Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema took another step towards completing his coaching staff by naming Matt Canada as the Badgers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Tuesday. Canada spent last season in the same role at Northern Illinois, helping the Huskies to an 11-3 record, a MAC championship and a victory in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
“Matt has a terrific history as an offensive coordinator and has excelled at developing quarterbacks throughout his career,” Bielema said. “I know he is very excited about running a pro-style offense and handling a game the way we typically have at Wisconsin. I think this is a great hire for us and I can’t wait for him to get to work with our coaches and players.”
Last season, Canada worked for former Badger defensive coordinator Dave Doeren and directed one of the most explosive offenses in the country. Northern Illinois finished among the top 12 in the country in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense. The Huskies joined Wisconsin as two of the five teams in the country to average at least 230.0 yards rushing and passing last season.
NIU’s quarterback, Chandler Harnisch, was a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete and was named honorable mention All-America by SI.com. He finished ninth in the country in total offense, averaging 328.2 yards per game.
“I’m truly excited for the opportunity to come to Wisconsin,” Canada said. “It’s a program that I’ve followed closely for a number of years. I’ve always been impressed with their tradition, especially offensively with their style of play, and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
“In this process, I’m putting together a staff that will come from different directions to come together to play football the way Wisconsin has traditionally played,” Bielema said.
Last year marked Canada’s second stint with Northern Illinois. He spent six seasons (1998-2003) as an assistant coach at NIU under former head coach Joe Novak, working with the NIU running backs (1998-2000) and quarterbacks (2001-02) before taking over as offensive coordinator in the Huskies’ breakthrough 2003 season.
At Northern Illinois, Canada was part of the staff that revived the Huskie program, from a team that was 2-9 in his first season of 1998 to the team that upset Maryland, Alabama and Iowa State en route to a No. 12 Associated Press and No. 10 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) ranking in 2003.
Canada coached players whose names fill the Huskie record books, including current Atlanta Falcons’ running back and 2003 second-team All-American Michael Turner, and fellow thousand-yard rushers William Andrews and current Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Hammock. The Huskie offense under Canada also featured current Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Ryan Diem and former New York Jets and Tennessee Titans wide receiver Justin McCareins.
Before returning to Northern Illinois in 2011, Canada had spent the last seven years at Indiana, where he coached the Hoosiers’ quarterbacks each season, became passing game coordinator in 2005 and 2006, and served as offensive coordinator for the last four years.
Canada’s quarterbacks at IU (Ben Chappell, Kellen Lewis and Blake Powers) hold the top three spots in single season touchdowns, yards, completions, attempts and completion percentage. In four years as IU offensive coordinator, the Hoosiers had an All-American wide receiver (James Hardy), three first-team All-Big Ten receivers, an all-conference left tackle and an all-league quarterback (Lewis). Chappell led the Big Ten in passing yards, completions and attempts in 2010 while setting the Indiana single-season records in all three categories.
Lewis set the Indiana school record for career passing touchdowns and established new single-season marks for passing yards, passing touchdowns and total yards as the 2007 Hoosiers scored a school-record 412 points under Canada's direction.
A 1993 graduate of Indiana, Canada began his coaching career as a student assistant (1992-93) and graduate assistant (1994-95) at IU. He made his full-time coaching debut in 1996 at Butler University, where he oversaw the quarterbacks and wideouts before moving up to offensive coordinator in 1997.