Wisconsin football has been all about running the football for the better part of a quarter of a century. It's who the Badgers are, and when Thomas Hammock left for the Baltimore Ravens, there was a big hole to fill.
On Monday, the Badgers officially announced former Georgia running back and Marshall running backs coach Thomas Brown to the same post in Madison.
Whomever the Badgers hired had to be the right one, because that coach would be replacing a well-liked and very important coach to the Badgers program.
Not only was Hammock a young and rising star on the coaching circuit, but he was also Wisconsin's biggest asset on the recruiting trail. It didn't matter where they put him—New Jersey, Maryland, Florida or Georgia—Hammock was going to find a way to get commitments.
UW head coach Gary Andersen had a few weeks to complete the search, given Wisconsin state law, but it didn't take him long to figure out what he was looking for came in the form of Brown.
According to Mike Lucas' article announcing Brown's hire on the school's website, Andersen saw everything he needed to in one visit to Madison by Brown to:
When we got Thomas here on campus, he handled himself very well, very professionally. He wants to be here in the worst way, which is very important. I want somebody who really wants to be the running backs coach at Wisconsin and wants to be involved with the Badger football family. And he really wants it. For me, personally, I’ve got to be able to look at the kids in our program and tell them, ‘This guy is going to take care of you and he’s going to be there for you.'
What may surprise most is that Brown has so little coaching experience, especially given Hammock's role as recruiting coordinator and coach. He is just 27 years old and has only been a running backs coach for two years, spending a year each at Chattanooga and Marshall.
This past year, Marshall had a 1,000-yard back in Essray Taliaferro, who amassed 1,140 yards and averaged 5.2 yards a carry for the Thundering Herd.
The Herd had a triple-threat backfield, with three running backs rushing for over 500 yards—joining Wisconsin and six other FBS teams to accomplish that feat.
Brown's name may be familiar to some for another reason, though, as he was a four-year starter at Georgia. He finished his career fifth on the Bulldogs' career rushing list (now sixth) as well. So, on the field, he brings the knowledge of how to play the position and play it very well.
After a brief NFL career, Brown went the coaching route and has proven to be a good leader, even as a young coach.
More than the NFL experience or anything else Brown did as a player, his hire has a heck of a lot to do with what he brings to the table in the area of recruiting.
“He has been a great recruiter in whatever area he has recruited in, and we want to get into Georgia and into the Southeast,” said Andersen, via Lucas' article.
Being a native of Atlanta, Ga., certainly helped Brown's case, especially since the Peach State is quickly becoming an important one for the Badgers.
In his national signing day press conference, Andersen made it very clear that the state of Georgia was going to be very important to the future of the program as long as he was around.
"Georgia will also open up for us, and we'll continue to have one coach at least in Georgia full time," said Andersen.
You don't make that type of commitment lightly, given the resources a move like that takes for a school from the Midwest.
In Brown, the Badgers have a guy with a proven track record of success in recruiting in Georgia. Brown was responsible for getting eight players to sign with the 2013 class at Marshall. Now, with the motion W on his chest, it will be interesting to see what he is capable of in this relatively new location for Wisconsin football.
While some may question hiring a young coach with so little experience under his belt at a program in the position the Badgers are in, the players and coaches seem to be completely on board with the hire.
The small track record that Brown does have shows he has the tools available to become a very good coach under Andersen.
Brown's hire could be the difference between pulling under-the-radar players and competing for the top talent in the state of Georgia. Add in Wisconsin's reputation for being a great place for running backs to flourish, and the Badgers and Brown seem to be a logical fit.
Now, it's about seeing the fit work out on the field, and with Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement, there is plenty of talent to work with in 2014.
*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for Big Ten football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.
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