Varsity - The Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics

Varsity - February 6, 2014

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14 // VARSITY February 6, 2014 BY MIKE LUCAS // UWBADGERS.COM LUCAS AT LARGE W isconsin head coach Gary Andersen did his part Sunday night to contrib- ute to the record-setting viewing audience (over 112 million) for Super Bowl XLVIII. After finally getting off the recruiting trail ― he was on the road for all but one day the last two weeks ― he watched Seattle beat Denver with a house full of his foot- ball players. "That was awesome to have the kids over," he said. "When you go re- cruiting at this time of the year, you only see them in passing because we're on the road so much." Beyond catching up with every- one in the few hours that they had together, and losing again in pool to wide receiver Kenzel Doe ("I can't beat him"), Andersen saw many things in the Seahawks' dominance that confirmed his beliefs on how the game should be played. "The ability for a quarterback to at least make you respect his legs is invaluable," he said, citing Rus- sell Wilson's mobility. "His ability to continuously throw on the run changes the way they rush you and the way they cover you down. It's a vicious weapon. "On the flip side, when you play man coverage on defense and you have a really good pass rush, even one of the greatest to have ever played the game (Peyton Manning) can't get anything going because he doesn't have the time. "That game was a defining mo- ment for a lot of the things that I believe in." Andersen is hoping that his 2014 recruiting class will not only shore up the offensive line but improve the skill level at cornerback, along with increasing the athleticism and play-making ability at wide receiver and quarterback. "We'll know in three years," he said. It all falls in line with an urgency to get better at throwing and catch- ing the ball on offense and pressur- ing and defending the pass on de- fense. And it took the UW recruiters into Georgia and Florida. "We had some big boy-fights in SEC country," Andersen said. The Badgers won some of those fights, too; thereby addressing some pressing needs, not the least which is team speed. On the overall class, he said, "I like it on paper." In general, he likes the numbers ― big numbers. "The first thing it does is stabilize our classes," he said. "When you get a big class like this, some are going to redshirt, some are not. We have to have a few of these freshmen come in and play for us." Last year, Andersen and his as- sistants faced an entirely different scenario upon inheriting prospects that had verbally committed to Wisconsin prior to his hiring. The challenge then was holding on to those players in the face of so much change. "This year, I'll say, has been a complete turnaround from a year ago," Andersen said. "We went through the whole (recruiting) cycle; we identified them early in the process and we've been with them for a longer time, we've been a year with these kids. "Last year, we were kind of scrambling around and piecing things together. "We were getting to know the kids in the program and doing what was best in recruiting ― all the stuff that you do when you're going through your first year." While the chain of command re- mained intact ― from the recruiting coach to the position coach to the recruiting coordinator to Andersen ― it was more efficient. "We did a good job of staying on the same page for the most part," Andersen said. "We understand where we're at, who we are and what the parameters are to be in- volved in the University of Wiscon- sin and to play here." Everything is framed by the standards that have been set for the program on the field ("The high level of football," Andersen said) and off the field, academically and socially. "You can't say yes to everybody and there are some very good ath- letes where this just isn't the place for them to play," said Andersen. "We learned that early in the pro- cess and we also learned that very late in the process. "We had to let a couple of kids go that are very good football players and good kids. There were a couple of other kids that would love to be here, but it's just not the right fit. We handled that very well as a staff. "We grew into the understanding of exactly who we are." Andersen says Badgers' class addresses needs

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