To get the answers, Badger Nation reached out to Fox Sports Next West Recruiting Analysts Brandon Huffman and Jake Worthen.
A lot of people are talking about what a dynamite recruiter Gary Andersen is. What have been your impressions of him over the last four years recruiting to that school?
Huffman: One thing he has done a really good job of recruiting in-state. Utah is one of those deceptively talented states. There have been a lot of good players in the state over the last several years that I would put it on par with Arizona and Washington as the second-most fertile recruiting state in the West behind California.
What Andersen has done a good job of is really being aggressive offering guys in-state earlier than BYU and Utah. Obviously BYU has a different approach with recruiting, doing more things nationally, and Utah is a little more patient. Utah State has been aggressive in-state and hit the West Coast pretty hard. Utah State does a good job of identify those kids early, offering them and sometimes those kids are going to be recruited by BYU and Utah and want to play at a BCS level.
The thing that always stood out to me about Andersen is that he knows the state of Utah, he knows that if a kid is good freshman and sophomore year that he's going to be good later and he's a very good evaluator of talent. He doesn't always get those guys, but he's good at identifying them early, which helps him get some kids that turn out to be pretty darn good.
Worthen: One thing I will say is he is a solid evaluator. I think Utah is underrated as a state. The three big states out West are California, Arizona and probably Utah as the third biggest producer of talent. What he has established is being able to really evaluate the talent really well and find the guys that have slipped through the cracks that have talent but haven't gotten noticed. Based on the way Utah State has built their program and gotten guys to the NFL, Andersen is a great talented evaluator of the guys who were undersized, undervalued or didn't have the right makeup at the time.
Do you think he can successfully recruit the Midwest despite not doing so with Utah State? Can he have that same time of impact recruiting the Midwest?
Huffman:I think so and I think the reason is that he has got that eye for talent. An example would be Urban Meyer, who has that same eye for talent but didn't really start recruiting the Midwest this year. I think that if he becomes comfortable with that region and hires a staff of aggressive recruiters he'll be fine. In a state like Wisconsin, it'll be a lot easier to recruit than a state like Indiana where there isn't a lot of high school football talent. On top of that, Indiana doesn't have a tremendous tradition in terms of football, but Wisconsin has a track record. Over the last couple years, Wisconsin has been able to recruit the West Coast in addition to the Midwest, so they have done a great job spreading its wings a little bit. Andersen is a younger coach, has sons that are either playing in college or being recruited, so he knows the process. You may not see a huge push in 2013, but I don't think it will be a big obstacle in the 2014 class.
Worthen:I wouldn't be surprised if he continued to recruit Utah hard, which I know would be different for Wisconsin fans, but he is so tight into that community and knows how good the football is that it would be a good home base. I always believe that recruiters are recruiters and if you have that knack as a salesman and sell what you are doing, that translates to anywhere. If you can evaluate talent and sell what you are doing, you'll have success anywhere, so I think he'll bring that to Wisconsin.
Who are some of the best recruiters on his current staff; a staff that could see a lot of coaches end up in Madison?
Huffman: Dave Aranda (defensive coordinator) is one of their very good recruiter. He's one of their best state recruiters, but you don't hear his name a whole lot like the other coordinators because of the amount of responsibilities he has. What helps him is that he has a lot of West Coast ties. He has recruiting ties in southern California, he coached out in southern California and so he knows that landscape. He's a younger guy, and those tend to be the more aggressive recruiters. I've talked to Utah defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a (pronounced cow-ha-a-ha-a) in the spring and he's another young, aggressive recruiter. He is a big part of Utah recruiting along with the Hawaiian Islands and the Pacific Northwest. He's another guy who identifies well with recruits because he has a kid that is being recruited. Coaches coach and recruit a little differently when they have kids that age being recruited.
Worthen:Chad is a Hawaii guy, so I'll be real anxious to see what the affect he has there. He came out of Baldwin High School in Hawaii, which has a big-time linebacker in Jordan Hoiem and he's really tight with the school. It'll be interesting to see if Wisconsin can make an impact there because Hawaii and Utah are both places where having a Polynesian connection is a big deal and to be able to sell that. There are some things that will carry over, but I don't foresee him having problems recruiting guys.
Can the kids Andersen is recruiting to Utah State fit in at Wisconsin or does he have to go to another level of recruiting talent?
Huffman: I think he is going to have to step up a level of recruiting. He got a lot of good guys to Utah State who are Division 1 players, but I think there was a ceiling with those players and recruiting that area. Utah State has good prospects, but the guys that go to BYU go on a two-year mission trip and come back stronger and more fully developed. He didn't have that luxury at Utah State. I don't see anybody that he has committed right now to Utah State that is a Big Ten level player.
Worthen: With the way he has recruited Utah, it's not just the kids he's getting but the ones he is identifying. There is a kid named Ammon Barker this year that Utah State offered in June and nobody touched him until UCLA, Utah and Oregon offered him. He's heading to UCLA. Probably half of the kids who play Division 1 get their first offer from Utah State. I think he does a good job in building relationships and identifying talent, but he'll have to step up the level of talent he is recruiting and finding those guys that will be successful at Wisconsin. There was a lot of times though that Andersen was really close on a kid and then Utah or BYU would come in late to the picture and steal the player. He won't have to worry about that recruiting Wisconsin too much.
If Kauha'aha'a came to Wisconsin, could you see three-star defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (who has been recruited by Kauha'aha'a and lists Utah as a high favorite) have interest in Wisconsin?
Huffman: I could certainly him going with Kauha'aha' because there is certainly that solid relationship between the two of them. Lowell could probably use a change of scenery and not follow in the footsteps of his older brother who is a junior linebacker at Utah. There won't be any pressure. I know that Kauha'aha'a has Lowell as his number one target and the guy he wanted going back to the spring. He is certainly the caliber of player that could play in the Big Ten.
Where do you think the strength of Andersen's staff at Wisconsin is going to be on the recruiting trail?
Huffman: Like any school in that conference, you are going to have to focus on your region. Not exclusively, but primarily in the Midwest. I think the Midwest for Wisconsin will be their main focus, but coaches do realize that you can get some good players out of the West Coast every year. Michigan did that under Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr and now they are doing it under Brady Hoke. Urban Meyer has done it at Florida and Ohio State. Penn State never really ventured in the West Coast, but now they are on the West Coast. Minnesota has recruited the West Coast. There are so many schools in the Midwest going after the same caliber of player that schools are branching out. Wisconsin has started to branch out to the West and the East, and I would imagine they are going to target five-to-seven guys a year out here because they have that ability of having a winning tradition and putting players in the NFL.
Worthen: My prediction is that they'll hit the Midwest but stick to their old recruiting grounds and expand over time. With the guys he is bringing, Utah and the West Coast will be a big part in what they do. I've watch that happen with Mike Leach at Washington State, as his primary recruiting ground is Texas because that's what he's familiar with.
On a scale of 1 to 10, where do you rank this hire for Wisconsin in terms of how Andersen has coached and recruited?
Huffman: Not knowing what Wisconsin was all looking for as a coach, I would give him no worse than a 9. The only reason I say that is that I still think there are some programs that can get an accomplished head coach at a BCS level. The only thing that keeps me from a 10 is he was so established at one school and one program. On the other hand, he spurred two BCS schools – California and Colorado – with West Coast ties and a pretty fertile recruiting area for a school that is a little bit more of an unknown for him.
Worthen: I think it's an 8 or a 9. I think he is one of the most respected coaches in terms of developing players. It's not a huge splash hire, but he's built a successful program. He's taken a lot of players who didn't have a huge upside and turned them into good talent. I think that's all you really need to ask for as a fan base: finding good players and really developing them when they get on campus.