New tight ends and special teams coach Jay Boulware has some history with University of Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen.
Boulware was the special teams coach at Auburn when Andersen brought his Utah State team there to open the 2011 season.
The Tigers, the defending national champions, had to rally to escape with a 42-38 victory, helped by two big plays from Boulware’s special teams units — a recovered onsides kick and a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Boulware coached with Andersen for two years at Utah prior to that and they were friends. But Andersen was so mad after the game, Boulware said he almost didn’t want to shake hands.
“I got him twice, so he really didn’t like me after the game,” Boulware said.
Boulware was laughing as he told the story, then joked about what Andersen’s reaction might be when he saw his quotes.
The point is: Most of Andersen’s staff have plenty of history together, which is a bigger benefit than some good-natured needling about games gone by.
“I don’t think it’s going to be hard for us as a staff because there’s so much familiarity,” said Boulware, the latest addition to Andersen’s staff after spending the previous four years at Auburn.
Not only did Boulware work with Andersen at Utah in 2005 and 2006, but new UW offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Andy Ludwig also was on that staff. In addition, Boulware was a co-offensive line coach at Northern Illinois when UW running backs coach Thomas Hammock played there.
“We’ve all worked together before, the three main components of the team,” Boulware said of offense, defense and special teams. “It’s going to be pretty easy for us to jump in and understand what we’re all looking for.
“I know what Coach ‘A’ is looking for, I know what coach ‘Lud’ is looking for, so I’ll be able to handle my tight end responsibility, having worked with him before. It’ll be a pretty smooth process, in my opinion.”
Andersen, who still has to name a wide receivers coach, considered a working history with his assistants as important but not a prerequisite for hiring a staff.
“I don’t think it’s the catch-all for hiring a coach, but it is important,” Andersen said.
The two notable exceptions are the two holdovers from the staff of departed coach Bret Bielema — Hammock and secondary coach Ben Strickland.
“It was important,” Andersen said of retaining those two assistants. “No. 1, they’re really good coaches. They care about the kids. That is the No. 1 most important thing to them — that became very apparent as I went through the process — and they wanted to be here in the worst way.”
Andersen filled three of the nine positions with members from his Utah State staff — defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, secondary coach Bill Busch and offensive line coach T.J. Woods.
“A staff is like a team,” Woods said. “I think chemistry is important. ... We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how we work To me, that’s the No. 1 thing we’ll be able to bring initially, just the familiarity with each other.”
Andersen hopes that familiarity will help his staff “hit the ground running.”
“It’s important to start fast, understanding how they deal with kids, the importance they put in things I believe in,” Andersen said. “If you have some opportunities to get those coaches on your staff, we had that opportunity here to get that done.”
The familiarity among the coaches also should help UW players who have endured plenty of transition the last year, including the addition of six new assistants after the 2011 season.
Ludwig said he would try and incorporate much of the existing offensive terminology to make it easier on the players.
“I’m very sensitive to the fact I am the third offensive coordinator in three years,” Ludwig said.
Aranda also is on his third team in three years, having spent one year at Utah State after being at Hawaii prior to that.
“(The players) have to feel that I’m sincere about caring for them and I want to do what’s best for them and I want to make whatever changes are going to come as easy I can for them,” Aranda said.
Busch is on his fourth stop with Andersen and has spent more time working with him than anybody on the staff.
“I think it’s just outstanding. It’s kind of an all-star staff,” Busch said. “Because I know a lot of them. I know the decisions he made. I’ve been with him personally on several of them.”
Busch said it was possible at one time to hire assistants who were strong recruiters but weak position coaches, or vice versa. Nowadays, that won’t cut it, he said.
“When you get to a place like this, you have to have nine that can do it all,” Busch said. “Everything you’ve got to be able to do, are you on top of your players? Do you know exactly what test they’re taking right now, what’s their GPA, what are they doing?
“You’ve got to have nine (assistants) that are able to do that. That’s one thing I promise you coach Andersen will have, nine guys that can do every phase of it.”