Harrison: Did the Badgers get the right fit?

Posted Dec 19, 2012

Wisconsin and Barry Alvarez have found their man, and it's a bit of a surprise. How does the hiring of Gary Andersen fit into the culture that has been built in Madison?

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

Analysis of Wisconsin's Hiring of Gary Andersen

So Wisconsin has found itself a head football coach.

There are many storylines to reflect on here, and the hire might be just fine in the long run, but many will be curious to see how Gary Andersen's offensive style works in Madison after there has been a culture set in Madison by the very man who pulled the string on this hire, Barry Alvarez.

Under Alvarez, a struggling Wisconsin program morphed into a physical and bruising style of play on both sides of the ball. Alvarez got and developed some buffet busters, put them on the offensive line, nabbed some talented running backs, and built pieces around it. The result has been a couple of decades of winning, championship football.

It works--er worked.

While Andersen has shown that he can build a winner by turning Utah State into a solid program, and arguably one of the most underrated program in the country, he's gone about it in a little different manner. He's done it by asking: "Do you want a little butter with that spread?"

Yeah, the Aggies have been physical, most notably on defense, and the offense has been more than fine, but it has been a spread-you-out type of attack with often a dual-threat quarterback calling the shots. That is a stark contrast from what the name brand Badger means to everyone.

So where does the program go from here? It's unlikely that Andersen will change the philosophy that has earned his paychecks to date, so you can bet that a spread look will be coming to Madison in at least some shape or form. That leaves us with many questions. What does that mean for an offensive-line built on imposing its will and running down-hill at opponents? Will Wisconsin now go after more spread, dual-threat QBs to fit into the scheme? Will Andersen be able to recruit enough talent to overcome the culture shift that will likely occur?

That all--of course--remains to be seen, but this move isn't as shocking as it appears on the surface. Many thought that Alvarez would bring a "Wisconsin guy" to the show that knows the values and stream of consciousness that has been built. But then you think about the Russell Wilson factor.

When Wilson came to town, the Badger offense was more dynamic, more exciting, and more able to take that next step. You see, it's quite possible that staying with the status quo just isn't cutting it with Alvarez. Big Ten titles are great, but as competitive as Alvarez is, you can bet he wants the Badgers to graduate to that elite program status. The type of status that could potentially bring a national title run or two to town.

And that's where this hire comes into play. Andersen brings a style more closely aligned with Wisconsin of 2011. A year in which two long passes at the end of games derailed an opportunity to play for a national title. That Badger team was good enough to play for it all and make a game of it. It was good enough because its offense could go flip the switch by spreading things out with a dual-threat quarterback, and then shifting to 4x4 mode and running down-hill. Andersen fits the potential of getting that back.

So maybe, rather than questioning where this hire came from, we should trust Alvarez. Maybe, just maybe, this hire was designed to go further than making a sound ripple in the college football pool. Quite possibly, it was Alvarez doing a cannonball in the deep end to have everyone take notice that he aims to make a splash that'll get the attention of the nation.