Andy Buh, the University of Wisconsin's first-year linebackers coach, is big on getting defenders to run to the ball.

In fact, defensive end David Gilbert has heard Buh's voice so often he does a passable imitation.

"His motto is, r-u-u-u-u-n," Gilbert said. "You know what I mean? R-u-u-u-u-n."

As distinctive as it is, Buh's voice isn't the only new one the Badgers are hearing this fall. With six new faces among his nine assistants, coach Bret Bielema is dealing with staff turnover that is almost unprecedented in college football absent a head coaching change.

Of UW's many storylines this season, the most worrisome to outsiders might be the effect of having so many new coaches on the staff. The angst over such heavy turnover is magnified because two who left — offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and offensive line coach Bob Bostad — were among the best in the nation.

But while replacing so many coaches at one time presents significant challenges, the concern is overblown. It may not much ado about nothing, but it is much ado about very little.

"The only way it becomes a setback is if we don't have success," Bielema said. "I've had transition before. It's just nothing new to me. I might be wired differently than most coaches. Most coaches bang their fist on their chest and talk about how they don't have transition. I kind of embrace it."

He should embrace it, because it's pretty simple: If you hire talented coaches who are a good fit for the program, things should return to normal after a brief transition period. So even though blending six new assistants — Buh, offensive coordinator Matt Canada, offensive line coach Mike Markuson, tight ends coach Eddie Faulkner, wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and secondary coach Ben Strickland — looks daunting to others, this situation could turn out to be a wash or even a gain for the Badgers. Indeed, it will be a surprise if UW doesn't have a solid staff this season.

For one thing, Bielema has done this before, especially when he put together a strong staff after taking over in 2006. He's had a few miss-hits on coaches, but those usually occurred when the hiring process was rushed. When he's had time, Bielema has generally made good hires.

"Bret's done a good job of hiring guys that fit this place more than worrying about making a big splash with (the media) or hiring a guy that has this big resume," co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge said. "It was more about making sure he got guys that fit what Wisconsin is."

Second, while Bielema gives his assistants ample freedom to coach, he has given the new guys parameters designed to maintain the style of play that has turned UW into a national power. Canada, who directed Northern Illinois' high-scoring offense last season, has said often that fans can expect to see new wrinkles in the offense — but not much more.

"I've got to give it to Bret because he's shown us the way of how he wants things done," Markuson said. "I think when you get new guys that have come from different head coaches and different programs, there's different ideas. But you've got to buy into the idea of what he's done and how he's had success here."

There is another potential benefit of putting coaches together from different backgrounds. Often, renewed vigor and new ideas can spring from coaches being thrown into the same office together. For instance, Canada has tinkered with using two tailbacks at the same time given UW's abundance of talent at the position.

"I think there's something to be said for fresh ideas, new ideas," Partridge said. "Because you can get stuck in a rut if there's never any change. I think that can create a program that's stale. These guys have brought a lot of good things to the table."

Finally, the top programs always lose coaches and replace them without missing a beat. There are a lot of good coaches out there and the beauty of being at UW's level is you are an attractive program with the ability to hire good coaches to replace good coaches.

UW's coaching transition was smooth enough that Bielema declared it over by the time fall camp started. That's not surprising because coaches are used to moving around and forging new working relationships quickly.

Often, those bonds form when a new staff has taken over a losing program. That's not the case at UW, where the marching orders might be: Just don't screw this thing up. But if the new guys are feeling the pressure to measure up, it's not apparent.

"I think pressure's what you put on yourself," Markuson said. "We're here and every new year brings forth new opportunities and you have to embrace that, seize that. If you're new like us, you've got to take that and run with it and say, 'Hey, we'll try to make it better.' That's what you want to do. That's why they hire you."

And that's why UW should keep right on r-u-u-u-u-nning this season.

Contact Tom Oates at toates@madison.com or 608-252-6172.

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