The Voice: New-look Badgers already taking shape

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If there is one bit of wisdom I have been able to gather through the years, it is that there really is no such thing as an offseason for coaches.

It is an interesting dynamic. There is extreme focus on the present. There is trying to find a way to win the next game. How to get a certain player to make the next step in his development. And of course, there is always an eye to the future, as recruiting season seemingly never ends.

Such is the case for Badgers head man Gary Andersen, as he and his staff conclude their first season together in Madison.

On the field, this was a good team. Yes, there were missed opportunities. In each of the four losses, players, coaches and fans can go crazy playing the game of "coulda, shoulda."  Clearly, that was the case in this week's Capital One Bowl setback to South Carolina. A key penalty. A missed fourth and short. Not getting a stop when momentum was on your side. The kind of mistakes that will haunt you against a top-flight opponent.

The result hurts, but the time to move on comes quickly. 

"It's going to be good to take a big, deep breath and get back and get started again," Andersen said. 

That is not to say the senior class -- or this team general -- will be forgotten anytime soon.

On his radio show two days before the bowl game, I asked the UW coach whether the job has been everything he had imagined. His answer is what any Badgers fan would hope to hear.

"These kids on this team have made me a better person," he said. "I feel like I am a better coach because I was able to be around them.

"It is a tremendous community. Hopefully we will be able to keep this coaching staff together and recruit like crazy because we have a good foundation built. We are blessed and lucky to be here every day, and we are excited about the future."

In about one month, the Badgers will introduce another recruiting class. With such a big senior class moving on, there will be some interesting position battles, and perhaps some of the newbies will be in the mix. 

It will be fun to track the progress of young returning players such as Corey Clement, Sojourn Shelton and Leon Jacobs, as well as redshirts Alec James and Chikwe Obasih, just to name a few.

Next season starts quickly, as in nearly right away. Soon enough, the team will begin its winter conditioning. Who will make up the next group of leaders? When asked that question on Monday, Chris Borland suggested defensive lineman Warren Herring and linebacker Derek Landisch could be a couple of strong candidates.

Andersen talked about how those players who used to sit in the third and fourth rows at team meetings would now move to the front of the room. It is their time, be they seniors or other veteran players, to make the 2014 Badgers their team.

On a personal note, and I believe I speak for many, I want to thank the seniors for giving fans many terrific memories, both on the field and in the community. This is a group that defines what is good about college athletics. Maybe I have said much the same about previous groups. If so, I take great pleasure in being redundant.

Perhaps part of what has Andersen excited about the future is that the program seems to be loaded with young men who understand the Wisconsin formula -- being the right athletic, academic and social fit.

My guess is the returning Badgers have learned a lot from the Class of 2013. The time to put those lessons to use has arrived.

The first quarter of the 2014 season is about to begin.