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New Ravens RBs coach Thomas Hammock comes highly recommended

The arrival of new running backs coach Thomas Hammock should provide some energy to the Ravens' backfield based on his background at Wisconsin.

The Badgers manufactured one of the strongest rushing offenses in college football, setting a single-season school record last season with 3,689 rushing yards and ranking eighth in the nation with 283.8 rushing yards per game.

Hammock agreed to a deal with the Ravens on Wednesday, according to three sources, and is now set to replace Wilbert Montgomery to try to provide a boost to the NFL's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Hammock coached Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist who led the nation in rushing once, is the NCAA all-time rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns leader and won the Doak Walker Award. After Ball was drafted in the second round by the Broncos last year, Melvin Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards last season as James White gained 1,444 yards for the Badgers.

"What Thomas has done on the football field you all know," Wisconsin coach Gary Anderson said during a news conference Wednesday to announce the Badgers' recruiting class. "He's had some very talented players, and he's made them very good football players. He's been a big part of making them good football players. He's a tremendous communicator. He's been a big part of the offense."

A former running back at Northern Illinois who worked in tandem with future Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers running back Michael Turner, Hammock's football career was cut short as a senior due to a heart condition. He has previous coaching stints at Minnesota and Northern Illinois.

In the past three seasons at Wisconsin, the Badgers have ranked third nationally with 5.7 yards per carry, fourth with 121 rushing touchdowns and seventh in rushing yards with a 251.1 yards per game average.

Now, Hammock heads to the NFL. The Ravens beat out an AFC North team and an NFC North team for Hammock, according to sources.

"It was important for Thomas to be able to get in front of his players and communicate with them," Anderson said. "It was a very difficult decision, but Thomas has made that decision. He has meant a lot to Wisconsin. And let me just say this: Wisconsin means a lot to Thomas Hammock and it always will. This is something that Thomas has wanted for a long time.

"Some people want to coach professional football. It has been a driving force of his for quite a few years and it is where he sees the best spot for him and his family, which I have the utmost respect for, the decision that he has to make. It all comes with a little bit of difficulty, but we'll move on. We'll be just fine. And he'll move on, and he'll be just fine."

awilson@baltsun.com

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