Wisconsin Badgers coach Gary Andersen elevating recruiting at UW

When Barry Alvarez was searching for the University of Wisconsin’s next head football coach, he made one thing abundantly clear: that man needed to understand the “Wisconsin way.”

It’s no secret that the Badgers have utilized a certain formula to win football games over the last couple decades.

Alvarez and his hand-picked replacement Bret Bielema made it a priority to first secure commitments from the state’s top players in recruiting and go from there.

The new man in charge has completed step one of the process.

Gary Andersen has received verbal commitments from Wisconsin’s top-four prep players and five of the top six, according to Scout’s rankings.

Bielema corralled four-star offensive linemen George Panos (Hartland, Wis.) and Jaden Gault (Monona, Wis.) last summer, but give Andersen credit for convincing them to stay aboard despite Bielema’s attempt to bring both with him to Arkansas.

Wisconsin high schools are starting to produce NFL linemen on a regular basis and Andersen understands the importance of keeping them at home.

Both are ranked in the top 15 nationally for their positions. Panos also had offers from Florida State and Nebraska while Gault chose the Badgers over Michigan State, Oklahoma and Oregon.

Andersen has also been able to keep Milwaukee’s Connor Sheehy, a four-star defensive lineman who also had an offer from Michigan.

Sun Prairie’s Craig Evans – a four-star defensive tackle – was the first commit secured by Andersen and his staff since he took over. The 6-3, 310-pounder committed to Wisconsin in September of 2012, but decommitted after Bielema’s departure.

The new staff made him a priority and reached out to him immediately. Whatever they said worked as he once again gave UW a verbal in March.

Andersen has kept the walls around the state of Wisconsin in place. So where does he go from here?

He recently went back to his roots in Utah to grab a running back and secured a commitment from three-star prospect Ula Tolutau May 16. At 6-1, 220 pounds, he’s the prototypical Badger back.

Andersen has stated that he wants to expand Wisconsin’s pipelines to the West Coast and the South to grab skill players. It’s still early in the recruiting process for the class of 2014, but he’s certainly trying to do just that.

His staff has offered scholarships to many of the nation’s highest-rated prospects from all over the United States, including No. 1 quarterback Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz.) who visited Madison May 4.

Athlete John Smith and running back Joe Mixon – both elite prospects from California – boast UW offers and have been heavily perused by Wisconsin’s coaches.

The Badgers have traveled to see Mixon twice already during the evaluation period and are said to be “all in” on the five-star back.

Andersen got the job for several reasons, but most importantly because he understands how to recruit and how to win at Wisconsin and where that all starts.

He also understands that coaches in the North and Midwest often need to go outside the region to grab top-level skill players. Getting the nation’s best quarterback prospect to travel across the country to visit Madison is a step in the right direction.

Andersen seems determined to take Wisconsin from a perennial Big Ten-contender to a National Championship-contender.

If he can successfully expand the recruiting borders, that goal will be within reach.

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