It is true that many of the recruits in the 2013 football recruiting class cannot be directly attributed to new head coach Gary Andersen. But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have a hand in the process.
Andersen is confident that he and his staff have put in the time to properly fill the open slots.
“When we were at the Rose Bowl practices and locked ourselves in the room and really evaluated the young men that were already committed and then looked at the practices, and then we were able to build a sheet of our needs list,” Andersen said when he met with the media on Wednesday at Camp Randall Stadium.
“When I say needs list, the most important factors of next year's team — that's the most important process — but also to ensure quality football players for the future throughout all four classes.”
The first-year head man was quick to give credit to assistant coaches Thomas Hammock and Ben Strickland for keeping the bulk of the class in-tact after Bret Bielema’s departure in early December.
“Thomas Hammock and Ben Strickland did an amazing job through the transition of initially just calming the waters if you will, when all the commits had been on campus, allowing us the opportunity for the coaching staff to come on and build relationships and start over only from the standpoint of who we are as coaches,” Andersen said.
One thing is for certain, Andersen will hold this class, which is ranked 38th in the nation by scout.com, to the same high standards that he has for the rest of his players.
“This team, the way they work, the way they prepare, they want to be great. We'll use that term a lot,” Andersen said. “You'll see that on T shirts and wristbands, but it's simply going to say "Be Great." That will be the expectation of this crew in three years is to be great.”
These expectations are derived from the types of players that Andersen believes he has targeted, regardless of where outsiders rank this crop of commits.
“When we look at a young man and we spend time evaluating him, it's a special opportunity when we offer a scholarship to the young man at University of Wisconsin. It means he's a fit,” Andersen said.
“ It doesn't just mean he's a great athlete, it means he wants to exceed at a high academic standard. It means he wants to be in the community of Madison and represent himself in a way a student athlete is supposed to do it at the University of Wisconsin, and it comes with a lot of obligations.”
Much has been made about Andersen’s history of recruiting a decent number of junior college players, a practice that has not been the norm in Madison. While the coach won’t deny the potential benefits of junior college athletes, he insists that they won’t always be his primary targets.
“We're never going to wholesale junior college kids. We're not going to go out and sign 12 junior college players, that's not going to happen,” Andersen said. “ But junior college players, a lot of times — I was a junior college player myself — there's a chip on their shoulder because they didn't receive that opportunity for whatever reason presented itself at some point in their lives to not be in a Division I program. There are a lot of scenarios. I like that chip on kids' shoulders.”
When it comes to who deserves the credit for locking down this particular class, Andersen isn’t particularly concerned.
“It will never be mine, it will always be ours. First of all, I'm just a small part of this process, but I think it is our recruiting class,” Andersen said. “There was a lot of work done before we got here. I think it was quality work. Bret (Bielema) and his staff definitely did a nice job of identifying young men and put them in a position to be very understanding of what the University of Wisconsin is.”