance on The Zone’s Kenney and Heilprin, outside linebacker Darryl Peterson said his position coach, Bobby April, told his room that he expected to stay on with the new staff.

“We thought we were the only group that was home free, getting to keep our coach. Before the bowl game he told us the plan was for him to stay,” Peterson said. “(Then) he told us a few days before we went to Phoenix (for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl) that he was going to be moving on afterwards. That was a shock, but not really because he deserves it.”

April, who had been at Wisconsin since 2018, was officially named defensive coordinator at Stanford under new coach Troy Taylor on Dec. 22. A former NFL assistant coach, April had been in the running for the Michigan defensive coordinator job last offseason.

“He deserves to be a defensive coordinator,” Peterson said. “I bet my life on if coach (Jim) Leonhard would have gotten (the UW head coaching) job, (April) would have been our defensive coordinator. There’s no doubt about that. He deserves it. That hurt.”

Instead of April, Peterson and the rest of the outside linebackers will be led by Matt Mitchell. A very experienced college coach, Mitchell spent the last 19 years at Grand Valley State, including the last 12 as head coach. He won 79% of his games and went 40-8 since 2018. His tenure included coaching the linebackers for two seasons in the late 2000s. Mitchell has ties to Wisconsin defensive coordinator Mike Tressel, as the two played college football together and both started their coaching careers at the same school.

“I’m excited to play for coach Mitchell,” Peterson said. “He’s a head coach and hasn’t coached the position in a few years, so it’s going to be different for him, different for us. We are all going to be learning together. We’re probably going to have some new schemes and stuff, too. Everybody is going to be learning together, so I don’t think it will be that big of a transition.”

Former defensive line coach Ross Kolodziej and former inside linebackers coach Mark D’Onofrio also ended up at Stanford with April.