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Canada's club: New coordinator won't stray from Badgers' identity

ON WISCONSIN <b>Matt Canada spent last season coaching one of the nation's top offenses at Northern Illinois.</b>
Matt Canada spent last season coaching one of the nation's top offenses at Northern Illinois.

Jan. 17, 2012


MADISON, Wis. -- While Matt Canada will bring his own personality to Wisconsin's offense, the vision will remain the same. What you see -- a pro style attack -- is what you'll get from the Badgers' new offensive coordinator.

"We're all different, and we all have our own unique ways of coaching,'' allowed Canada, who has coordinated offenses at Indiana and Northern Illinois in two different tours of duty.

"But there's a brand of Wisconsin football that we all understand and know and it's based upon what was built and what has been here, and we're going to continue on with that.''

To avoid any confusion over where he stands philosophically, Canada added, "We're going to run that offense and use the talent that we have and also the talent that we can recruit to.''

Citing the "unbelievable tradition of offensive linemen, running backs and tight ends'' that have made up the brand, Canada acknowledged that UW coach Bret Bielema made it clear what he wanted.

"No question, that was certainly the parameters that he set for me,'' Canada said. "I've looked at the program for a long time and I've understood what it stood for.''

From this standpoint, Canada believes that he's a good fit for the Badgers.

"I'm certainly aware of the talent we have and what Wisconsin was built on,'' he reiterated. "I understand that we're going to be a very physical team that runs the football and takes care of the ball.

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"Coach (Bielema) and I are on the same page. We're going to continue to do the great things that they've done here and we're going to score points.''

One of Canada's strengths has been maximizing the skills of players, ranging from tailbacks Michael Turner and Thomas Hammock to quarterbacks Ben Chappell and Chandler Harnish.

After coaching him at Northern Illinois, Canada now will work alongside of Hammock, who just completed his first year on the UW staff as the running backs coach.

"Getting to work with him again is awesome,'' said Canada, who also has a working knowledge of Wisconsin's new wide receivers coach, Zach Azzanni, from the recruiting trail.

"We were both in the MAC for awhile (Azzanni at Bowling Green) and I've studied film on the way his kids played. His wideouts played so hard and were very tough and great blockers.''

Asked about his play calling, Canada said, "Each game is different. But we've certainly tried to be creative when we can be and when we have to be.  We take pride in the way we move the ball.''

True of any workplace, Canada has experienced a steady evolution in his craft, which has extended from school to school, team to team, and head coach to head coach.

"Ultimately,'' he said, drawing on the common thread,  "we've taken great pride in scoring points in whatever way or fashion that we can with the talent that we've had.

"Every job has been different. Every year has been different. Our job as play-callers and coaches is to try and put the players in the best positions to make plays.''

Finding advantageous matchups and exploiting them is a critical element to Canada's fundamental thinking on offense. "We will find a way to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses,'' he repeated.

That's not unlike Paul Chryst's approach in assessing and utilizing personnel. Canada is cognizant of Chryst's legacy, too.

"He set the bar as one of the great offensive minds in our game,'' Canada said.

Former Indiana coach Bill Mallory was the earliest influence on Canada. Mallory epitomized old-school values -- the school of hard knocks, a physical brand of football.

"Coach Mallory is the reason why I am a coach,'' Canada said.

Not only did Mallory open the door to the profession for Canada but he encouraged him to heed his passion for the sport and follow his heart. He told Canada, "If this is what you love, go do it.''

Canada joins staff as Badgers' offensive coordinator
Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema took another step towards completing his coaching staff by naming Matt Canada as the Badgers' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Tuesday.  |  Full Release

Canada got a similar message from his former NIU mentor, Joe Novak, another old-school practitioner (now at Minnesota) who has always taken pride in developing tough, hard-nosed players.

"I learned how to be a coach from Coach Novak,'' Canada said.

There have been many such influential people in his life, including former Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo. "One of the smartest people I've ever been around,'' he said. "I learned so much from him."

At Indiana, Canada also came under the wing of the late Terry Hoeppner, who died from brain cancer in 2007 -- "He was taken away from us too soon,'' he said -- and Bill Lynch, who replaced Hoeppner in Bloomington.

In sum, Canada said, "I've taken a little bit from everybody I've worked for.''

That includes current NIU coach Dave Doeren, the former Badgers defensive coordinator. How did Doeren react to Canada telling him that he was leaving for a job at Wisconsin?

"Dave understands, he was there, he knows what a great place it is,'' Canada said. "Dave and I are good friends and he was awesome about it. He understands our business.''

Not that it makes it any easier to leave; because it doesn't, Canada agreed.

"It's never easy to wrap things up (at one school),'' he said of moving on to another program.

Especially, he noted, since "we had a special year'' at Northern Illinois.

But Mallory's words, to paraphrase, still apply: if this is what you want, go after it.

"This is a place,'' Canada said of Wisconsin, "where I've always wanted to be and coach."

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