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Friday, December 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 25.0° F  Overcast
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Gary Andersen's new recruiting strategies
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Fleet-footed QB Tanner McEvoy in the pocket during a Badgers team scrimmage in August.
Fleet-footed QB Tanner McEvoy in the pocket during a Badgers team scrimmage in August.
Credit:Brian Mason

As Wisconsin segues into an offense shaped by do-it-all quarterbacks and a 3-4 defense that requires bigger defensive linemen, the way the Badgers search for recruits will also change.

When new coach Gary Andersen formed his coaching staff, he brought in a cohort of colleagues from out West but also retained two important members from Bret Bielema's time: running back coach Thomas Hammock and cornerback coach Ben Strickland. Along with two other outside hires with Big Ten experience, it creates a nice blend of resources and an expanded recruiting footprint.

Several times during the Big Ten media days in July, Andersen declared his intention to recruit nationally. For many years, the Badgers have benefited from deep-rooted conduits in their own Wisconsin backyard, the surrounding neighborhood (Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio) and on the other side of town (New Jersey, Florida). Andersen can now combine those pipelines with the ones he formed at USU. There, in-state recruits accounted for the majority of his squad (despite the presence of the University of Utah and BYU). He also brought in players from Florida, Texas, Hawaii, California and Arizona.

The dual-threat quarterbacks that Andersen received verbal commitments from, D.J. Gillins and Austin Kafentzis, are out of Florida and Utah, respectively.

"[Wisconsin]'s a place where we should be able to recruit throughout the country," Andersen says. "And we always will."

He's also set another recruiting tactic in motion: Nabbing prospects out of junior college, a method the UW rarely employed in the past. Already, Andersen has two on the roster who are fighting for playing time: Tanner McEvoy and cornerback T.J. Reynard. A third recruit, safety Donnell Vercher, was also lured to Madison but was denied admission.

Juco recruits are often handled cautiously. They're generally seen, at best, to be quick fixes -- and at worst, loaded with baggage. But Andersen, who himself got his start at a junior college, likes them for their drive.

"Junior college players, a lot of times -- I was a junior college player myself -- there's a chip on their shoulder because they didn't receive that opportunity for whatever reason...to be in a Division I program," he says.

Andersen also seems fully committed to recruiting and developing in-state footballers and continuing Wisconsin's walk-on tradition, one of the hallmarks of Barry Alvarez's tenure.

"We're always going to be a developmental program; that's important to me," says Andersen, who has also reached out to the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I want to do that. I want to build within the state."

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