Admitted he gets asked frequently to grade the staff’s efforts on the recruiting trail, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen has always been reluctant to attach a letter grade to the work, choosing to let the product speak for itself.
And while he dodged the question again, Andersen was proud of the effort his staff put forth in 2014, and that the group can do better in 2015 and beyond.
“There’s always room for major improvement,” said Andersen. “I’m excited about the future. We’re never going to pat ourselves on the backs and tell us we’re great.”
Wisconsin signed a top 30 recruiting class last season in a cycle where Andersen admitted there was a transition for some of his assistant coaches who hadn’t worked at the BCS level before. Leading up to the grunt recruiting work in the 2015 class, Andersen and his staff organized their attack with Vince Guinta– Wisconsin’s recruiting coordinator who worked at Nebraska from 2004-08.
The plan of attack for Wisconsin was to rely on its recruiting system to breakdown potential prospects. If a prospect passed the eye test with his recruiting coach, his film would get sent to the position coach, then to the coordinator and then to Andersen. It also was important for the staff to recruit every position and not just their side of the ball.
“There were times last year where we got scattered on our system,” said Andersen. “We missed some spots in there sometimes last year. That doesn’t cause you to be unorganized, but the process gets muddled. It needs to be boom, boom, boom.”
Wisconsin’s recruiting areas have tapered back in Andersen’s second full cycle. After offering kids all over the country last season, the Badgers have tightened their focus on fertile recruiting areas in the East (New Jersey and Virginia), the South (Florida and Georgia), the Southwest (Texas and Utah) and the West (California).
“When you are in a new area, you try to do so much,” said Andersen, adding in-state is always the primary focus. “That won’t happen in year two because we know our areas.”
Although the Badgers have narrowed some of their areas of recruiting, the staff hasn’t narrowed their aggressiveness. Wisconsin has offered over 250 high school seniors and has extended offers to some prospects without having established an dialogue.
It’s a departure from the former staff’s approach, who wouldn’t accept a verbal commitment unless that prospect visited campus and met with the coaching staff.
According to Andersen, sometimes they have to offer a kid if they really like him just to get their foot in the door.
“An offer sometimes is really the only way to move on in conversations and frankly get to the coach and tell him who you are, along with the parents, mentors, grandma or grandpa or whoever it may be,” said Andersen. “A lot of times if you don’t throw an offer out there in today’s world you won’t get to the next step. If that’s the case we’ll do it.”
A Wisconsin offer doesn’t always last, as the Badgers have stopped recruiting some kids following the initial verbal offer if any red flags are raised during the information-gathering process. That’s led to an offer being extended and Wisconsin decided not to further pursue.
“Our offer is contingent on where they are academically, socially and if they are a good fit for our program,” said Andersen. “There’s also a timing issue. That offer doesn’t sit there forever.”
Wisconsin’s coaching staff drove that point home when they mailed out the official scholarship letters to uncommitted recruits this week, highlighting the fact that the Badgers scholarship offer isn’t always available until signing day.
“If you want it, say yes right now, it’s yours, that’s great and away we go,” said Andersen. “That doesn’t happen. It’s important to make sure you get in the door, but you always be honest with the kid.”
Expecting to sign in the low 20s for the Class of 2015, Andersen knows it’s impossible to only offer 20 prospects that exceed UW’s red line and get all of them. It’s one of the main reasons why the Badgers have offered so many high school seniors.
“You have to go out, formulate a red line and if the kid is above our red line and he says yes, we’re very happy,” said Andersen. “That means he’s taking that spot and the other kids we offered in that spot didn’t take it soon enough, so it’s not there anymore for a certain amount of kids. That’s just the world we live in.”
Expanding In-State Recruiting
After getting a chance to fully recruit the state for the first time, Andersen has come to the conclusion that he needs to do better with the state of Wisconsin’s high school coaches. That’s saying something for a program that inked six of the state’s top nine players last year and has its top two players verbally committed this season.
Saying he’s relied heavily on defensive backs coach Ben Strickland to recruit the state, Andersen has seen the benefits of the program’s high school summer camp and is open to having another one in a different part of the state to increase visibility with those programs.
“I want to continue to do everything I can to build (the camps),” said Andersen. “The support that we get is fantastic. We’re not always going to make everyone happy because we can’t take them all. We have to evaluate them and be honest. I think (the coaches) know we’re going to be honest and truthful.
“They know they can come to us. Our doors are always open. I think it’s great with Ben and I need to continue to work through that to make sure I build those relationships so those guys know I care.”