Wisconsin's 2013 football season is in the books, so it's time to pass out our position grades after the Badgers finished the year 9-4 with a 34-24 loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl.
We've gone through all of the positions, so now it's time to grade Gary Andersen and his coaching staff based on their first year in Madison. It was a strong season that ended on a lower note than many of us expected, but you can get our full reviews below.
John Veldhuis: Andersen and his staff joined the Badgers at a great time- they inherited an experience-laden roster that their predecessors marked as one of their best teams. A lot of head coaches would trade an arm or a leg for a 9-4 season in their first year on campus, but at the same time it's hard not to be disappointed in how Wisconsin's season ended: the Badgers lost to a talented but shallow Penn State team at home and coughed up a halftime lead to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. But it is not fair to pin all of the blame on Andersen and company for those- good teams just found a way to exploit the existing weaknesses on Wisconsin's roster that the Badgers had been able to cover up until that point.
On the whole the Badgers are off to a good start on the recruiting trail and will need to bring in more talent at a few positions like defensive back and wide receiver before they can become one of the nation's elite teams again. But with the Big Ten shifting to a new divisional format and Andersen's track record of success I think the Badgers are positioned really well for the next few seasons to come.
Jon McNamara: To give a proper grade on the coaching staff, I think you have to dip back one full year ago when Gary Andersen stepped in and was able to retain almost of all of Wisconsin's 2013 recruiting class. Holdovers Thomas Hammock and Ben Strickland also deserve a ton of credit on that front. Staying with recruiting, Andersen added Chris Beatty, who has done a great job on the East Coast for the Badgers, and Bill Busch, who has UW active in the junior college ranks. Chad Kauha'aha'a has also given Wisconsin a nice presence in some of the western states.
As far as their ability coach up talent on the current roster, Hammock is looking like one of the better running backs coaches in the nation while first-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda brought new life to that side of the ball. Once he gets the right players to fit his scheme, I think you'll really see the Badgers' defense take off. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has had his critics but his unit was third in the conference in scoring offense at 34.8 points per game.
Finally, Andersen appears to be an excellent hire after one year on the job. With upcoming contests against Alabama and LSU, Wisconsin will see where it stacks up against two of the elite programs in the state.
Jon Gorman: When evaluating a coaching staff, there are three important points to key on: recruiting, player development, and, obviously, results. The good news for Gary Andersen's staff is that they are currently recruiting at a level that already surpasses that of his predecessor. And don't look for that to stop soon. Thomas Hammock, Chris Beatty and Bill Busch, among others, are tireless recruiters and have the Badgers in the mix for elite talents across the country. I also like what the staff has brought from a player development prospective. Players like Nate Hammon, Joe Schobert, Sojourn Shelton and Tyler Marz emerged to play important roles this season after playing nothing the year before.
As for the actual season, the results were certainly mixed. It is hard to blame the staff for the ASU and OSU losses, as Wisconsin had the ball with a chance to tie or win the game in both instances. I also think the Badgers found themselves in an extremely tough matchup with South Carolina, which ended No. 4 in the country for a reason. Wisconsin hung tough in that one and arguably outplayed USC through three quarters. The Penn State loss, however, raises some alarms. The Badgers seemed unprepared and not ready to execute on both sides of the ball. Joel Stave throwing over 50 passes in a game is unacceptable for a Wisconsin offense, and leaving an opposing wide receiver wide open at the snap is even more unacceptable. Both were obviously exceptions rather than the norm, but it was still a bit shocking to see. All in all it was a good season for Andersen and his staff, and they have a lot to build on for the season opener against LSU in Reliant Stadium.
Zack Miller: While new coaches are often evaluated for changes they bring into a system, it is equally important for them to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible by keeping what worked from the previous administration.
Yes, it seems almost commonsensical that Gary Andersen would not change the ground and pound style of play that has been in place here in Madison since before dinosaurs roamed the earth, but he still deserves credit for adapting to the roster and not the other way around.
Rarely did it seem that the job was too big for Andersen and his staff, but there were moments that made you ponder if the staff was up to the job. I'm speaking mainly about the Penn State catastrophe where it appeared the staff was thinking about what to pack for their BCS bowl instead of prepping for Christian Hattenberg and the Nittany Lions.
All in all it was a very solid first season for Andersen & Co. and with another year of recruiting and familiarity with Big Ten football, expect this to be one of the top coaching staffs in the conference for years to come.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.