Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said he wasn't surprised when he heard that sophomore running back Melvin Gordon had decided to return to the Badgers for his junior season. Gordon was weighing turning pro after a breakout season, but ultimately Andersen and his staff were hoping to see Gordon return so he could improve his game before declaring for the NFL draft.
"I believe my spot and my job in there is to be supportive and helpful," Andersen said Saturday. "I wanted Melvin to feel like he could walk in and trust me. I had no agenda for the University of Wisconsin, no agenda for myself. It all worked out in what I believed was right, but he handled it like a man.
"His family was involved, we talked quite a bit. I'm excited to have him back and it's a great opportunity to have him in our program for another season at least."
Andersen said Gordon made his decision a few days ago, before he even received his feedback from the NFL draft advisory board. Gordon submitted his name for evaluation to the NFL and originally hinted that their grade would play a roll in his decision, but Andersen gave credit to Gordon for making a decision that he felt was best for himself.
"That's even more of a credit to him," Andersen said. "[The grade] was not a factor."
But while Gordon's decision will allow him to focus more completely on Wisconsin's upcoming game against South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl, the Badgers might have to deal with some recruiting fallout now that Gordon has decided to stay in school.
The Badgers currently have two commitments at running back in their 2014 class. Taiwan Deal and Caleb Kinlaw are both considered solid commitments and seem unlikely to change their minds, but having a deeper depth chart might play into other prospects' decisions.
Andersen couldn't mention specific recruits that might be affected by Gordon's decision, but it's easy to assume that he was referring to five-star recruit Joe Mixon when he said that Gordon's return might turn away some uncommitted prospects.
"There's a couple kids out there that we'd love to have," Andersen said. "I still think they should come here, but the fact that Melvin is staying is not going to be breaking news to the young men that are still thinking about coming to Wisconsin and being a running back. I'm sure people will use that against us in recruiting."
News and notes:
-- Andersen said he expects to return all of his assistant coaches for his second season with the Badgers, which would halt the massive coaching turnover the Badgers have had to deal with over the last few years. Andersen said his assistants are free to come and discuss other opportunities with him if something comes up, but as of right now he doesn't expect anyone to leave.
"We do talk about it," Andersen said. "It's an open forum for our coaches- if they have anything, come talk to me. I'm not going to kick and scream and yell. If I think it's right or if I think it's wrong, I'll peak my mind, but if it's better for your family I'm all for it. If it's not handled the right way then I think it's not fair to the kids and it's a disservice to the university."
-- The Badgers have a little under two months to go until national signing day, and Andersen said he thinks his first full recruiting class for the Badgers is shaping up well so far. The Badgers currently have 25 known commitments in this class, but Andersen said there are always hurdles that some recruits will need to overcome before they can get on campus.
"It's one thing to get kids committed. Just because a kid commits doesn't mean it's a slam-dunk that he'll get in to the University of Wisconsin," Andersen said. "There's a lot that takes place. There's certain kids that commit to us that have to do certain things to come to Wisconsin. You don't just come to Wisconsin because you're an NCAA qualifier. There are stipulations, and you've got to do things the right way. I would think that a high majority of those kids are going to get that done."
-- Senior outside linebacker Ethan Armstrong hasn't had a full workload during bowl practices, but Andersen said he and the training staff expect Armstrong to be ready to go once the team gets down to Florida on Dec. 25. Senior safety Dezmen Southward is also working his way back into a full-time role after having surgery on his wrist following Wisconsin's loss to Penn State, and Andersen said Southward should be ready to go as well. Center Dallas Lewallen is still a major question mark to play in the bowl game, so Dan Voltz seems like the likely starter.
-- Andersen said A.J. Jordan could get a few snaps as a defensive back in the bowl game after switching over to the defensive side of the ball during bowl practices. The Badgers were looking for a little more depth at defensive back after dismissing Jakarrie Washington earlier in the month, and Andersen said Jordan has played well on defense so far.
-- Speaking of Washington, Andersen said that the true freshman cornerback was dismissed for a violation of team rules. Washington was previously disciplined before the Iowa game in early November, but Andersen said in this case Washington removed himself from the team.
"We have a certain set of rules. Jakarrie obviously got out of line," Andersen said. "I don't remove a kid- a kid removes himself from the team. He's still in school- hopefully he can finish the right way. I respect Jakarrie as a kid. He'll grow up and he'll be fine."
For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.