Badgers hire Azzanni as wide receivers coach
MADISON, Wis. — Since Wisconsin's football season ended with a Rose Bowl loss against Oregon two weeks ago, coach Bret Bielema has been busy behind the scenes working to rebuild a coaching staff depleted by defections.
On Monday, he made the first step in creating a revamped staff for the 2012 season.
Bielema announced that he has hired Zach Azzanni to coach wide receivers for the Badgers. Azzanni served as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Western Kentucky last season and also ahs coached at Florida, Central Michigan, Bowling Green and Valparaiso.
"Zach is a great fit for Wisconsin," Bielema said in a press release. "He is a terrific coach who stresses fundamentals and is also a great recruiter. His coaching philosophy, personality and character fit perfectly with what we do here and how we do it. I've known Zach for a number of years, and I'm very excited to be able to add him to our staff."
Azzanni replaces former Badgers wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander, who left the program for the same position at Arizona State. Alexander's departure turned out to be one of five on Bielema's nine-man coaching staff.
Former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst became head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, and he took three different Badgers assistants with him, including linebackers coach Dave Huxtable, offensive line coach/run game coordinator Bob Bostand and tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Joe Rudolph.
The only holdover among Wisconsin assistants on offense is running backs coach Thomas Hammock.
Azzanni directed a Western Kentucky offense that featured the No. 2 rusher in the nation last season in Bobby Rainey, who helped the Hilltoppers lead the Sun Belt Conference in rushing offense. During Azzanni's one season there, Western Kentucky improved its win total from two to seven, the biggest one-year turnaround in Sun Belt history.
"My family and I are ecstatic about coming to Madison and joining the Badgers," Azzanni said in a release. "I've known Coach Bielema for a number of years, and I jumped at the opportunity to become a part of one of the Big Ten's best programs."
Azzanni was hired at Florida following the 2009 regular season and coached the Gators during their 2010 Sugar Bowl game, in which quarterback Tim Tebow threw for a career-best 482 passing yards. Azzanni spent the 2010 season as the Gators' wide receivers coach and served as the passing game coordinator.
Prior to his time at Florida, Azzanni spent three seasons as the assistant head coach and receivers coach at his alma mater, Central Michigan. He also spent six seasons at Bowling Green before coaching at Central Michigan.
According to the Western Kentucky Herald, Azzanni's base salary in 2011 was $70,008. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Alexander's base salary last season at Wisconsin was $135,000.
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