Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin Badgers football program made a few notable changes to the coaching staff this offseason. Some were out of necessity, and others in pursuit of better production.
Gone are wide receivers coach Mike Brown, who took the same job at Notre Dame, Colin Hitschler (Alabama), and Jack Bicknell Jr., who was re-assigned to a different role within the program. All three jobs have been filled—and announced on social media.
On Wednesday, Badgers assistant coaches Alex Grinch (safeties), AJ Blazek (offensive line), and Kenny Guiton (wide receivers) were made available to the media for the first time since getting hired.
Here’s a look at what each Wisconsin Badgers assistant had to say.
Wisconsin Football Co-Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch
To replace Colin Hitschler, Wisconsin football brought in Alex Grinch, former USC and Oklahoma defensive coordinator, to fill the open role of safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator.
Some Badgers fans weren’t in love with the co-defensive coordinator title, given that he faced a midseason termination due to the Trojans defensive struggles, allowing 34.4 points per game.
“I think you’re always learning,” Grinch told reporters. “I think what happens is when you don’t have success that you expect that you can circle that and highlight that and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But it also creates a chip on your shoulder.
“I’m not sure there’d be anyone in the country with a bigger chip than what I have…Sometimes, when you don’t have success, then that becomes circled as if that’s the only season that you’ve ever coached.”
Grinch has previously served as the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Washington State (2015-2017) and the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ohio State (2018). He was also the defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Oklahoma (2019-2021), continuing in the same role under Lincoln Riley at USC (2022-2023).
That said, Grinch boasts an impressive track record over his career, being a four-time nominee for the Broyles Award at different stops, which recognizes the nation’s top assistant coach.
Part of what drew Grinch to Wisconsin was the strong brand of the football program and the respect it commands across the country. He’ll now have a chance to work with a veteran group of safeties comprising Hunter Wohler, Kamo’i Latu, Austin Brown, and Preston Zachman.
“The blue collar approach to things is very evident just in my short time here.”
Wisconsin Football Offensive Line Coach AJ Blazek
AJ Blazek joins the Wisconsin football program as the Badgers’ fourth position coach in as many years.
“Can’t express how excited we are as a family to be a part of the history here at Wisconsin, but also to help move it forward and take the jump forward from where we’re at right now on the o-line and help the offense,” Blazek told reporters.
His coaching journey includes stints at Fort Hays State (2005-2008), Winona State (2009-2012), Western Illinois (2013-2015), Rutgers (2016-2018), North Dakota State (2019-2020), and Vanderbilt (2021-23).
“As a new coach, you’ve got to acknowledge what’s been done good here so they know they’re a good group and then here’s the couple things we can fix,” Blazek said. “There’s some schematic little wrinkles that I think you can clean up. There are fundamental things that we can clean up and pass pro at times, but the biggest one is just building that confidence in them to where that they take the field with a swagger.”
Wisconsin football returns starting tackles Jack Nelson and Riley Mahlman, along with offensive guard Joe Huber. That’s a solid foundation to build around. The Badgers will also have Jake Renfro back, who is the leader in the clubhouse, to start at center.
Badgers Wide Receivers Coach Kenny Guiton
Another important Wisconsin football coaching hire came with the Badgers hiring wide receivers coach Kenny Guiton from Arkansas.
Guiton served as the WRs coach at Arkansas for the past three seasons and took on the role of interim offensive coordinator when Sam Pittman dismissed OC Dan Enos after eight regular-season games.
Luke Fickell and Guiton have had a prior relationship dating back to when he played quarterback at Ohio State. Fickell was OSU’s co-defensive coordinator, linebackers coach, and interim head coach during that time.
“The versatility, man,” Guiton told reporters. The room right now, I think we’ve got a lot of versatility with a lot of guys that can do different things and step in and pick up some slack.
“We got some guys that got some really good production in the past, and then we got some guys that I think are ready for their moment, but they got to develop a little more and step up and be ready when that time comes next fall.”
Guiton takes over a Wisconsin Badgers wide receivers room that brings back a handful of contributors, such as the team’s leading wideout Will Pauling, Bryson Green, and some intriguing young options like Vinny Anthony, Trech Kekahuna, CJ Williams, and Quincy Burroughs.
“I’m really big on the tough and disciplined and being nasty,” Guiton said. “I’ve played against this school a few times, and that’s what you think of them when you come in to play them [Wisconsin]. You know, you’re getting into a dog fight, and so that’s who I want to be, and that’s how the leadership will be in that room.”
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