Gary Andersen to Wisconsin
Nice hire ... now go recruit
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According to the Wisconsin State Journal,
the Badgers will hire Utah State's Gary
Andersen as their next head coach.
Great ... can he recruit?
"We recruit to a type" has become code for "we sort of can't get the really, really good guys to come to our school," and while Wisconsin certainly hasn't suffered over the last several years despite the lack of four-and-five-star recruits, the world is quickly changing. More to the point, the Big Ten Leaders division is quickly changing.
Wisconsin has an Urban problem, and Andersen will be in charge of solving it - fast.
Lost in the ability to win with the midrange prospects is how Barry Alvarez turned the program around by making Wisconsin a destination, complete with a pitch-perfect selling point around the idea that something special was happening. He stole a slew of top prospects from New Jersey – most notably, Ron Dayne – and turned Bucky into a player in the Big Ten by getting just enough great talents fill the gaps around some very, very good offensive linemen.
Of course, player development has meant everything, taking lightly regarded prospects like Joe Thomas, Brandon Williams, Scott Tolzien and P.J. Hill – along with scores of linemen – and turning them into tremendous college players, but there's a hard ceiling on how good the Badgers can be without getting more of the top recruits. What worked over the last several seasons won't fly anymore, especially in the division – Ohio State is going to be back, and it's going to be even stronger.
The Buckeyes are stockpiling a devastating array of talents thanks to Urban Meyer being Urban Meyer on the recruiting trail,
and Michigan is loading up with Scout.com's current No. 1-rated class. Wisconsin has had more speed and athleticism over the years than it's been given credit for, but there will quickly be a pure talent issue when it comes to dealing with the Big Two going forward. For a school that has been there, done that with the Rose Bowl, it's going to be hard to
start doing more while becoming a true national title contender without being able to get some of the same guys Meyer and Brady Hoke are going after.
That isn't to say that Andersen can't do it, but he hasn't had to be a top salesman before, getting the job done at Utah State by relying on a slew of excellent JUCO transfers and properly utilizing the talents he was able to get for the team's spread attack – and there's the other issue. The tippy-tappy finesse spread offense need not apply for a job in Madison.
Alvarez has made it very, very clear that he has no interest in seeing Wisconsin go Oregon, and he has also said time and again that his program is going to continue relying on a big, bruising offensive front that blasts away with a devastating running game. Andersen might have pulled off a miracle by turning around a woeful Utah State program by putting together a tough, hard-nosed defense, but he was also able to overcome the team's talent deficiency by utilizing the warp speed he had at running back in Robert Turbin and Michael Smith. The spread is the great equalizer, but to get this job, Andersen had to sell Alvarez that he was going to change to the Badgers' style and not the other way around.
Yes, Utah State did employ the spread, but Andersen, a former center, also did a special job with his offensive line, highlighted by his own center, Tyler Larsen, who has been among the most technically sound blockers in the nation over the last few years. Andersen will make sure that Wisconsin's O lines are still fantastic, but his background is as a defensive coach, meaning the team will keep the nasty persona, but in a different way. Basically, Andersen should be able to immediately turn hard offensively with little changing from the Bret Bielema days.
But is it enough now to simply keep things going the way they were? The harsh reality is that Wisconsin came up with a tremendous win over Ohio State a few years ago and won two thrilling Big Ten championship games, but it's not like the team has dealt with the SEC West on an annual basis. The top non-conference wins of note are non-existent, and the last two Rose Bowl losses exposed the team for being unable to handle the spread in the biggest games.
Oh yeah, and Braxton Miller tagged the Badgers in the Buckeyes' last two meetings with them.
It's time Wisconsin started acting more like a "we've been to the Rose Bowl three straight years" powerhouse on the recruiting trail, because it has to. If it doesn't, get ready for the Ohio State vs. Michigan invitational on an annual basis in the Big Ten championship.
Gary Andersen, welcome to Madison. Now go sign Derrick Green.