I'm going to be honest with y'all here. I feel a bit lost. Normally in the coaches piece I could do extended bro puns. I had an angle. And it was funny.
Now, now I've got nothing. Nothing but trenchant analysis. And in the world of internet spots blogs WHAT IS THAT GOOD FOR. I just don't know.
But I'm going to try anyway.
As anyone not living under a rock (or in Nebraska) knows, Wisconsin experienced a rather big coaching shuffle this off-season. Head bro-seph Bret Bielema left Wisconsin to yell "woo pig sooie" and experience frequent beat downs from Nick Saban. He took a few assistants with him, and several more left for other gigs.
Barry Alvarez responded by going out and hiring Gary Andersen as head coach, out of Utah State. Prior to Andersen's stint at Utah State, the Aggies were a miserable team, posting just 15 wins over the course of six years. After two rocky four win seasons, Andersen posted a seven win season and an 11-2 season in his most recent effort. He was also one of the better recruiters in the region, despite coaching at a low-profile school.
Andersen is first and foremost a defensive coach. Prior to his head coaching job at Utah State, he was the defensive coordinator on the 2008 Utah Utes squad that coasted to victory in the Sugar Bowl.
Some have voiced concerns about Andersen's ability to transition to coaching at Wisconsin on the offensive side of the ball. At Utah State, Andersen ran a spread oriented offense, which is just about the polar opposite of what Wisconsin runs. Andersen has publicly stated, however, that he isn't going to tinker too much with the way that Wisconsin works on offense. He does have a history of coaching a few solid backs, including current NFL player Robert Turbin.
While I have confidence in Andersen's ability to keep the Badgers on track, there's no doubt that coaching a new team at a new school is a challenge. But, all reports coming out of camp have been positive thus far - he seems to really connect with his players in a way that Bielema never did.
On the whole, I'm optimistic about Andersen. It's true there might be bumps along the road in the beginning, but he seems like a solid guy and well respected coach. His west coast contacts open up a whole new recruiting ground for Wisconsin, and if he posts victories, the Badgers could see a great improvement in the quality of their recruiting classes. The Badgers could have done a lot worse in replacing Bielema.
Also new this season is offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. Ludwig replaces Matt Canada, who left to take the same job at North Carolina State. Ludwig has been around the NCAA for quite some time, working in offensive coaching jobs for the past 18 seasons. Most of his career has been on the West Coast, where he's coached everywhere from Utah to Cal to San Diego State.
Andersen knew Ludwig from their time together at Utah. Ludwig was the OC when Andersen was the DC. Ludwig looks to continue the Wisconsin offensive game plan of a power run game and play action passing game, similar to what he did as OC at San Diego State last season. Much of what Ludwig introduced to SD State in the past two seasons came from studying game film of Wisconsin and meeting with former Wisconsin OC and now head coach of Pitt, Paul Chryst.
I like that Andersen and Ludwig have a long history together - it should make the transition a bit easier on the team. And, from what it sounds like, not much will be changing in the offensive philosophy which has worked pretty well for the Badgers of late.
Only one assistant coach on the offensive side of the ball stayed behind from the previous administration. Thomas Hammock, the RB coach, is still at Camp Randall. Given how crucial a well functioning run game is to the Badgers' offense, I'm thrilled that there will be coaching continuity here.
New assistants brought in are T.J. Woods (OL), Chris Beatty (WR), and Jeff Genyk (TE / Special Teams).
T.J. Woods will be the Badgers fourth offensive line coach since the 2012 Rose Bowl. While Bart Miller did a great job last year, I'm confident that Woods can continue. Woods is retaining the vast majority of terminology used by the OL last year, and he has a link to Bart Miller, having coached him as a graduate assistant at New Mexico. Woods came with Andersen from his staff at Utah State, so they clearly function well together.
Chris Beatty will be helming the receiver corps for the Badgers. Beatty formerly was the co-offensive coordinator at Illinois. While it's true that Illinois had a terrible offense last season, it's not like Beatty will be doing play-calling at Wisconsin. He previously has experience coaching both receivers and backs, so I'm all right with the hire.
Jeff Genyk takes over the tight end and special teams job. He's the second new hire for this position. The first guy Andersen hired, Jay Boulware, left not long after for a job at Oklahoma. Genyk is coming to Wisconsin from the special teams coaching position at Cal. He has also been an assistant coach at Northwestern from 1994-2003. Genyk has produced some great special teams performances in his time, and his long stint at NU should provide some familiarity with the conference.
Behind the head coach spot, the most intriguing new hire for the Badgers is defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Aranda comes from Utah State, where he was the DC for the Aggies. Aranda is making a point of emphasizing takeaways and speed on defense. Given that Wisconsin finished a dismal 105th in successful takeaways last season, this is a welcome change.
Of course, the most significant change coming out of the new DC position is the switch for Wisconsin to a 3-4 defense. The Badgers will be the only team in the B1G running a 3-4. The 3-4 isn't common in the B1G because of the traditional run games, but it could be an asset against the increasing number of mobile QBs and spread offenses.
It's also possible that the increased pass rush ability coming out of the 3-4 will cover up some of the flaws inherent in an inexperienced secondary, which is one of the biggest weaknesses of the Badgers going into this year.
Obviously, this could all blow up in Wisconsin's face, but done well it has the potential to catch teams off guard and keep opposing offenses out of the end zone.
Bill Busch comes in as Wisconsin's new secondary coach. Busch is another former Utah State coach, albeit one with Wisconsin ties. Busch was a graduate assistant under Barry Alvarez from 1993-1994, and seems quite happy to be back in Madison. Last season, the Aggies were ranked in the top ten in the country in their pass efficiency defense, which gives me hope that Busch can lead even the largely inexperienced Wisconsin secondary to great things.
Ben Strickland will be splitting secondary duties with Bill Busch, though he'll be largely focused on the cornerbacks. Strickland is a holdover from Bielema's team, and I'm glad he's stuck around.
Chad Kauha'aha'a is the new defensive line coach. Kauha'aha'a formerly coached with Andersen at Utah State, but is coming to Madison from the same coaching position at Utah. Kauha'aha'a is perhaps best known for being a significant part of Star Lotulelei's development into a top NFL pick. I think he'll be a good fit into the system, and should work well on getting the line adjusted to the 3-4.
The only UW coach that tweets is Ben Strickland (@UWCoachStrick). His tweets are a mix of motivational sports quotes, news on the Badgers and other sports, and pictures of brats. I like it.
There's also the hilarious fake Gary Andersen account, @BeingAndersen.
B1G 2013 | WISCONSIN WEEK
MONDAY | Cocktail Party Preview
TUESDAY | Shirts
WEDNESDAY | Wisconsin's Smartest Guys in the Room
THURSDAY | Potluck
FRIDAY | Keeping the Enemy Close