Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, May 14, 2015

Paul Chryst is back home. And, that?s a good thing for Wisconsin.

The Badger program has been plagued by coaching instability of late. First, Bret Bielema shocked by bolting for the Arkansas job after the 2012 season. Then, Gary Andersen made jaws drop when he took off for Oregon State after last season.

Chryst figures to be around a while-at least that?s the hope.

He?s a native son who played quarterback at Wisconsin (1986-89) and coached there on two occasions, last as offensive coordinator from 2006-2011 under Bielema before leaving to coach Pitt.

Chryst knows the landscape, he knows the hurdles, he knows the positives, he knows the expectations. And, he wants to keep the program among the Big Ten elite-and has the knowledge to do so.

I caught up with Chryst, 49, coming off spring football to get his thoughts on his new team.

Q: Is this your dream job?
A: I feel fortunate and am excited to be here. But I thought every job I had coaching football was a dream job. But it is pretty unique to be able to come back and coach where my father did, where I was a player and an assistant. Wisconsin isn?t just any job to me. I have been really fortunate and it continues to be that way.

Q: Has anything changed since the time you left the program for Pitt to your return?
A: The players have changed, of course. Coach (Barry) Alvarez has done a good job never letting it just stand still. He?s always finding ways to make it better. A lot of the core foundation pieces are the same. And a lot of that is driven by him. But I also think it?s not the same place I left, either.

Q: What were you pleased about coming out of spring drills?
A: We have a nucleus of guys who have played a lot, guys who can be good leaders. I am excited about that group. I probably should have started with the fact I?m excited to have a feel about who we are as a group. A lot of the guys who are part of that core nucleus I mentioned were young when I left (for Pitt). To be able to see how they have matured and who they have become ? And getting to know the players I didn?t know at all. It makes you better to get an idea of their skill set-and more so who they are as guys, what motivates them, how do they learn, getting to know the person. We have a long way to go, but I feel like I have a much better idea.

Q: You feel good about Joel Stave at quarterback?
A: I do. I appreciate what he has done and I like how he goes about his work. He has done a lot of good things and has a good skill set. I think Joel has room for improvement and is willing to do what he can to be his best. And I appreciate that in him.

Q: Should we be worried about the offensive line?
A: I think we have work to do. We aren?t where we want to be with it. I like some of the pieces, but we weren?t able to get continuity in the spring. The summer and fall camp will be big for them. I like the guys, but we have work to be done.

Q: You retained defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. What impresses you about him?
A: I feel fortunate that Dave wanted to stay here. Our kids respect and believe in him. We believe in his scheme. And he has a way to teach it. I feel fortunate the defensive coaches-(OLBs) Tim Tibesar, (DBs) Daronte? Jones and (DL) Inoke Breckterfield–we added have done a good job coming together. Dave is a really good coach, loves the game, teaches it well. Defensively, I like our staff.

Q: Talk about Tanner McEvoy?s role.
A: He?ll start at safety. I have enjoyed seeing how excited (fellow safety) Mike Caputo gets playing with him. Tanner is just a really good football player. If we are going to be as good as we can be, we will need him to produce in different areas. He has a chance to contribute on offense. We exposed him to some different packages in the spring. A lot of that was getting a feeling about who we are as a team and where we could use everyone. Now, we have a better idea of that. I think we will need him to a significant contributor on offense and defense.

Q: Will you call plays?
A: I am.

Q: Talk about your relationship with new Nebraska coach Mike Riley?
A: Mike has been a huge influence in my life-professionally and personally. I was fortunate when I was done being a G.A. at West Virginia, I was able to hook on with him in the World League. And have had other opportunities to work with him after that. We have stayed in touched.

I first met (former Wisconsin athletic administrator and current Nebraska A.D.) Shawn (Eichorst) on a plane going to a Wisconsin function. He had just come from South Carolina, which was looking for a coach. We were talking and I had just left being with Mike-and he said when he was at South Carolina there were three people they were considering for that job-and one was Mike Riley. Shawn knew for a long time what I thought of Mike. When it all happened at Nebraska, I wasn?t surprised to see what did transpire.

Q: Wisconsin has been to three of the four Big Ten title games and won two of them. Can you guys win the West this season?
A: Yes, but it doesn?t just happen. That?s our job to make sure we do all we can to make sure we make this team the best we can. That is one of the things I appreciate about this place-the bar has been set high. Every season, that has to be one of your goals.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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