Andersen is a logical hire for Wisconsin

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Sunday afternoon, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told
reporters and fans not to panic and that he would hire a good coach.
He delivered on his word late Tuesday night, hiring Gary Andersen from
Utah State to replace Bret Bielema, who left two weeks ago to coach Arkansas.
According to Jon McNamara of, the hire was in line with the
direction and history of the UW program.
"It seems like it a fit that makes sense for what Alvarez was looking for,"
McNamara said. "Barry started with defense, Bielema was defensive minded and
Andersen is as well.
"It is building on the blocks that are already laid out at Wisconsin. It is a
logical hire on paper."
Over the past four seasons, Andersen has been instrumental in one of the most
impressive turnarounds in college football. He won 18 games in his last two
years at Utah State -- the same number of games as two other coaches accumulated
in Logan from 2002-08.
In 2010 Utah State nearly defeated Oklahoma -- losing 31-24 -- and beat
BYU for the first time in 17 years. The next season, USU was an onside
kick away from knocking off Auburn and then made its first bowl
appearance in 14 years. This season, the Aggies went 11-2, won the WAC, defeated
Utah and came within a missed field goal of defeating Wisconsin.
In late November, Andersen issued a statement designed to quiet rumors that
linked his name to other jobs, saying, "I plan to remain the head football coach
at Utah State University."
As the coaching carousel spun, those intentions changed once Wisconsin came around.
"He came very well recommended," McNamara said. "It is more than just the
turnaround at Utah State that attracted Wisconsin to him."
Andersen has a history of strong defensive teams from his time at Utah in 2008
though this season when Utah State produced a top-15 unit.
The questions surrounding Andersen and his fit in Madison surround his offensive
philosophy and ability to recruit the Midwest.
"I think Gary Andersen is a very good hire from a football standpoint although I am a bit concerned making a spread guy into a power run guy, but I think he's a good enough coach to make that transition," Rivals national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said.
"As a recruiter, he's a bit unproven because he's spent most of his career in Utah, but in talking to kids he's recruited in recent years, they rave about the way he works with kids and parents so I think he will fit in fine. At Wisconsin, it's more about finding kids and developing them than loading up on four- and five-stars, and he has proven he can do that."
Wisconsin has traditionally been a power running team and that figures to remain
part of the formula -- Utah State has finished sixth and 25th in rushing the
last two seasons -- but with a possible mixture of spread passing.
McNamara said that Alvarez left little room for gray area on the subject.
"From the start Barry has not hid the fact that he will want the new coach to
stay similar offensively to what Wisconsin always runs," McNamara said. "I don't
think that will be an issue for Andersen but maybe he will want to mix in more
of the pass than usual.
"I think a lot of that comes back to how and what Wisconsin can recruit. Finding
big, fairly athletic lineman in the state to run pro-style is a lot easier than
finding the athletes to run a five-wide spread."
Josh Helmhodt, the Midwest regional recruiting analyst for, said that
the hire is a good one for the long term but may have short-term questions.
"From a recruiting standpoint there are very few, if any, players, parents, and
coaches in this region who even know who Gary Andersen is," Helmholdt said. "I
like the hire for Wisconsin and think he will be successful but he will need to
get to work on keeping this class together."
The current recruiting class of Wisconsin has 17 commitments -- and has only
lost one player, Tiquention Coleman of Milledgeville (Ga.) Georgia
Military Academy since Bielema left.
The two most likely players to look around at other schools are Westerville
(Ohio) South runningback Marcus Ball and Brookfield (Wisc.) East
defensive end Alec James.
Both Ball and James are three-star prospects that remain committed to UW but
each has expressed an interest to visit elsewhere.
Ball has been offered by Michigan and recently took a trip to Ann Arbor.
James has seen his stock rise with Oregon, Michigan State,
Florida State and Clemson expressing interest.
McNamara said that outside of those players the rest of the class should stay
"There are not many guys wavering," he said. "I think this class will stay
intact, it is Wisconsin and kids want to come and play here. I don't think this
should shake up the core of the class."
Moving forward, how Andersen assembles his staff could push the program forward
or push players away.
"No matter who he has on staff, Andersen will not have a hard time recruiting
Wisconsin," McNamara said. "That said, he doesn't really have any relationships
with any of the current staff members and so he may come in and clean house and
bring in all of his own people.
"The assistants he has right now have all been recruiting Utah, Arizona and
California. Can that staff suddenly come in and recruit Illinois, Ohio, and
The most compelling member of the current staff is running backs coach
Thomas Hammock.
McNamara said that Hammock is well liked and is a solid recruiter and added that
there may be a push to go and bring Charlie Partridge -- who left to join Bielema's staff at Arkansas -- back to Madison.
"The head coach isn't the guy out pounding the pavement in recruiting he is just
the closer," McNamara said. "Some of these guys, namely Parker and Hammock,
could really keep some ties to the Midwest for the program."
Helmholdt said that is where the staffing process can become a wait on judgment.
"People will have to familiarize themselves with him and his staff," Helmholdt
said. "Coaches in the region will have to try to look into his schemes and until
they are familiar with him it could slow things down.
"Obviously that is a short term standpoint but overall I think this will be a
good hire."
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