Lucas at Large: For Hammock, new faces mean new opportunities for familiar faces

Hammock_Thomas_Purdue_2011.jpgRunning backs coach Thomas Hammock, for one, is no stranger to offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who coached him at Northern Illinois.

"The greatest compliment a player can give to a coach is to recommend him,'' said Hammock, a former 1,000-yard rusher who had to give up football because of a heart conditioning.

"There were times when I was a player where I didn't understand why we were doing things or why I had to run 50 yards and everyone else ran 20.

"But as you get older those things that he (Canada) taught me at a young age carried over as far as the type of person and coach that I am now.''

By the sounds of it, Hammock is already on the same wavelength with offensive line coach Mike Markuson. That is critical since Hammock is responsible for coaching Wisconsin's running backs.

"He loves to run the ball which I'm sure my guys are going to be happy about,'' Hammock said. "I'm anxious to get started on putting together a playbook and building our offense for next season.''

Having Montee Ball return for his senior year is a tremendous starting point, of course.

"My philosophy is not going to change and I explained that to Montee,'' Hammock said. "You have to go back out there and earn it - it's the 'What have you done for me lately?' approach.
    
"I know Montee is going to take the challenge, along with some of other guys. You've got James White, who wants a bigger piece of the pie and Melvin Gordon and Jeff Lewis competing on a daily basis.

"You definitely have to have a plan of attack and I expressed that to the whole group. I talked to them about everyone starting from ground zero, which is no different from a year ago at this time.''

How much, if at all, will the Badgers expose Ball to contact during spring practice?

"We practice so hard and with so much intensity,'' Hammock said, "to me that can override a lot of things to where maybe Montee doesn't have to get tackled in the spring.''

The Badgers have been known for a high practice tempo that precludes scrimmaging.

"I told Montee, 'You're going to get a lot of reps this spring because you came back (to Wisconsin) to get better; you didn't come back to just stay the same,''' Hammock related.

"The only way to do that is go out there every day and do the work to improve.''

What about working Ball and White into the same formation?

What about maximizing the depth at the tailback position?

"We lost a lot of key pieces from last season (Russell Wilson, Nick Toon, Bradie Ewing) so you try to find ways to fill that production,'' Hammock said.

"I thought the way we (the running backs) were used in the passing game was really, really good. We went from 30 catches to 60 and we can go from 60 to 90. That's an area we can help the team.

"Maybe in different ways that involves using guys out of the backfield or lining up at wide receiver. All that stuff is down the line as we continue to develop and mold the playbook.''
 
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