University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez has targeted at least three current assistant coaches as possible candidates to be retained under new football coach Gary Andersen.
Those three assistants, according to a source close to the UW football program, are offensive line coach Bart Miller, strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert and co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge.
Both Herbert and Partridge have already accepted jobs at Arkansas under former UW coach Bret Bielema.
Miller is one of only three assistants whose plans after the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl have not been disclosed. The other two are running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Thomas Hammock and secondary coach Ben Strickland.
Just because Hammock and Strickland were not mentioned specifically by the source does not mean they won't stay.
Andersen, who arrived in Madison on Wednesday afternoon, is expected to meet on Thursday and Friday with the current UW assistants.
He is expected to have an opening for a running backs coach, which would seem to make Hammock a good fit.
Mike Sanford, who was the Aggies' assistant head coach, while also working with the running backs and tight ends, was hired as the head coach at Indiana State on Friday.
But another source, who is close to the UW coaches, said when Andersen's name came up as the leading candidate on Tuesday night, Hammock was initially upset because he wasn't sure if he would have a chance to stay.
Both of the sources talked on the condition of anonymity, because UW has not officially announced Andersen's hiring.
Also, multiple sources have said Hammock could be a candidate to jump to the NFL. Those jobs are not expected to open up for another couple weeks, which will give Hammock plenty of time to see what Andersen wants to do.
Even though the first source did not directly mention Strickland, he would seem like a potential candidate to stay, given his strong ties with the state high school coaches.
Strickland is in his first year as a full-time assistant, after spending one year on the staff as the defensive quality control coordinator and two years as a graduate assistant.
The former UW walk-on defensive back, who played at Brookfield Central, has quickly built a strong reputation with the state coaches. His primary recruiting areas are Wisconsin and Atlanta.
Since Andersen does not have any ties to the state, retaining Strickland might be a way to keep the prep coaches in the state happy.
One of the coaches Andersen is expected to bring with him from Utah State is Bill Busch, who is the associate head coach, special teams coordinator and safeties coach for the Aggies.
That leaves open the cornerbacks position, and Strickland would seem to be a worthy candidate for that position.
Another coach Andersen is almost certainly bringing along is offensive line coach T.J. Woods. He was the offensive line coach at New Mexico in 2007, when Miller was the starting right guard as a senior.
Aggies offensive coordinator Matt Wells also worked on that staff at New Mexico. Wells is expected to be a strong candidate to replace Andersen at Utah State and has already interviewed for the job, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Woods could coach another position, like tight ends, if Andersen wants to retain Miller.
As for Herbert, Alvarez feels strongly about trying to keep him, according to the first source. Herbert, who played under Alvarez, has been integral to UW's string of three straight conference championships.
Herbert is also close to Bielema, so it will be interesting to see what happens if Alvarez tries to convince his former player to stay.
According to multiple reports, Andersen is expected to hire Utah defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a.
Utah State defensive coordinator Dave Aranda also seems a lock to join Andersen at UW.
So where would that leave Partridge? He has a $50,000 buyout in his agreement if he leaves Arkansas. It’s unclear if Partridge wants to stay at UW, although Alvarez apparently would love to find a way to keep him.
The two main issues regarding offensive and defensive schemes are whether the Badgers will retain some aspects of the spread offense Andersen utilized at Utah State, as well as the 3-4 defense.
The Aggies ran some pro-style offense in 2011 with running backs Robert Turbin and Michael Smith.
They went to more spread this year to take advantage not only of dual-threat quarterback Chuckie Keeton, but also running back Kerwynn Williams, who rushed for 1,512 yards and is more of a spread back.
There is also some concern about whether UW’s defensive personnel would fit the 3-4 scheme the Aggies ran this season.
They apparently went to that due to a shortage of defensive linemen and an abundance of linebackers. They have utilized a 4-3 in the past and when Andersen was the defensive coordinator at Utah, his best defenses ran a 4-3.