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New Coach Reset: Wisconsin's Gary Andersen

By Tom Fornelli | Staff Writer

Gary Andersen has been coaching for over half his life
Gary Andersen has been coaching for over half his life. (Provided by Wisconsin)

Over the next several weeks, we will be catching up with the coaches preparing for their first season in a new location and/or role. From recruiting to staff moves and personnel decisions, we will take a look at how the first months have gone and preview the 2013 season ahead. Today's subject: Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen.

The Hire

Coaching experience: Andersen, 49, has been coaching for 25 years, starting with his hiring as an offensive coordinator at Southeastern Louisiana in 1988, during the school's failed attempt to bring back football (which it eventually did in 2003 after 17 years with no team). Of those 25 years, only five have been spent as a head coach, as Andersen spent the 2003 season leading Southern Utah and then four seasons at Utah State from 2009 to 2012. He's 30-31 in his head coaching career but is coming off an 11-2 season at Utah State last season.

Reason for the change: Coming off its third consecutive Big Ten title Wisconsin didn't think it would be conducting a coaching change this winter, but shortly after the Badgers' 70-31 win over Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship, Bret Bielema announced he was leaving the school to take over at Arkansas -- a move which led to the first true coaching search in Madison since Barry Alvarez was hired in 1990. All these years later it was Alvarez doing the hiring.

The First Months

2013 Recruiting Class Ranking (according to 247Sports composite rankings): No. 38 nationally, No. 6 in the Big Ten.

Notable Prospects: It wouldn't be a Wisconsin recruiting class without a running back, and four-star RB Corey Clement was rated as the No. 71 overall prospect in the 2013 class. Clement wasn't the only big name in the class, however, as the Badgers also brought in four-star defensive end Chikwe Obasih and junior college transfer quarterback Tanner McEvoy. The 6-foot-6 McEvoy chose Wisconsin over schools like Florida, Oregon and West Virginia, and could make his way onto the field this fall.

Off-field: Since stepping into the job Andersen hasn't made a lot of noise -- unlike the man he's succeeding -- but has taken steps to familiarize himself with the Wisconsin faithful. Even if that means he needs to serve burgers at a local fast food joint.

Fan reaction: By and large Andersen's hire has been accepted by the fan base. To Andersen's advantage was the fact that many Wisconsin fans were upset at Bielema for leaving the way that he did, which made Bielema the villain and Andersen the conquering hero. Something that was evident in the results of this Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel poll following Andersen's hire.

Looking Ahead

Advantages: The good news for Andersen at Wisconsin is that the blueprint for success in Madison has been laid out before him. When your athletic director is the same person who helped turn Wisconsin from a lower-tier Big Ten team into a perennial conference power, that's a fantastic asset to have in your corner. And while Andersen will make some tweaks to what we are used to seeing from the Badgers on offense, the team has the talent in place already to make sure that the transition to a new offense is smooth.

Toughest challenge: Gary Andersen has been coaching for a quarter-century, but aside from his first job, a brief stay at Southeastern Louisiana, every single one of the years Andersen has coached were in Idaho, Utah or Arizona. Which means that Andersen isn't familiar with coaching in the Big Ten, or recruiting in the Big Ten. That's something that could make the transition a bit bumpier off the field than on. Andersen will need to rely on assistants with knowledge of his new recruiting base until he can establish roots of his own.

2013 Outlook: Now, Wisconsin may have won its third-straight Big Ten title last season, but the fact of the matter is that the Badgers actually finished third within their own division. And now that Ohio State is once again eligible for postseason play, a fourth-straight Big Ten crown won't be nearly as easy, especially since the Badgers must travel to Columbus this season. However, aside from a road trip to Arizona State in September, Wisconsin actually has a favorable schedule in 2013. Which means that while expecting Gary Andersen to step right in and keep the Rose Bowl Train rolling would be a bit unrealistic, Andersen's first season at Wisconsin should be a successful one.

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