Wisconsin Football Recruiting: Gary Andersen Proves His Mettle with First Class
Gary Andersen just earned his first nickname in my book: Super Glue. While some defensive back in Georgia is about to get angry I stole his Twitter handle, Andersen earned the sticky distinction after national signing day this year.
He kept a very good recruiting class together despite every reason for it to splinter, fracture and shatter after Bret Bielema's surprise move to Arkansas. Word has it that none of Andersen's recruits had his letter of intent stolen by family members either. The Razorbacks to their credit did pull in a very strong class that Rivals.com has ranked 26th nationally.
When the holy grail of the recruiting calendar came to a close Wednesday, the Wisconsin fax machine was worn out with 17 commitments and relatively little drama. The lone surprise of the class came when 3-star athlete Marcus Ball chose Arizona State over Wisconsin despite a soft verbal commitment. Aside from Ball's flip, the day was a success to layman and recruitnik alike. Andersen was very quick to defer praise to running backs coach Thomas Hammock and former Badger Ben Strickland for their efforts in his press conference, but don't let the new head coach downplay his feat.
Coaching changes can effectively spell disaster for recruiting classes. When Bielema took off from Madison, he did manage to take safety Tiquention Coleman with him—but that was about it. Four-star defensive linemen Darius Latham de-committed long before Andersen touched down, and 4-star safety Tyler Foreman was a surprise commitment but not a surprise de-commitment. In-state stars Alec James and Chikwe Obasih, though, both seemed to be soothed by the new guy in their living rooms. Andersen then turned his attention to building on the class' nucleus by signing the top JUCO quarterback in the land in Tanner McEvoy.
These elements combined to form what has effectively become Andersen's first real victory as the new face of Wisconsin. Recruiting is a contact sport in itself, and the former Utah State coach came to play despite little time and resources to endear himself to commits, untapped recruits and the entourages that accompany them. Wisconsin has never been a recruiting power and almost seems to relish in championing players with more guts than stars.
Andersen showed he could accomplish a lot in five weeks. Imagine what he can do in a year.
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