Alvarez returns, readies Wisconsin for Rose Bowl

Alvarez returns, readies Wisconsin for Rose Bowl

MADISON, Wis. (AP) Barry Alvarez's birth certificate says he's about to turn 66. The bounce in his step on Wisconsin's practice field suggests differently.

Trading his red sports coat, slacks and loafers for sneakers, sweat shirt and a whistle, the Badgers' athletic director has balanced trying to find a new head coach with preparing Wisconsin for its third straight Rose Bowl appearance.

``It's fun to be around these kids,'' Alvarez said Sunday following Wisconsin's fourth bowl practice. ``It's just a great group of guys. It's fun for me to be around this staff, be a little closer to this staff. It's been enjoyable.''

Alvarez, whose birthday is Dec. 30, will lead the Badgers on Jan. 1 against No. 8 Stanford. Wisconsin has lost the last two Rose Bowls.

Two days after his hand-picked successor, Bret Bielema, accepted the head coaching job at Arkansas, Alvarez announced earlier this month that he would end a seven-year absence on the sidelines.

Wisconsin's seniors asked Alvarez to coach them in their last game. It was a natural decision for them to choose Alvarez, who led Wisconsin to all three of its Rose Bowl triumphs (1994, 1999, 2000). He has an 8-3 record in bowl games, the best mark in college football history among coaches with 11 bowl appearances.

His players are responding to the energy. Shortly after the first practice under Alvarez, junior tight end Brian Wozniak tweeted that it was Wisconsin's best practice of the year, and subsequent players have agreed.

``They were shorter, more crisp and attacked the practice a little more knowing they were shorter,'' receiver Jared Abbrederis said. ``We were really getting after it and getting some good work in.''

Alvarez said he thinks he is close to finding a replacement for Bielema. Although he toyed with the notion of returning for the 2013 season - for ``like a day,'' he said - Alvarez has interviewed two candidates. Speculation is that South Florida coach Willie Taggart and current Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker have spoken to Alvarez, and he is expected to meet with another one this week.

An official announcement of the next head coach could come sometime this week.

``I feel good about the candidates we have interviewed,'' Alvarez said.

While Alvarez is having on the field, he has become irritated that he's lost five assistant coaches in the past week, most of whom were given hard deadlines to decide their futures.

Officially, Bielema has hired defensive coordinator Chris Ash and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge to the same position at Arkansas. Receivers coach Zach Azzanni (Tennessee) and offensive coordinator Matt Canada (North Carolina State) have also accepted other jobs.

The list is expected to rise, as reports surfaced Sunday that linebackers coach Andy Buh was going to become the defensive coordinator at California.

``I like for them to stay, but they had to protect their families,'' Alvarez said. ``A coach says, `You've got 24 hours to make this decision or the job isn't there,' they have to do something because I couldn't promise them that the next coach would retain them.''

When asked if he planned to make a run at some of those assistants when a new coach is in place, Alvarez didn't commit.

``We'll see when that time comes,'' he said.

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Chris Simms: Why Dwayne Haskins has 'Big Ben Roethlisberger-type talent'

Chris Simms: Why Dwayne Haskins has 'Big Ben Roethlisberger-type talent'

It did not take long for Dwayne Haskins to win approval from the media and the Redskins coaching staff in a short amount of time at OTAs. 

That excitement from the Redskins OTAs has reverberated across the country and made him the feature of NBC Sports' Chris Simms QB School series. There, the current NFL analyst and former NFL quarterback made big comparisons to the No. 15 overall pick Haskins to Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger. 

Simms was enthralled with the skillset that Haskins possesses and his potential. Citing his arm talent and the small mechanics of the 22-year-old, Simms thinks he has all the tools to be a top-tier NFL QB.

"He reminds me a lot of a big Ben Roethlisberger with his style of football play. [Haskins] arm is special, there's no doubt about that," Simms said. 

Comparing a rookie QB to a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback that has made six All-Pro teams is not too shabby. Roethlisberger has thrown for over 54,000 yards in his career with 363 touchdowns across his NFL career. They both wear No. 7, both played their college ball in Ohio, and both are known for their ability to hurl a football down the field. 

Some of the strong qualities of Haskins that Simms highlighted were his tight and quick arm motion, his controlled body rotation, and the accuracy down the field. At the same time, he pointed out that Haskins has a tendency to drop his elbow on passes, forcing his passes to sail high. 

"[Haskins] has Big Ben Roethlisberger-type talent and I know he's already wowed some people down there in Washington in his first few practices." 


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Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

Neil Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers, off the table for Wizards job

After Tim Connelly decided to re-join the Nuggets rather than take the Wizards' vacant front-office position, Washington has been forced back to the drawing board.

The Wizards have interviewed Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver, former Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and Wizards interim team president Tommy Sheppard.

In addition to those names, NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig reported the team could have interest in Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. 

That option was eliminated Friday when Olshey signed an extension to remain with Portland. 

With Connelly and Olshey off the table, there are fewer high-profile candidates left for the Wizards to consider as replacements for Ernie Grunfeld. 

Standig noted that Warriors assistant general manager Larry Harris could also draw interest from Washington. 

The franchise is running out of time to find their new front-office leader with less than a month remaining before the NBA Draft.