Badgers fill running backs coach vacancy

The Wisconsin Badgers found their replacement for former running backs coach Thomas Hammock who told Gary Andersen and his coaching staff back on National Signing Day that he would be joining the Baltimore Ravens.

Hammock accepted the running backs coaching vacancy of the Baltimore Ravens and will now get the opportunity to work with all-pro running back Ray Rice. Before taking a look at their new coach, Thomas Brown of Marshall University, Hammock’s accomplishments with this program should be noted.

He joined the UW coaching staff in 2011 after serving as the co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach at the University of Minnesota. Hammock also functioned as the recruiting coordinator at Wisconsin along with being the assistant head coach under Andersen.

Over the course of three years under Hammock, the Badgers running game shined and set national, conference, and team records during that time frame. The team’s rushing attack finished in the top ten nationally in yards per attempt, total rushing touchdowns, and rushing yards per game over his three year tenure.

In 2011, Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders’ single season touchdown total of 39, a record that stood for over 20 years. There was tons of uncertainty as to how Hammock would orchestrate the offense after the departure of the NCAA’s all-time touchdown leader (83) in Ball.

How did he handle the pressure of following up his 2012 team’s prolific rushing attack? By passing the torch to senior James White and sophomore Melvin Gordon, which resulted in another record breaking season. The tandem of White and Gordon tallied up 3,053 yards on the ground and set the NCAA record for total rushing yards by a pair of teammates.

Wisconsin Football

James White leaves Wisconsin after an impressive four years.

 

After their dismal rushing attack in 2013, the Ravens are hoping that Hammock’s success at the collegiate level will directly translate to success in the NFL. Ray Rice rushed for the least amount of yards in his career since his rookie season after tallying up only 660 yards on the ground in 2013. As a team last season, they rushed for 1,328 yards which was the first time the team had rushed for less than 1,600 yards since 1997.

Now in steps Thomas Brown to replace Hammock. He played four seasons at the University of Georgia and his 2,646 total rushing yards still stands as fifth best in school history. In 2008 he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the sixth round and after a season-ending injury he saw his NFL dreams slowly fade away and was eventually released by the Cleveland Browns and out of the NFL by 2009.

The 27-year-old Brown got his first collegiate coaching job in 2012 when he was hired as the running backs coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. After leading the team to a 6-5 record and 2,198 yards on the ground, he took a running backs coaching job at the University of Marshall in 2013.

In just one season at Marshall, Brown took a Thundering Herd rushing attack that finished 59th in 2012 in terms of rushing offense and got them to finish 20th in 2013, according the ESPN.com. The Herd also had their first 1,000 yard rusher since 2009 as senior Essray Taliaferro finished with 1,140 yards last season.

The Tucker, Georgia native also brings another aspect that coach Andersen highlighted on National Signing Day and that is his commitment to recruiting players from the south. Andersen said that he will have one of his recruiters permanently stationed in Georgia to broaden the team’s talent pool and with Brown’s ties to that state it is looking like he could help secure more southern recruits; he had nine commits to Marshall from the state of Georgia before accepting the Wisconsin job.

Brown will head into his first season with the Badgers with an extremely talented backfield as Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement both return for the 2014 season. Those two combined for 2,156 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns last season and will surely be the focal point heading into next season as the Badgers’ receiving core remains alarmingly slim and inexperienced.

A lot of expectations will be at hand for the first year coach as Wisconsin’s rushing offense hasn’t finished outside of the top 15 in the nation since 2007. It is no secret that Wisconsin’s offense hinges on the success of their run game so it will be interesting to see how the first year coach handles himself in the Big Ten.