Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It's the sort of news that typically flies under the radar: Wisconsin fills out its revamped defensive coaching staff by hiring a non-AQ assistant , in this case UCF defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable, to coach the Badger linebackers. Not that big a deal, right?
Not in Conference USA, where the Knight defense Huxtable spent 2010 coaching just so happened to be the best, most dominant single unit in the entire conference (Chad Morris's Tulsa offense possibly excepted). Huxtable's charges finished the year 15th in the country in total defense at just 315 yards allowed per-game, and wrapped up their season playing as well as any defense in the nation, holding high-powered attacks from SMU and Georgia to a total of 13 points.
The end result of that brilliance was a C-USA title and a Liberty Bowl championship for UCF, despite the Knight offense only ringing up 27 points of its own in those games. Depsite the loss of six senior starters on that defense, with revelatory true freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey ready for an even bigger sophomore campaign, plenty of talent still available on both sides of the ball, and -- maybe most importantly -- Huxtable in place to reprise his exquisite defensive play-calling, the Knights would have been the easy choice to repeat as C-USA champions in 2011.
Now? Well, UCF will likely be the runaway league favorites anyway. But living up to those expectations will be dramatically more difficult with a realignment of the defensive staff simultaneous to the loss of those six starters. That goes double, too, in a conference with a collection of offensive minds as sharp as SMU's June Jones, Southern Miss's Larry Fedora, East Carolina's Lincoln Riley, etc.
In the big national picture, it's just Wisconsin hiring a position coach. But for the Knights and potentially all of Conference USA, it could be a story much, much bigger than that.