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Badgers hire NFL veteran Hank Poteat as cornerbacks coach

Badgers hire NFL veteran Hank Poteat as cornerbacks coach

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Hank Poteat has coached cornerbacks at Toledo since 2017. He served as an assistant under UW coach Paul Chryst at Pitt during the 2013-14 seasons.

For as much familiarity as Hank Poteat has with the University of Wisconsin football coaching staff, there’s still a good amount of learning to do as he joins the Badgers.

“This is a whole new defensive staff,” Poteat told reporters Thursday. “Most of the defensive staff, I don’t know.”

Poteat was announced Thursday as the Badgers’ new cornerbacks coach, reuniting him with head coach Paul Chryst, for whom he served as a graduate assistant at Pittsburgh in 2013-14. It also signals a splitting of duties between Poteat and defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, who had also coached defensive backs.

Poteat is in the 11th year of his coaching career after playing 10 years in the NFL. The Pittsburgh alum was previously the cornerbacks coach at Toledo and has coached at Kent State and Kentucky Christian. Five of the Badgers’ assistants — offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph, special teams coordinator Chris Haering, defensive line coach Ross Kolodziej, tight ends coach Mickey Turner and Poteat — coached with Chryst at Pittsburgh.

“When you see familiar faces, it always helps with the transition. I think that’s (true) with anybody,” Poteat said. “Seeing a familiar face, knowing that you have some support. My wife, she knows a lot of the coaches’ wives. Just having that support allows you to feel comfortable.”



He won a Super Bowl with the 2004 New England Patriots after joining the team late in the season and played for five teams in his NFL stint. He tallied 199 total tackles and four interceptions in his time as a pro. Playing corner, kick returner and special teams in the league gives Poteat a depth of knowledge to share with his players, and could be an asset to UW’s special teams.

Poteat's hiring will take some responsibilities off Leonhard's plate, though Leonhard will continue to coach safeties, the position he was a three-time All-American at for UW before playing 10 years in the NFL. Poteat said he was excited to work with Leonhard and although the two never played together in the NFL, he’d heard good things about Leonhard. He said they share philosophies on and off the field.

“Having the similar backgrounds, being on the same page when it comes to dealing with young people, mentoring them, developing them as football players,” Poteat said. “I was excited and wanted to get the opportunity to work with him.”

Leonhard was offered the Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator position late last week, but turned it down. Now, he’ll have a smaller position group to tend to as he runs the defense, one which has been among the nation’s best.

In his five seasons on staff, the last four as defensive coordinator, the Badgers have the third-best scoring defense in the FBS (17 points per game allowed), the second-best total defense (294.5 yards per game allowed), the second-best passing efficiency defense (109.7) and the second-best third-down defense (30% conversion rate allowed).

Poteat inherits a cornerback group with a good deal of experience, especially in starters Faion Hicks (33 games played) and Caesar Williams (35), but one that struggled at times last season. Downfield completions hurt the team against Iowa and Northwestern, and the corners struggled to keep contain on Wake Forest’s wide receivers in the first half of the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

“I’ve been spending a lot of my time with Jim watching one-on-ones, watching games,” Poteat said. “I look forward to being able to just add some tools to their tool belt. I’m here to help them get better and here to help coach Leonhard, whatever he needs me to do.”

In the past, Poteat said he’s mainly recruited Michigan, southern New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, and he said he has a good base of relationships there.

When recruiting cornerbacks, he said he looks for a player who has an aggressive mindset capable of being aggressive in coverage.

“Guys that have the mentality to be able to process and not allow circumstances or situations to dictate how they approach the game,” Poteat said. “Sometimes different things, setbacks can cause guys to not play with the same confidence or have that same approach.”

Poteat’s addition to the staff comes after a couple of shakeups this offseason.

Jon Budmayr, a former UW quarterback who had been the quarterbacks coach for the past three seasons, left the Badgers to become the offensive coordinator at Colorado State. Former defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield left for the same position at Vanderbilt. Kolodziej, who was the program’s head strength coach, was replaced by one of his assistants, Shaun Snee.

Budmayr’s QB position will not be filled, as UW has filled its allotment of assistant coaches.

“I'm excited to be working with Hank again,” Chryst said in a statement. “He’s a tremendous person and a great coach. I’m really fired up for our players to get the chance to be coached by Hank because I think he’s a terrific teacher and will really connect with our guys.”

Badgers defense has chance to remain one of nation's best

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