Familiarity aids Chryst in his return to Wisconsin

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Paul Chryst returned to Wisconsin, taking over a program that certainly wouldn't be categorized as a rebuilding project.

Wisconsin has enjoyed plenty of recent success, playing in three Big Ten championship games and two Rose Bowls the last four years. And it went 11-3 last season, Gary Andersen's last as coach before he moved to Oregon State.

"Regardless of the situation, there's change, and change can be unsettling for some and energizing for others," Chryst said Wednesday during the first day of the Big Ten spring conference calls. "It doesn't matter what happened the year before, you have to begin to establish the relationships and the inputting of new schemes or new ways to go about different things. There's some components of a transition regardless what happened the year before. It doesn't matter, you have to go through it."

Chryst, who took over in December, said what has eased for him the challenge of transitioning is the fact he is familiar with Wisconsin and the inner workings of the program.

"I think we're all transitioning the best we can," Chryst said. "It certainly felt a little easier. We knew some of these players, although they're a lot different as young freshman than they are as juniors and seniors. The young ones who didn't know me, some of the older ones could tell them what to expect."

Oregon State man

Mike Riley, 61, left Oregon State after 12 years to take on the challenge at Nebraska, which fired Bo Pelini after a 9-4 season.

"I kind of surprised myself in leaving, but I'll always be connected," said Riley, who grew up in Corvallis. "It's near and dear to my heart. Oregon State did way more for me than I did for them, so I will always be indebted and always a fan.

"We had such a routine and a simple life in Corvallis. You miss that. You're hoping and learning more about how you will find that in Lincoln."

Riley said he understands what taking over the Nebraska program entails.

"You don't go into this thing naïve what Nebraska football means and what the expectations are," Riley said. "This program has a tremendous history.

"But as far as the approach, we have things we believe in as a program that we want to get established."

Notorious brother

D.J. Hernandez, brother of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez who on Wednesday was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, is an offensive graduate assistant for Iowa.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked how the staff is supporting Hernandez.

"It's a very tough thing for D.J. to go through," Ferentz said. "There are a lot of things that happen in life that are very tough to explain. I'm not sure anybody can explain this one, but certainly it's been a tough period for him."

Surprise move

Jake Rudock, a two-year starter at Iowa, is now at Michigan and in the mix for the starting quarterback job.

While Ferentz, who demoted Rudock on an early depth chart released in January, signed his transfer papers with "no strings attached," at least one teammate seemed surprised by the move.

"I thought he had a little more fight in him," defensive end Drew Ott said. "But I guess maybe an opportunity (came up) over there at Michigan. I don't know too much about it."

While Ott said Rudock is a smart quarterback and will learn the offense and know what to do, he was dismissive when asked about his leadership.

"I don't know, you'd have to ask someone else," Ott said.

Rudock threw for 2,436 yards last season and had 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. He ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten in completion percentage (61.7 percent).

Extra points

Illinois coach Tim Beckman likes the direction his team is headed in, and said it's all about continuing to move forward.

"We've got to get better in every category," Beckman said. "We're trying to build the program to become a champion and be a champion. Consistency is the mark of that."

... There is no way to skirt last season at Northwestern.

"I thought it was awful, to be honest with you," coach Pat Fitzgerald said when asked about how the season spiraled. "I think we have a very hungry football team."

Fitzgerald, whose team was 5-7, said the players have worked "their tails off" and want to get back into the routine that sent them to bowls.

... Purdue was 3-9 last season, but returns its entire starting offensive line.

That clearly will be the strength of the team.

"We're definitely in shape enough for it," center Robert Kugler said. "I felt like we did a pretty good job with it last Saturday in our scrimmage, and we demonstrated it can be a weapon for us."

... Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, on rebounding from a 33-17 Citrus Bowl loss to a ranked Missouri team: "Coming off the bowl game, we had some momentum even though we lost the game. I think the momentum came with the disappointment of not winning and getting close."