In an offseason with a lot of shocking moves being made in the coaching world, the move of Bret Bielema from Wisconsin to Arkansas has to rank right up there on the shocking meter. However, what's one man's past is another's future and the Badgers went out and hired a coach they knew a lot about in Gary Andersen.
He may not have been a huge, nationally known name, but he was a coach that put together an impressive resume and earned the respect of his future boss, Barry Alvarez, on the field in late September in taking the Badgers down to the wire in a 16-14 Badgers win at Camp Randall (a game in which I was personally in attendance for).
Needless to say no one could've seen him coming to Wisconsin to lead the program after that game, but here we are in January and Gary Andersen has begun to put his stamp on the Badgers as the next head coach. But, the question remains, can he sustain a program that is coming off of three straight Big Ten championships? If so he'll be a success, if not... well, I think we all know that answer.
So, do we see him sustaining the Badgers success or not?
Why We Like the Hire:
If you can take a program like Utah State from the depths of college football to the heights they reached over the past two seasons, ending with an 11-2 record that could've easily been 12-1 had the Aggies kicker not missed a chip shot 37 yard field goal at Camp Randall against the team he's now coaching, you've clearly got the coaching chops to win anywhere in the country.
He's also a coach that's good enough to know and work with the talent he has around him and available to him. Good coaches don't try to fix what ain't broken and at Wisconsin that means running the football and running it behind mammoth offensive lines.
Andersen is also a coach that will bring a similar perspective to dealing with his players that the Badgers should be familiar with, even if it's a bit different in style and that's huge considering he's inheriting a team that's loaded with something like 28 or 29 soon to be seniors and a big soon to be junior class as well.
Why We Don't Like the Hire:
The biggest reason to not like the hire? Well, perhaps the one area of concern is that Andersen is from Utah and has spent his entire life coaching in Utah. So, moving from the west coast to the Midwest has to be a learning curve. He has no relationship with high school coaches, players, or anything of that nature in the Midwest and it could take him some time to get in to homes where the Badgers have already had a door open to them.
On the field, well, he's spent the past few years running an offense that was based on the read-option and a running QB with a 3-4 defense - the exact antithesis of what Wisconsin is all about. So, there could be a lot of feeling out and transition for Andersen's philosophy and the way things have always been done at the UW.
What Kind of Talent Does He Inherit:
If there is a team that will have more returning top level talent on it with a brand new head coach, please point it out to me because I'm not seeing it.
How's this for starting out your career at Wisconsin - you get 6 of your front 7 back on defense and 7 of 11 starters back on that side of the ball overall. Of those 7 starters, they are all Seniors. I don't know about you, but I'd love to have that as my starting foundation to build off of. Especially a defense that ranked in the top 25 of every major statistical category last season.
On the offensive side of the ball he'll have three starting offensive lineman coming back and while he does lose star running back Montee Ball as a weapon to use, if there's one thing we know about the Badgers it's that they continue to churn out running backs like Alabama churns out national championships as of late.
Needless to say there is a lot of talent coming back to build around for Gary Andersen.
Yeah, But Can He Recruit:
Um, ask the numerous players that he's coached over the past four years that are now plying their trades in the NFL - including a stellar rookie this past season named Robert Turbin. Heck, ask a little known QB out of high school named Chuckie Keeton.
It's safe to say he's got an eye for talent and a keen eye for under the radar talent. Now, put that together with what Wisconsin is known for - you know taking little known 3 star recruits and turning them into NFL players - and you have a recipe for success if you ask me.
Andersen's track record at Utah State in recruiting circles speaks for itself and that alone should help to bridge any gap that may exist with him recruiting in the Midwest. As he says "if you can recruit, you can do it anywhere, to anyone."
We're about to find out if he can do it with major level prospects as well.
It's hard to see how this wasn't a good hire for Wisconsin. He's a guy built on winning and winning the right way - something that is a major emphasis of Barry Alvarez and the university he is the AD of. He's a proven winner at a school you're not supposed to win at or produce NFL level talent at on a year in and year out basis.
Yet, that's exactly what he did - win a lot of football games and churn out NFL talent on a regular basis, so while on a national scale Gary Andersen to Wisconsin may not be the name that comes to mind as the best hire of the coaching carousel, he well could end up as the most successful of the bunch when it's all said and done.
Final Grade: A -