The Big Ten conference is home to some of college football’s top programs nationwide and will only improve once USC and UCLA join in 2024. Programs like Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin football have elite head coaches on the sidelines and several talented up-and-coming assistants who keep everything running like a well-oiled machine.
Each season Athlon Sports examines who the Big Ten’s top assistant coaches and coordinators are — exploring their ascensions — and identifying them as potential future head coaches across college football.
The Badgers’ new-looking coaching staff under Luke Fickell was well-represented this season, with four assistants selected as rising stars.
Let’s examine which Wisconsin football coaches were selected.
Wisconsin Football Has Four Assistant Coaches Named Rising Stars by Athlon Sports.
Phil Longo, Wisconsin Football Offensive Coordinator & QBs Coach
The first assistant coach selected as a Rising Star by Athlon Sports should come as no surprise. It’s Wisconsin football offensive coordinator and QBs coach Phil Longo.
Longo was arguably the biggest coaching hire of the offseason for the Badgers. After years of being a ground-and-pound football team, Longo was hired to install the Air Raid in Madison and revive the Badgers stalling offense. He has a proven track record at every stop — and his recruiting efforts to rebuild the QB room were masterful.
In his time at UNC, Longo’s offense ranked first in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and passer rating in the ACC. On top of that, the Tar Heels finished second in the conference in rushing touchdowns.
He’s most definitely a rising star.
Mike Tressel, Wisconsin Football Co-Defensive Coordinator & ILBs Coach
Wisconsin Football has a new defensive coordinator in 2023, and his name is Mike Tressel. Although he’s not Jim Leonhard (few people are), Tressel is a proven commodity across college football.
Tressel spent over a decade with the Michigan State Spartans working with the linebackers and running the special teams. His big break came under Luke Fickell at Cincinnati, where he led the Bearcats to No. 1 overall finishes in the ACC for scoring defense, sacks, passer rating, passing yards, and total defense in 2021-22.
He intends to change the Badgers defense and make them more multiple moving forward — and will lead an exciting new-look defense in Madison.
Greg Scruggs, Defensive Line Coach
Another one of Luke Fickell’s offseason hires with previous ties named to the list was defensive line coach Greg Scruggs.
Scruggs will take on the defensive line coaching duties after a year spent as an assistant in the NFL with the New York Jets. Before his stint in the NFL, Scruggs spent four years under Coach Fickell at Cincinnati as the defensive line coach for two seasons (2020-2021) and served as the director of player development from 2018-2019.
Scruggs holds experience at the pro and collegiate levels, making him a valuable asset for the Wisconsin football defensive staff.
Colin Hitschler, Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach
Hitschler joined the Badgers coaching staff in January 2023, following a successful stint as an assistant under head coach Luke Fickell at Cincinnati, where he began as a quality control coach in 2018 and earned a promotion to safeties coach and, later, co-defensive coordinator.
His coaching acumen is one thing, but what Hitschler is doing as a lead recruiter cannot be ignored. Wisconsin’s new safeties coach has been the lead man on seven of UW’s 20 commits in the 2024 recruiting cycle, including four-star recruits Dilin Jones, Kevin Heywood, Omillio Agard, plus three-stars Raphael Dunn, Ryan Cory, Kahmir Prescott, and Gideon Ituka.
“The tradition of success on the East Coast here [Wisconsin] and the ability to play for these fans and in this environment sells itself,” coach Hitschler told BadgerNotes.
With his strong recruiting ties out East, capacity to connect with families, and proven ability to identify and develop talent, he could play a key role in helping the Badgers get back to competing at the highest level. Hitschler is the definition of a rising star.
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