Uncertainty is a frank description, but it ran through the veins of the Wisconsin football program throughout the 2012 season.
That Bielema guy fired an assistant from the SEC. Then that Bielema guy grabbed what he could (in assistants) and left for the SEC.
In leaving, he left the door open just wide enough for Barry Alvarez to have a final chance to build his legend even further, but alas, the Rose Bowl Buddha failed for the first time as a coach in Pasadena, Calif., likely his second favorite city.
Three consecutive conference championships and just as many Rose Bowl appearances would lead many to dream of even greater expectations for those wearing cardinal and white in 2013. Progression is natural, right?
Unfortunately, this isn’t professional sports. This is college football, where only the best of the best are able to remain the best of the best. Wisconsin is far from being the dynastic type of program that reloads each year as seen in that one conference where that Bielema guy left for.
The difference between that conference and this one, the Big Ten, is the best teams from the SEC hold expectations, high ones, each and every season. Most times, they absolutely deserve it.
As the hangover from another Rose Bowl defeat is finally whisked away, the Badgers will once again likely hold high expectations. The problem is, optimism is a far too easy trap to fall into.
A quick glance at the 2013 Badgers shows promise, but a deeper look might display a less-than-breezy future at Camp Randall, regardless of the wind.
Did I mention that Bielema guy? The all too conservative coach that finally got radical with his departure had brought in six new assistant coaches to Madison for the 2012 season. Optimism reigned.
Following the bundle of assistant arrivals came a six-loss season and even more assistant departures.
Having filled most of the void, there are six new assistants, one unnamed wide receivers coach and the new head of the beast, head coach Gary Andersen, spending their first year on campus in 2013. And for that reason, optimism should not reign.
Regardless of how well Andersen and his new staff fit into typical Wisconsin schema (or that Andersen has been regarded as the type of head coach who would know if the president was in town or the kind who wouldn’t dart mere days after winning the Big Ten Championship), Badger fans should still govern themselves with an aura of skepticism.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and while European clichés may have a better purpose used elsewhere, Alabama also wasn’t built in a day. Just six seasons ago, the Tide lost to a school from the Sun Belt. They now boast back-to-back national championships.
Andersen’s staff will be without the services of Montee Ball and Mike Taylor. Though the departures of each senior come as no surprise, they were both the rocks who their respective sides of the football could rest on when needed most.
During the most unsettling, unsure season in recent Wisconsin history, Ball and Taylor were the two surest things to represent the Badgers over their careers. Ball was highly regarded for his history-shattering touchdown total while Taylor led the Badgers in tackling each of the last two seasons.
Sure, replacements are inevitable and are most definitely ready to take over for Ball, Taylor and any other departing seniors, but those moves are never met without struggle, unless of course, you are Russell Wilson.
That being said, Russell Wilson was the only option at quarterback in 2011. Going with the trend, 2013 presents a different outlook.
A slew of quarterbacks hope to dip under center for Wisconsin next August, and all of them — well, almost all of them — are worthy candidates. Joel Stave has time on his side. The redshirt sophomore was the starter for a majority of 2013, so he seems like the natural choice.
But Stave’s 2012 completion percentage couldn’t even match that of Danny O’Brien, the once-starter, now glorified backup. He may end up as the third-stringer, or even worse, the fourth-stringer, depending on the performances of sixth-year senior Curt Phillips and touted 2011 recruit Bart Houston.
Every coach who had any say in who would quarterback the Wisconsin offense last year is now coaching elsewhere. Will Andersen have a short leash for Stave if he throws his first interception or if Phillips fumbles a snap deep in Badger territory? Or will he have ultimate faith in one man while a number of valuable nominees are relocated to signaling plays in from the sideline?
These are just a few questions of the many that won’t be answered for months. Before the spring, summer and hurricane of hype start storming our way, hold back a little. Not from the splendor that is spring football, not from the excitement of flipping that first cup on game day and definitely not when splurging on apparel at the University Book Store.
Instead, hold back expectations for greatness in 2013. Reel them in some. It will leave plenty of room for me to be wrong and for Badger fans to be happy.
Sean is a junior majoring in journalism and communication arts. What type of expectations do you think the Badgers should have heading into 2013? Let him know what you think with an email to [email protected] or on Twitter @sean_zak.