Wisconsin Football: what to expect in Gary Andersen’s encore season

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Fans are eager to see what coach Gary Andersen has in store for his encore season. (isportsweb photo)

 

Gary Andersen heads into his first full offseason as Wisconsin’s head coach and fans are anticipating his encore season after posting a respectful 6-2 record in the Big Ten last year.

The 2014 season will be Andersen’s sixth season as a head coach in Division I and he holds a 39-35 record between his time at Utah State and his first season at Wisconsin. While those numbers are not necessarily the most eye-catching, his ability to improve each season as a head coach is.

Prior to his arrival at USU, the history of the school’s football program was filled with numerous one, two, and even zero win seasons. His first two seasons were rough as he won a combined eight games, but his final two seasons were record-breaking for the university and eventually landed him the job at UW.

His 2011 team finished 5-2 in the Western Athletic Conference, improving from 2-6 in 2010, and the +3 win margin tied him for the second-best conference turnaround in school history. He followed his 2011 record-breaking season with another season for the history books as the Aggies went 11-2 (6-0 WAC) on their way to winning their first outright conference championship since 1979.

So as Andersen heads into his first full offseason with Wisconsin, what should those looking on expect from the second year coach? Much of the same from his time at USU and that is improving on the previous record while developing players on both sides of the ball.

The defensive-minded Andersen will have to quickly find a new captain for his 3-4 defense that finished last season sixth in the country in opponents points per game (16.3). Linebacker Chris Borland is now headed to the NFL, so finding his replacement will be atop of his staff’s list of areas to address during spring practices.

Last season it appeared as though the offense became stagnate and often predictable throughout the year, and with basically no receiving experience coming into spring camp it will be noteworthy to see Andersen’s new offensive scheme.

Andersen’s first season was filled with some bright spots, but it seemed like every time the team was getting on a roll they couldn’t sustain it. The debacle that was the Arizona State game will haunt Badger fans, along with the close loss to a tough Ohio State and the uncharacteristic loss to Penn State in the season finale.

The Badgers’ 2014 schedule is considerably less difficult compared to last season as they will avoid playing Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State. Five out of their first seven games will be held at Camp Randall Stadium, which bodes well for a hot start as they only lost once at home last season.

Wisconsin will begin its second season under Andersen by facing SEC powerhouse, LSU in Houston, Texas on August 30th and a win would certainly gain some national recognition for the program. With a favorable schedule, early indications point towards the Badgers making a run at another Big Ten title in 2014.