Gary Andersen bringing change to Wisconsin football by maintaining Utah recruiting pipeline

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

This commentary initially appeared on the Deseret (Salt Lake City) News website Friday afternoon.

After Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen utilized his personal connections to the family of Austin Kafentzis to bring the top Utah quarterback to Madison earlier this week, Badgers fans had another opportunity to examine a new addition to their recruiting pipeline. Kafentzis is the second commitment from Utah Andersen has received since coming to Wisconsin, and an offer is currently out to Salt Lake City (Brighton) running back/outside linebacker Osa Masina, the state's top-ranked prospect for 2015.

Over at the Deseret (Salt Lake City) News website, we shared some commentary on Andersen for the Utah audience. The full article can be read here, and a brief glimpse is below.

Barry Alvarez elevated Wisconsin's football program to previously unknown heights as its head coach, then extended that dominance throughout other sports when he became Wisconsin's athletic director in 2004. Even as the Badgers' football team endured the loss of 12 assistant coaches over three seasons, the program was bolstered by its reputation of stability and consistency.

Then Bret Bielema, Alvarez's hand-picked successor as head coach, abruptly left for Arkansas.

"Abruptly" hardly does the situation justice. Just three days before the news broke, Wisconsin had trounced Nebraska 70-31 in the Big Ten championship game, earning the Badgers their third-straight Rose Bowl berth, albeit thanks to the ineligibility of both Ohio State and Penn State.

Without a head coach to lead a program unfortunately tabbed as good-but-not-great, Alvarez took his time conducting a coaching search. Beyond the comings and goings of widely favored candidates, the very existence of a coaching search unsettled Wisconsin fans. The Badgers would have loved the man that emerged from that coaching search from the start. After all, Utah State coach Gary Andersen was personable, up-and-coming and had experience building a program. But fans just didn't really know who he was.

Utah State went to Madison in mid-September 2012 and nearly pulled off an upset, but Wisconsin fans had generally forgotten about that game. Andersen's track record as the head coach of Utah State and previously as an assistant was impressive, but his introductory press conference in late December went a long way toward endearing him to a fan base that isn't known for criticizing - but is largely inexperienced when it comes to embracing change.

Since his arrival, Andersen has made a point to bring the best of Utah to Wisconsin. In doing so, he's developed a new recruiting pipeline for the Badgers. Earlier this week, Andersen secured a verbal commitment from Jordan High quarterback Austin Kafentzis. Regarded as a top quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class, Kafentzis was named the MaxPreps National Freshman and Sophomore of the Year the past two seasons and the Deseret News Mr. Football in 2012. As it turned out, the Kafentzis family's personal connections with Andersen were enough to outweigh offers from BYU, Hawaii and Utah.

Read the full article at DeseretNews.com.

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