Badgers' Doeren prepares for TCU, new job at Northern Illinois
At least then he’ll have only one full-time job.
Doeren is performing double duty while preparing his Badgers to face No. 3 TCU’s formidable offense, led by four-year starting quarterback Andy Dalton and featuring talented skill players in an unpredictable scheme.
When other coaches get a minute to relax in Los Angeles, Doeren immediately gets on the phone to make calls for his new job at Northern Illinois, which hired him as its head coach two weeks ago. He’s recruiting, finalizing his first Huskies coaching staff and making contact with school officials—all in his spare time.
“I’m here. I’m here big-time,” Doeren said in a downtown hotel ballroom before ducking outside to check his messages. “I just don’t have down time. A lot of coaches can go back to their room and sit down and watch bowl games or play with their kids. That’s when I get on the phone.”
Doeren’s players are grateful he stuck with them long enough to face the unbeaten Horned Frogs, because they realize the magnitude of their challenge. After spending the fall contending with the Big Ten’s power-based offenses and big lines, Wisconsin must adjust its entire game to meet TCU’s smaller, quicker approach to football.
“It means a lot for him to stay with us,” safety Jay Valai said. “We know he’s got another heavy-paying job coming up, but one thing we do at Wisconsin is finish. He’s showing a lot of character to us.”
Jerry Kill left Northern Illinois for Minnesota on Dec. 5, shortly after the Huskies’ loss to Miami of Ohio in the Mid-American Conference title game. Northern Illinois searched for only a week before replacing Kill with Doeren, the 39-year-old former Drake player who coordinated the Badgers’ formidable defense for the past two seasons.
Kill took off for Minnesota before the Huskies appearance in the Humanitarian Bowl against Fresno State on Dec. 18, but Doeren decided to finish out the season with the Badgers, who were back in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 11 years. The Boise bowl game was left to Tom Matukewicz, who will be Doeren’s linebackers coach next season.
Matukewicz will have a perfect record to hang over his boss: He led the Huskies to a 40-17 victory over Fresno State before rejoining Doeren on the recruiting trail.
Doeren doesn’t see the extra work as an imposition. After all, December is always busy for schools fortunate enough to reach bowl games.
“I usually recruit for Wisconsin during bowl preparations,” Doeren said. “The difference is now I’m recruiting for Northern Illinois. I’ve got a group of assistants already at work there, and I’m just doing what all of us would normally have to do—just a little more of it.”
Doeren, a former graduate assistant at Southern California, recruited a big chunk of the Wisconsin defense that was particularly sharp down the regular-season stretch, forcing 16 turnovers during four straight blowout wins to wrap up its share of the Big Ten title. Doeren’s players exhibit impressive loyalty to their coordinator, but they’re also happy their success led to his departure.
“He’s a father figure to me, so I knew about that Northern Illinois job before it went down,” Wisconsin safety Aaron Henry said. “It was kind of like a father telling me that I was ready to move on by myself, that we were ready to go on next season without him. It was an emotional decision, but I’m glad he made it.”
Although schoolwork in Madison is wrapped up for the semester, Doeren has his players focused on their final exam.
TCU scored more than 43 points per game this season, including 153 in its final three games. The Horned Frogs averaged 261.2 yards rushing per game, while Dalton has 41 career victories and unflappable pocket poise.
“It’s a huge challenge, not just for me,” Doeren said. “The players have to understand that (Dalton) has seen everything—every defense, every look we can give them. You’re not going to trick this guy into making mistakes. You’ve got to force him to do things he doesn’t want to do, and that’s when maybe you can force some mistakes. That’s the chance you have.”