uw football

Badgers football: Gary Andersen says risk is worth it with junior college recruits

2013-02-08T11:10:00Z Badgers football: Gary Andersen says risk is worth it with junior college recruitsTOM MULHERN | Wisconsin State Journal | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

University of Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen is fully aware of the negative connotations attached to junior college transfers.

They are considered to be high-risk gambles and usually nothing more than short-term fixes, especially at academically demanding schools such as UW.

In the already unpredictable world of recruiting, they add another layer of risk that some coaches choose not to take.

"Far from an exact science," Andersen said of recruiting. "I tell my coaches all the time, if you're 2-for-3 in recruiting, you're a great recruiter. If you're 1-for-3, you'll probably end up getting fired one day."

But maybe it's because he once played football at a junior college — Andersen was a JUCO All-American center at Ricks College, located in Rexburg, Idaho — before walking on at Utah, that Andersen tends to take a different view.

He believes it's no different than recruiting high school players, in terms of getting to know the individual and determining if it's the right fit.

"When you get into the recruiting process, whether it's high school or whether it's junior college, it's important to get to understand the kid," Andersen said.

"When we go into a junior college or we go into a high school, we don't just go sit down and talk to a player. We don't just sit down and talk to a coach. We want to see the counselor. We want to see the environment he lives in. We want to reach out to people who are important in his life and reach out to other people."

Andersen had two junior college players out of 17 scholarship athletes in his first UW recruiting class, which signed on Wednesday.

In his previous four years as the head coach at Utah State, Andersen relied heavily on junior college transfers to rebuild what was one of the worst programs at the Football Bowl Subdivision level when he arrived.

Andersen unofficially signed 31 junior college players, an average of 7.8 per year. It included a high of 13 in the 2011 class. It won't be nearly that many at UW, but Andersen will use it to address specific needs.

"Junior colleges are important," he said. "We all have a past on the staff as far as recruiting junior college players and we'll do our best to pick the right ones."

UW signed quarterback Tanner McEvoy, from Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz.; and safety Donnell Vercher, from Fresno City College, in Fresno, Calif.

"Donnell is coming to play," UW defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "We have to do everything we can in the summer time, when he gets here, to get him up to speed."

The same could be said of McEvoy. He won't be handed a starting job, he will have to compete for it. But Andersen said junior college players need to get on the practice field right away to show what they can do.

"You're going to see those young men in practice right away," Andersen said. "I explain that to the young men when we recruit them and I also explain it to the team, understanding that we kind of know what we have with the crew that's here, and if it's a junior college kid, we need to give him an opportunity to come in and compete."

The last JUCO football transfer at UW prior to this year was defensive lineman Dan Moore in 2008. Before that, it was linebacker Alex Lewis and kicker Scott Campbell in 2002.

Andersen did not sound the least bit concerned about finding JUCO players who can cut it academically at UW.

"It's a privilege to be at this school," he said. "For junior college kids, if they take care of business, they have high academic standards ... they'll be able to come in without any problem."

Aranda said Vercher didn't have good grades coming out of high school in Clovis, Calif.

"He's a great story that way in that he's over a 3.0 in junior college," Aranda said. "From where he was GPA-wise at Clovis High School, to where he is now, is a credit to him and his family."

McEvoy had good enough grades coming out of Bergen (N.J.) Catholic to get into South Carolina, but went to a junior college because he was buried on the depth chart and wanted a chance to play quarterback somewhere else.

"Overall, it was a good experience," McEvoy said after making nine starts and passing for 1,943 yards, with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions.

"It was a lot different than playing, obviously, in D-I. But it was fun being out there and playing a season, just learning a lot and just having another year of quarterbacking under my belt helped me."

McEvoy needed that experience because he didn't play quarterback until his senior year of high school.

Every junior college player has his own story to tell, which is Andersen's point. It's not just players who failed to get good grades out of high school.

Players who come up the hard way also appeal to Andersen, who knows what it's like to take that route.

"I like that chip on kids' shoulders," he said. "That's how the (UW) program was built, tough kids who have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, who have a little bit of, 'I told you so,' or 'I'm going to show you' as they've gone through their career.

"They tend to blossom when they get into this environment."

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(5) Comments

  1. badgerfan1
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    badgerfan1 - February 08, 2013 4:57 pm
    Well I have seen enough about the junior college recruits. If they work out great if not well then it was a mistake. I was surprised that he went out and recruited a QB like he did. The implication I thought was that he was going to run a pro style offense and I thought there would be a competion between Stave and the redshirt freshman Houston. His recruiting a JC QB was not a vote of confidence for the latter two and makes one wonder what type of offense we are going to see. Regardless the center stone of successful college coaching is the ability to recruit high school talent. He entered the contest somewhat late but we did have some decommits which concern me--I do not believe Urban Meyer had a similiar problem. As far as I am concerned, I remain worried about how successful he will be in recruiting the areas WI has been successful in--Wisconsin, Ohio, the East and to some extent the Florida. This next year will tell the story.
  2. jayhoo67
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    jayhoo67 - February 08, 2013 12:57 pm
    There are reasons previous U.W. coaches have not gone the JUCO route. A 3.0 grade average at a community college is not a predictor of success at a very competitive school like U.W. Nor is an admission to an SEC school which lasted only a year. I hope it works out for these two young men, but as a support system for building a Big Ten program, the transfer route is something I would avoid.
  3. Yoopermn
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    Yoopermn - February 08, 2013 11:29 am
    Good article. I've never understood the negative connotation associated with JUCO transfers. They're at the JUCO for any number of reasons, not necessarily because they couldn't cut it academically at a higher "ranked" university. Could've been money, location, depth chart, whatever. Fact is, rating high school kids is inexact, and kids can certainly develop later on into a superstar. If it seems they have the desire and skills, I say why not?
  4. The Cuz
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    The Cuz - February 08, 2013 7:57 am
    Aaron Rodgers was a junior college transfer to Cal, and it appears that he turned out OK.
  5. badgernorth
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    badgernorth - February 08, 2013 6:54 am
    A most interesting and telling article. I think Coach Anderson is going to do real well at UW....real well. We'll all soon forget that "gentleman" who bolted for Arkansas .

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