Wisconsin is expected to announce Friday that former Utah State coach Gary Andersen is its next head coach, and Andersen seems to be the guy Alvarez was looking for all along. Andersen turned around a dreadful Utah State program in four years with a defensive-minded system that he learned under current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer at Utah with amazing results.
Going 27-24 in his four years, Andersen's program 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. His program beat BYU for the first time in 17 years in 2010 and defeated in-state rival Utah for the first time since 1997 this past September.
Having turning down heavy interest from California, Colorado and Kentucky, Andersen because the second straight football coach Alvarez has hired with a defensive background. Coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history and walking into a great situation with new facilities at Wisconsin, Andersen will not go through this new adventure alone without some familiar faces.
Who likely is coming
According to Salt Lake Tribune beat reporter Tony Jones, will be bringing defensive coordinator and Broyles Award finalist Dave Aranda, offensive line coach T.J. Woods and safeties coach Bill Busch. Aranda joined Utah State in January and reportedly turned down offers from Texas Tech and Cal to say with Andersen. The job at California was eventually given to Wisconsin's linebackers coach Andy Buh.
The Aggies are a defensive-minded unit, ranking eighth nationally in scoring defense, allowing an average of 15.4 points per game, and 15th in total defense, surrendering 322.1 yards per game. Wisconsin loses four starters from its defense next season, meaning Aranda will have plenty to work with. The only potential big difference is Aranda and Utah State ran a 3-4 defense while Wisconsin executes a 4-3.
Woods is entering his fourth season at Utah State and second in charge of the Aggies' offensive line. He also coached the Aggies tight ends and special teams his first two years. In 2011, the Aggies established new school records for total offense (5,945 yards), rushing yards (3,675), total points (437) and total touchdowns (60).
Utah State's offense led the WAC and ranked sixth in FBS in rushing offense (282.7 ypg), as well as second in the conference and 20th in the country in total offense (457.3 ypg), along with first in the league and 23rd in the nation in scoring offense (33.6 ppg). The offensive line led USU to ranking second in the WAC and 33rd in Football Bowl Subdivision in sacks allowed, a significant improvement from 2010 when they were ranked 71st in the country.
Busch spent four seasons on the Utah State staff, including two seasons as associate head coach and special teams coordinator, as well as coaching the USU safeties. Busch spent his first two seasons at Utah State as the defensive coordinator.
As special teams coordinator in 2011, Busch's punt unit ranked fourth in the WAC and 29th in the NCAA FBS with a net average of 38.20 yards per punt. USU's kickoff return unit was also among the national leaders in 2011 under Busch, ranking third in the WAC and 39th in the FBS with an average of 22.80 yards per return.
As a team, Utah State's net punting average improved 49 spots in the NCAA FBS rankings from 2010, ranking No. 29 in 2011 with a 38.20 net average after ranking No. 78 in 2010 with a net average of 35.49.
In his third year coaching USU's safeties in 2011, Busch helped the Aggie defense rank first in the WAC and 50th in the NCAA FBS in total defense (366.23 ypg), second in the WAC and 31st in FBS in rushing defense (127.7 ypg), second in the WAC and 53rd in FBS in tackles for loss (5.92 pg), third in the WAC and 48th in the FBS in pass efficiency defense (125.58), third in the WAC and 59th in FBS in sacks (1.92 pg), third in the WAC and 68th in FBS in scoring defense (33.62 ppg) and third in the WAC and 76th in FBS in passing defense (238.46 ypg).
Who else will come or stay?
Assuming Aranda takes the defensive coordinator job, Woods taking the tight ends and special teams and Busch takes the linebackers job (a position he handled at Nebraska from 2004-07), Wisconsin has openings at offensive coordinator, running back, receivers, offensive line, defensive line and the secondary.
Reports are that Andersen will retain running back coach Thomas Hammock and secondary coach Ben Strickland. Hammock has made good inroads on the East Coast, successfully recruited four-star tailback Corey Clement and has been given a lot of credit for developing Montee Ball, Melvin Gordon and James White. Hammock will likely be pursued since Andersen's running back coach, Mike Sanford, was hired as Indiana State's head coach Friday.
Strickland has built tremendous relationships recruiting the state of Wisconsin and would be a key asset to Andersen. He also knows the program better than any coach, moving up the ranks from walk-on to captain to graduate assistant. Keeping Miller on staff would also be wise, as he is well respected by his players and is a rising coach in the profession.
A source indicated to Badger Nation that Alvarez is recommending to Andersen that he reach out to strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert, who played under Alvarez, and co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge to try to keep them on staff.
If Partridge decides to leave despite calling his tenure at Wisconsin "the best five years of my life," Andersen is expected to bring Utah's defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a to coach the defensive line, who coached two seasons in Logan before coaching at his Alma mater. Kauha'aha'a (pronounced cow-ha-a-ha-a) produced two first-team all-Pac-12 players, a Morris Award winner and a bowl MVP last season and his position accounted for over 30 tackles for loss and half the team's total sacks (15.5) in 2011.
Andersen will likely have to hire an offensive coordinator, as he has endorsed his OC, Matt Wells, for his old job. Ironically, Wells reportedly turned down the North Carolina State offensive coordinator job, which now belongs to Wisconsin OC Matt Canada.
Andersen also will likely have a suitable replacement for Wisconsin's vacant director of football operations job, as his brother, Mark, works as Utah State's director of football operations, and has worked with Andersen at pervious stops in Utah and Southern Utah.
Recruiting an issue?
In addition to filling out his first staff, Andersen must secure Wisconsin's 2013 class and establish a foothold in the Midwest. Despite not recruiting the Midwest, Andersen is hailed as a tremendous recruiter and has a staff that has recruited the state of California, Texas and Florida (all areas UW has had success in past year).
USU cornerbacks coach Kendrick Shaver and wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight both recruit the state of Florida while Shaver also recruits Georgia, which UW has tried to establish a presence in the last three cycles.
An examination of the 2012 Utah State roster reveals the Aggies have 53 players (48.2 percent) from the state of Utah and have 28 players (25.5 percent) of the roster who started out at junior colleges. With Wisconsin having signed only one junior college kid in Bielema's seven seasons, it's unlikely the Badgers will change from their current course.
Wisconsin has built a roster that has won three straight conference championships on a roster that is rooted in the Midwest with sprinkles from California, Florida, the East Coast and Texas. If Andersen lives up to his billing as an A+ recruiter, can continue UW's Midwest momentum and use his staff's connections in the talent-rich areas of California and Texas, the Badgers will be in very good shape.