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January 17, 2012MADISON - When Bret Bielema lost former defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to the head coaching vacancy at Northern Illinois immediately following the 2011 Rose Bowl, the Wisconsin head coach claimed how he was losing a great coach and an even better friend.
Maybe that ongoing relationship with Doeren led to Bielema's decision to hire Matt Canada, NIU's offensive coordinator this past season, as his new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
"Matt has a terrific history as an offensive coordinator and has excelled at developing quarterbacks throughout his career," Bielema said via press release. "I know he is very excited about running a pro-style offense and handling a game the way we typically have at Wisconsin.
"I think this is a great hire for us and I can't wait for him to get to work with our coaches and players."
Canada, though, has the task of replacing UW's most successful offensive coordinator in school history. Paul Chryst, now the head coach at Pittsburgh, led offenses that did nothing but set records in each of the past two seasons and continually improved during each of his seven seasons as the offensive coordinator.
With Chryst at the helm UW scored 83, 70 and 70 points in three separate games in 2010, two of which came against fellow Big Ten institutions, during the 2010 season. That team averaged 43.3 points per game before falling to TCU in the 2011 Rose Bowl.
Chryst then guided an offense that scored 44.4 points per game in 2011, led by All-Big Ten quarterback Russell Wilson. That UW team eventually lost to Pac 12 champion Oregon in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
"In this process," Bielema noted. "I'm putting together a staff that will come from different directions to come together to play football the way Wisconsin has traditionally played."
On paper the hiring of Canada looks to be reasonably plausible. The 16-year coaching veteran has coached several successful offenses, including a Northern Illinois squad that finished the 2003 season ranked No. 12 in the final AP poll and No. 10 in the final BCS poll of the season.
Canada has seven years of offensive coordinating experience, including two stints at Northern Illinois (2003 and 2011), one year at Butler (1997) and four years at Indiana (2007-2010). He's coached standouts such as Chandler Harnisch, an honorable mention All-America by SI.com.
He engineered a Huskie offense that finished 11-3 in 2011, capped with a GoDaddy.com Bowl victory over Arkansas State. His offense finished this season ranked in the top 12 nationally in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense.
Only Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and three other teams averaged at least 230 yards rushing and passing per game a season ago.
"I'm truly excited for the opportunity to come to Wisconsin," Canada said via press release. "It's a program that I've followed closely for a number of years. I've always been impressed with their tradition, especially offensively with their style of play.
"I can't wait to be a part of that."
Wisconsin's offense will return star running back Montee Ball, 2011's leading rusher who tallied more than 1,900 yards on the ground and 300-plus yards receiving. He also scored 39 touchdowns.
That same UW offense, though, will lose All-American center Peter Konz and All-Conference linemen Kevin Zeitler and Josh Oglesby at right guard and right tackle respective.
Nick Toon, UW's most dangerous receiving threat has also exhausted his eligibility, as has All-Everything quarterback Russell Wilson.
Canada will have the task of keeping the offense rolling in the same manner it had under Chryst each of the past seven seasons in Madison, even though that will likely be a tall glass of water to handle.
Canada joins Thomas Hammock, UW's current running backs coach and former standout running back under Canada's tutelage at NIU, and Zach Azzanni, UW's newly tabbed wide receivers coach on Bielema's offensive staff.