If you are just now getting into the CC sweepstakes and are interested in candidates the board has spoken of often please see writeups over the past 6 weeks of Mullen, Graham, Patterson, Mark Stoops, Harbaugh, Butch Jones - and retrospective analysis of how Strong & Franklin would have stacked up as candidates.
There is a post in the main MGo board about last resort type coaches i.e. what happens if Harbaugh, Miles, Mullen (Bob Stoops*) are no go's. (and Patterson, and Graham are not candidates or moving) One name under the radar and never mentioned while right under our nose is Gary Andersen. Brian has mentioned in various podcasts that Jerry Kill would be a reasonable candidate if not for health issues - while that Minnesota offense would put me in a coma I can understand his reasoning from a "sets a reasonable floor" perspective. But Andersen has a similar resume, more offensive upside (at least wants to pass when has the tools), no health issues, and no Bert Bielemna karma issues.
Let me be clear - this is not option A or B but in a world where a relatively unproven Mark Stoops, or Butch Jones - who has done little at TN - are fallback options I think Gary Andersen should be in the conversation if top options fall through. I'd also put Cutcliffe from Duke in this tier but he is 61, rebuffed TN a few years back (a similar job to UM), has been in the south for 2 decades, and has zilch Midwest exposure.
Coaching candidate.... Gary Andersen, age: 50
Summary: Gary Andersen is currently head coach of Wisconsin, a successful program in the Big 10 West after a 4 year run at Utah State. Prior to that he was a defensive coordinator for the excellent Kyle Whittingham at Utah, and even served 1 year under Urban at that same school as a DL coach. So he has had exposure to one of the top 5 coaches in the nation in Urban and one of the top 20 coaches in the nation in Whittingham (who himself would be an excellent CC if he could be extracted out of Utah). Also I'd offer that getting Alvarez's stamp of approval means something as he found a top notch successor in Bielema - something Carr could not do - within his own coaching tree, and then identified Andersen as a fit for Wisconsin.
Now we must throw the "David Shaw effect" out here. Whatever you think of Big Bert as a person he was a pretty darn solid football coach and usually a successful coach leaves enough raw material to get the next coach through 2 years. And Andersen is finishing up year 2. So a devil's advocate would offer that it is difficult to judge what is Andersen and what is Big Bert. I'll make the argument below that was very true for year 1 at Wisconsin but Andersen has done some very good things in year 2 with massive attrition.
Andersen did not have Midwest exposure prior to being hired at Wisconsin but is obviously getting it now - so in a way Wiscy did some of the work for us if we were indeed to go and steal this guy. Still it is not a homerun recruiting guy in the areas of OH and PA like say Mark Stoops, and I'd prefer someone who has southern exposure as talent in the south is increasingly important.
Andersen is "cheap" by modern big boy football standards - he just received a raise from $1.9M to $2.2M. His resume was not much different than Hoke's when he was hired, showing how that was a really over inflated contract (Helfrich at Oregon makes similar dough but was not a HC anywhere like Andersen was). So Michigan could effectively double Andersen's salary and not increase their budget for a HC.
Recruiting? It is difficult to judge him because of a short stint at Wisconsin and judging recruiting at Utah State is useless. But let's just say the level of where Wisconsin recruits relative to their results is essentially the complete inverse of UM football the past 7 years. Bielema's last few classes were in the 40s to 60th. Andersen's last class was in the 30s. The talent (on paper) at Michigan and ability to get in front of much higher level prospects would be a boon to a guy like this.... or frankly all but 15 coaches in the nation.
One other benefit of Gary Andersen - and one I found in the James Franklin analysis - is a potential star defensive coordinator. James Franklin had an offensive background but when I did his coaching diary (to see how he would have been evaluated 11 months ago) I was surprised to see Vanderbilt was a success on defense not offense. That has carried through to this year's Penn State - their D is ... along with Wisconsin's... the 2 best in the Big 10 by almost every advanced metric (MSU is there as well except for giving up explosive plays). Andersen has a similar star DC named Dave Aranda who has been with Andersen the past 3 years. Aranda is 38 years old and I'd assume a mid major will be calling his name very soon with his success - especially this year - with a Wisconsin defense that suffered major attrition thru graduation and then injury. But if he could come here for a year or two it would be great. In fact the national media is picking up on the Aranda star, here is a story from this week. One major change for Michigan is Aranda runs a 3-4 system which I could argue might fit UM ok since our DE recruiting/depth is a major issue right now. (Next year we have Charlton, Mario O and a whole lot of unproven behind them)
Recent (10 years) coaching background
- 2004: DL at Utah
- 2005-2008: DC at Utah
- 2009-2012: HC at Utah State
- 2013-present: HC at Wisconsin
Analysis: Unlike his boss at Utah, Andersen is willing to move to get promotions. He has a typical progression of 3-4 years at position A before going for a higher level job. Nothing wrong with that in my book. As written earlier I like that he has been part of staffs for 2 very sound coaches - Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham.
Caveat for results ----> (a) nothing exists in a vacuum (b) as a coordinator you can benefit or be penalized if your HC is good or bad or average (c) injuries or graduation can change your results dramatically in any 1 year. This is the type of stuff you'd research as an AD staff on every potential candidate.
I will break down his results at 3 time frames - DC at Utah, HC at Utah State, HC at Wisconsin.
(1) DC at Utah
Andersen had a 1 year stint as a DL coach for Urban Meyer in his 2nd year (13-0) at Utah. When Urban left, Whittingham went up to HC and promoted Andersen to DC where he spent 4 years. Below is a table showing Utah's defensive statistics using the NCAA's total defense metric (which is just a simple ranking on yards given up per game), and then Football Outsider's FEI and S&P+ metrics which I like a lot more. I compared this data to Urban's undefeated 2004 squad. (please note FEI stats begin in 2007 and S&P+ in 2005)
So we like what we see here. This is a first time DL coach who was promoted to DC and had some decent if not eye popping figures in year 1 and 2 of his reign. Years 3 and 4 were VERY impressive with top 20 readings across the board. FEI and S&P+ adjust for opposition - which in the Mountain West won't be the greatest - and Utah's defensive stats still looked excellent in 07/08.
(2) HC at Utah State
Utah State looked at big brother Utah, and made an easy pick for their next head coach in 2009. Below are the basic total offense/total defense stats for these years (which again are nothing but average yardage outputs per game) along with the advanced FEI/S&P+ stats as compared to the prior year (2008).
Please note - defensize whiz Aranda arrived in 2012.
|W/L||Tot Off||oFEI||oS&P+||Tot Def||dFEI||dS&P+|
Anderson inherited a poopy team, that sucked at everything. The one strange item early is the 2009 "total offense" figure (#12) which doesnt seem to fit with the FEI and S&P+ stats - could be an error in the NCAA.com database. We'll ignore that.
What trends do we see? The thing I say in almost every CC - a very good to elite coach makes his marks by year 3 & 4 - it doesn't take 5 years. You see that time after time after time. (which is why we are unfairly judging Mark Stoops in year 2 at UK) The offense and defense sucked in Anderson's first 2 years but made significant strides in years 3-4. The defense turned elite in year 4 with the help of Aranda's arrival. And you had a 12-1 record, and a call from Alvarez in response. You can't ask for much more at a mid major.
Let's take a closer look at each year for some significant moments.
2009 - Utah State played in the WAC which at the time Boise State was running. The only other 2 teams of any value in conference in 09 were Nevada and Fresno State. Utah State also played Utah and BYU that year along with a mediocre 6-7 Texas A&M. So those are the games we'll look at, again with the caveat this is year 1 and he inherited a crap team.
@Utah and @BYU were twin 35-17 losses, @A&M was a 38-30 loss (not bad at all). They hosted 7-1 in conf Nevada and only lost by a FG, and lost by 4 at 6-2 in conf Fresno State. That is not bad for a team that finished 3-5 in the conf. They got trucked by 14-0 Boise 52-21, no shock there. It was a "it is what it is" year.
2010 - Utah State didnt advance much as the stats above show and their record was 2-6 in the conference. This was the year Nevada went 13-1 (7-1) to join Boise (12-1) as mid major powers nationally. Hawaii at 7-1 in conference was the third best team so we'll look at those 3 games along with 2 non conf matchups with 7-6 BYU and 12-2 and eventual #6 Oklahoma.
Utah State put up a hell of a fight for a cupcake vs Oklahoma, only losing 31-24. Again this was a 12-2 squad, on the road. The Aggies hosted a mediocre BYU and beat them 31-16. Utah St then got trucked by Hawaii 41-7, lost a pretty close one 56-42 to Nevada (who finished #11 that year) and got trucked again by Boise State 50-14. There were some other bad losse that year such as 28-6 to Idaho, and 41-7 to some coach named Brady Hoke at SDSU.
So at this point in time while there were some moral victories such as keeping it close with Oklahoma not much stood out in Anderson's first 2 years. As his advanced metrics would support.
2011 - Things started to come together in year 3. While the overall record was 7-6, Utah State moved from the bottom of the conference to the top few with a 5-2 in conf record. Boise State had exited the WAC so the Aggies main competition was LA Tech (6-1 in conf) and Nevada (5-2 in conf) Being Utah State they were a baby seal for Auburn and continued their annual tilt with BYU. They did get to a bowl which they lost to a 10-4 Frank Solich Ohio 24-23. A quick look at the other 4 games vs decent competion:
Utah State again put up a good fight vs a decent opponent in Auburn but it was not elite Auburn, this was 8-5 Auburn. Still its SEC athletes vs a bunch of guys from Idaho, Nevada and Utah and not even the top guys from Utah (who go play at BYU and Utah). Utah State lost 42-38 in the type of game that causes guys like Chizik to lose their job down there. The Agges lost 27-24 to eventual #25 10-3 BYU. In conference they lost by a TD hosting LA Tech (24-17) and beat Nevada by 4 (21-17). So they split with the 2 other good teams in the conference. A lot of their wins were NOT very impressive that year - a lot of close wins by 3-7 pts vs bad teams in their conference.
So the record was decent - they gave a blue blood a scare - they split with the top 2 teams in the conf but their wins were not big blowouts or anything like you'd see from a Kyle Whittingham or Gary Patterson team in their heydey in the Mountain West. I would consider it an average year.
2012 - Utah State made a big surge, finishing #16 in the country with a 11-2 (6-0) record. While the defense had improved in 2011, Aranda arrived and took it to a new level. The offense was about the same level as 2011. The WAC was losing members so hence only 6 conference games - by this time San Jose State who finished #21 also at 11-2 (5-1) and LA Tech (9-3/4-2) were the only 2 teams of value in the conf.
Due to this Utah played a lot of out of conf games including 1 - foreshadowing - versus Wisconsin. I would assume this is where Alvarez got a close look at Andersen and liked what he saw. The Aggies also played Utah who at this time had begun year 1 in the Pac 12 and BYU.
Wisconsin was a 16-14 loss; I am sure the Badgers didn't expect a competent team to show up when this was scheduled. Andersen beat his old boss Whittingham in OT 27-20, and the Aggies lost 6-3 in a Big 10 quality game to BYU. So Utah State had 2 losses that year by a grand total of 5 pts to BYU and Wisconsin. San Jose State was beaten 49-27 in SJSU's stadium and LA Tech was beaten in OT 48-41 in LA. So those were the 4 key games of the year. An impressive year, that really was a few points way from making Utah State a 1 year national wonder.
(3) HC at Wisconsin
Andersen took over a solid Wisconsin program and maintained it in year 1. So he was basically David Shaw last year. But there was a lot of attrition in year 2 and I am impressed with what he is doing - they have a big match vs Nebraska this week and yes we have to adjust for strength of schedule of the BIG TEEEEEEN but fergodsakes Michigan also plays in this conference and looks lost. I will go through the attrition a bit later and how Wisconsin has rebounded but first to the stats thru 9 games of year 2 vs Big Bert's last year.
|W/L||Tot Off||oFEI||oS&P+||Tot Def||dFEI||dS&P+|
Advanced stats show excellence in Big Bert's last year and continued excellence with the new staff. FEI and S&P+ mean more to me than total defense - these have held consistent at elite levels.
The number that will pop out to you is Wisconsin's #1 defense in the country in 2014 per the NCAA "total defense" measure. Again that does nothing more than measure total yards per game. Which if you have a good defense and play in the Big 10 and avoid OSU and MSU and Nebraska (thus far) - is achievable I suppose. This is why I am avoiding total defense and total offense and moving to advanced stats - currently the Big 10 has 7 of the top 21 defense in the country if you believe in total defense (Michigan is #7). That's a crock. It's the benefit of playing a host of awful 1982 style offenses led by awful QBs in conf along with a lot of MAC teams OOC.
But when we look at the advanced stats (FEI, S&P+) which adjust quite a it for blowouts and strength of opponent SOS Wisconsin still has an impressive defense that is right up there with PSU for tops in the conference. That sounds about right - we'll see how Wisconsin deals with Nebraska's prolific offense this week.
Bigger picture this is important to note. Wisconsin's defense suffered major losses this year from last year's excellent squad. It plays a 3-4 and lost all 4 starting LBs including all world Chris Borland. In the 2 deep of its defensive line it lost 4 of the 6 players. And then those 2 who did return, got hurt vs LSU! They have just returned in the past 2 weeks - so essentially Andersen and Aranda have been playing with an entirely rebuilt front 7 since the 2nd half of the LSU game. And their back 4 also had some graduations. Which is why I hate the injury/youth excuses I hear at UM - but I digress. This is a solid defense full of 3 star recruits lacking elite playmakers but is coached up - exactly what UM needs. So this is why I am thinking Andersen is not just David Shaw 2.0 and living off Big Bert.
The offense - while returrning a great runner and a very good OL - also lost its top/only WR (Abbrederis - 78 catches!) and its top TE (Peterson - 39 catches). RB James White was their 3rd leading WR last year with 39 catches and also graduated. So its top 3 returning catch leaders all graduated. Their offense has been 1 dimensional with a converted S playing QB early this year (McEvoy), and now splitting time with Stave. But with all that lost and that hinderance at QB they still are rolling 30-50 pts versus the crap teams of the Big 10. Hell so does Minnesota some weeks - which makes what PSU and UM and NW do offensively more shameful.
Speaking of NW- they upset Wisconsin. I didnt look closely at the game but i assume some pick 6 and some weird things happened. That stuff happens once a year, ask Lloyd Carr 9 out of 10 years. I am not going to break down Wiscy game after game these past 2 years - most people are familiar with them and frankly their 2014 schedule is backloaded with Neb, Iowa, and Minn so we'll know better what they are this year by Thanksgiving. But I think they could go 3-0 in that group.
Common opponents - they beat Rutgers 37-0, Maryland 52-7, lost to NW 20-14 in the WTF game of the year in the conf. They lost to LSU early in a game they were leading huge - they went away from Gordon, had no passing game and both their starting D tackles got injured which LSU (a very young offense) took advantage of dominate the 2nd half.
2013 for Wisconsin was a typical "Lloyd Carr-ish" year, 9-4 with some WTF moments such the end of the game situation on the road at Arizona State and somehow losing to PSU at home to end the year. They lost by a touchdown in Columbus. And then lost by 10 to a very good 11-2 South Carolina team in the Citrus Bowl.
Who is Gary Andersen? I keep referencing Lloyd in these comments because the further I dig the more I "feel" Carr here. A guy who will set a floor under the program at 8-9 wins (much like Kill probably would do). With some double digit year wins. A guy who will have our team organized and looking like a match to the talent. A guy who can be competitive with Dantonio and at least give Urban something to worry about on an annual basis. Maybe he has more upside from there - I don't know. But if you cannot get the truly elite guys here, I'd be a lot more comfortable with Andersen as a proven HC product then an unproven coordinator or a guy like Butch Jones.
Pointing to 2015 I'd also offer that Andersen would help make that season not be potentially ugly. Yes we dont have the hogs Wisconsin has in the OL nor an elite RB like Gordon but considering his LOL situation at QB this year and UM's parallel LOL situation at QB as we enter 2015, he is at least a coach who has had to deal with being 1 dimensional and finding a way to make it work. And our defense would have a young hungry coordinator who has been a massive success the past 3 years. I would expect Aranda to only last 2 or so years here before he gets called away to coach a Tulsa or Cincinnati type program.
Andersen is affordable, safe, relatively proven, familiar with the Big 10 footprint in recruiting, a developer of talent, smash mouthy, defensive oriented, and seems like one of those "good guys" from what I can best tell from anecdotal stories from the interwebz. He strikes me as Lloyd Carr 2.0 - which for a "don't break open unless emergency" would be a fine option.