B1G Media Days: Wisconsin Head Coach Gary Andersen
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Gary Andersen.
COACH ANDERSEN: It's great to be here, excited to get to this point of the year. It's been a crazy six and a half months. And just a lot of thanks goes out to everybody surrounding Wisconsin, from the administration, Coach Alvarez and all of his people that made the transition possible for the coaches, the wives that are involved, the kids that are involved, the staff. It's always a very difficult time for the moms involved. And I publicly just thank them for allowing the coaches to move in.
Thank the kids also for putting us in a position to be able to build trust. Trust is a big thing with us. We talked about it day one, and I think after six and a half months we've got trust within players to coaches and coaches to players.
So excited about moving into what we call the fourth quarter, which is the season for us. It's an exciting time and this is a big part of it. We're kicking it off today. Questions.
Q. When there are coaching changes, normally it's with a program that has not had success. How different is it when you go to a program that has, and how do you handle that process differently?
COACH ANDERSEN: You know, I think you always try toâ€‘â€‘ as a head coach, big part of your jobâ€‘â€‘ I tell myself this all the time hiring the coach as a head coach is really game day as a coordinator, if you will. You need to be prepared.
It's not something that should catch you by surprise. You have to formulate a plan, understand a lot of things, what's the pay scale, what type of coach you're looking for, what type of recruiting are you going to be in. Does he fit what you need as an assistant coach and for me it's two things when I hire an assistant coach. Number one, take care of kids and, number two, you've got to be able to recruit.
So that's how I look at it. No different, maybe a bigger pool of coaches at the University of Wisconsin than it would be at some other places I've been, but it's always a challenge to always get the best coach available.
Q. What's it like to take over a program that really doesn't from the outside appear to be broken or in dire need of great rebuilding? What kind of imprint do you put on it immediately? What have you put on it immediately, I guess, to sort of change the swing a little bit?
COACH ANDERSEN: Well, I think, number one, I'm not interested in comparing what was different, whether that may have been what we deem as being great, good, or indifferent.
There's going to be differences when you take over a program. It's important to put your own stamp on it. So I've never asked the question of how things work. There's a lot of different ways to do it. And there was a lot of success.
For us, it's sit back and look at and get our core values into place, let our kids understand again the trust factor. Let them understand the true set of core values that we're going to hold them accountable to a high level.
And as coaches, as players, and really as a university, we expect the kids to succeed socially, academically and athletically. That's an easy statement to make. There's a lot that goes into that, but that's our stamp. Young men that walk out socially, our goal is to change them from a young man into a man. And our goal academically is to allow them to receive a worldâ€‘class education.
And it's truly a worldâ€‘class education, it's not just a degree at Wisconsin. It's powerful. It will carry you through the rest of your life if you allow it to and to compete at the highest level athletically. That's our stamp, that's who we are, and that's what we've tried to get done in the last six and a half months.
And trust me, I do understand it. We walked into a program that is absolutelyâ€‘â€‘ was not broke. It's been very successful and there's great young men that have been recruited there, and the prior staff did a great job in that area.
Q. Coach, we've seen that Wisconsin has gone and recruited more into Utah, picked up a prospect there recently. Is recruiting outside of perhaps Wisconsin's traditional recruiting footprint, particularly in the Mountain West area, going to be a priority moving forward?
COACH ANDERSEN: I think if you look back in the past, there's again different staffs, Coach Alvarez was obviously there for a long time. Brett and his staff had an identity where they were recruiting, number one.
Ours will be no different from those staffs staying in state. Very good coaches. Football is important. High school programs are run very well. And a large number of high schools. I had no idea when I walked in that there's 400â€‘plus high schools that play high school football in Wisconsin. That will stay the same. I think as a conference and I think as the University of Wisconsin we want to recruit nationally because we can.
The Big Ten, it's very, very powerful conference. It's very recognizable and people understand you're going to play at the highest level and on the biggest stages.
And I feel the same way about the University of Wisconsin, with what we have to offer from an academic standpoint, with what we have to offer for young men socially.
And I go back to it academically and the athletic world, it's a place where we should be able to recruit throughout the country. And we always will, whether it may be in Florida, California, wherever it will be. Gotta be careful not to get too separated out so we cannot do a good job in certain areas. But we will nationally recruit.
Q. It was kind of a revolving door at quarterback last year for Wisconsin with the three or four different guys who started, the injuries and everything that happened. Coming out of the spring going into the fall how do you see that situation? Will you whittle it down just to two guys at some point and then have a competition, or where do things kind of stand with that right now?
COACH ANDERSEN: Great question. It's a question I'm sure is going to get asked a few times in the next month or so. It's a threeâ€‘man battle right now, as we kind of came through spring.
We sat down with all the young men when we were first there and gave them a very clear vision that when we sat down in April we would discuss exactly where they're at, what the situation is, and when we came out of it, Curt and Joe came out on top in spring.
And it was a very unique situation, as it always is, at the quarterback spot when you have competition. We recruited Tanner. Brought Tanner in. He will also compete. He deserves that opportunity because he's a junior college player with three years left to play.
Anytime we recruit a junior college player he's going to be given the opportunity to walk in fall camp and compete and get reps with the ones and twos at times just as every freshman will if he deems himself mentally and physically prepared to be able to be in those situations that he has a chance to help our team.
It will be a threeâ€‘man race. I have no timeline on it. And we may jog out there the first play of the game with two quarterbacks on the field and see what happens from there. So who knows, it will be interesting.
Q. What kind of tangibles does Chris Borland bring on the field and maybe the intangibles off the field from a leadership perspective?
COACH ANDERSEN: First of all, I'd say 23 seniors, great leadership throughout the team. And Chris is the heart and soul of that defense. But there's some guys that are right there with him from a leadership standpoint.
But what Chris does consistently is a lot of people talk about leadership on and off the field. And his consistency with his leadership is the key. There's no ups and downs, no really good days or bad days. He's not overly flashy. He's not a rahâ€‘rah guy, he's the king of backflips after practice. So I don't know how he does it, but that's kind of his deal.
But he's so consistent with where he carries himself academically, the expectation level that he has for himself daily, it's easy to follow him. And that's where his leadership starts. But he alsoâ€‘â€‘ he carries himself with the presence of he's approachable for the young players in our program. He's a big part of our Big Brother program which we've had throughout the summer, bringing the new young men into our program it's very important.
And Chris has also accepted a lot of change at the University of Wisconsin with the coaches since he's been there, and he figures it out. He understands. He's going to listen to you first. He's going to figure you out as you move along, and then I believe he's going to trust you.
And to me that's what a quality young man does. That's what a quality person does. I believe he's the best linebacker in the country in my opinion from what I've seen. I've had a unique opportunity to watch him all last summer as we prepared to play Wisconsin while I was at Utah State. And I've also had the opportunity to see him go through spring ball, see him work himself through the winter workouts and how he leads the team.
So tremendous kid, tremendous leader, and I believe he's the best linebacker in the country.
Q. Any moments this summer where you've realized the enormity of the job where it's hit you? Any moments where it struck you the enormity of the Wisconsin job, how big it is, anything big stand out?
COACH ANDERSEN: No, not really. I mean, it's been the transition again has been great. The summer's been great. A job is a job, and I think I look at them all the same as far as what are you doing to influence kids.
When I say that, you're a coach. So to me a coach is you're an educator and you're a father figure. That doesn't matter what level you're coaching at.
When I say that, that the job of coaching is that, regardless of the level. This is a very big stage. It's something we're excited about being on. Coaching at the highest level is something that selfishlyâ€‘â€‘ I hate to use that word, I hate to speak about that word, but for me and all of our coaches to have the opportunity to compete in the Big Ten and coach at the highest level, it's important for me.
So if there's a moment, maybe that's the moment, but it's been good. But, again, coaching is coaching in my opinion regardless if it's eight years old in Little League or it's the biggest stage which we sit on here today.
Q. You coached with Urban Meyer for a year at Utah. I was wondering if you could describe your relationship with him and any influence he's had on you if any?
COACH ANDERSEN: Relationship with Urban? Is that the question?
COACH ANDERSEN: Very good. You know, Coach has been very good to me. I have a lot of respect for him, the way he carries himself. We had a great run.
I tell people all the time when they ask me about Urban Meyer, my first thing is it was great for me. We were 12â€‘0 and won a BCS Bowl, so there wasn't a lot of confrontational times in that situation for us.
But very good friend. Somebody I reach out to when I have questions about things. I think there's very much a mutual respect there. And look forward to seeing him this morning and hopefully we'll be able to spend a little time as we go through. It's great to compete against your friends.
That's going to be a big game. It's way down the road at this point, and we're excited about the opportunity to compete. But he's a good person, good family man, and somebody I have great respect for.
Q. Along those lines, coaching with Urban, this last weekend they had some kids act out, some disciplinary things. Wonder if you could speak to his handling of that, how he does that inâ€‘house. He might take a bit of a hit because of that. Do you think that's fair or unfair, just what is your take on all that?
COACH ANDERSEN: First of all I have no idea how Coach Meyer handled the situation. I'm not big into that stuff. I haven't read anything about it. So I don't know. But I know he's going to be very fair. The tricky thing in today's world is exactly what happened and allowing yourself as a coach to get your athletic director and your athletic director get everybody involved regardless of the situation, if it needs to be and try to help the young men that are involved and get the facts straight, that's the key, before it gets out there and then it never has the opportunity to be fair to the kid that's involved with a group of people that are involved.
So fairness is important. I think Coach will handle it very fairly. He always seems to do that. And education for kids these days is important, regardless of the scenario of the situation they get themselves in, you try to educate them. You try to talk to them, but the decisions that they make, when they walk out of your facility, the decisions that they're making nightly are so very important.
And, again I go back to it, as coaches, we're father figures. I've raised three boys of my own. They're far from perfect. When you put 105 young men or 120 depending on the time of the year, they're never going to be perfect, but doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for that and, again, educate them, help them grow from young men to men as much as you can, and then you hope they make the right decisions.
But discipline isâ€‘â€‘ it's for everybody else to handle their own way.
Q. As far as the offensive call play is concerned, what kind of freedom do you think you have with James and Melvin in the back field? Any kind of versatility that you can get with those guys?
COACH ANDERSEN: James and Melvin very complementary to each other, very different in their styles. And a lot of it is going to depend on how those four tight ends come around that allow Melvin and James to possibly be on the field at the same time, which quarterback's playing, how well the quarterback can hurt you with his legs that's actually in the game, that matters.
And so there's a lot that goes into that. But those two packaged together, whether they're on the field at the same time or separately, cause a lot of problems. You saw it last year when there was times when Melvin got out there and lined up and the fly sweep was very effective in some games for them and James was in the backfield sometimes. Monte was there a lot obviously, but James was in there, too. So it will be hopefully a very powerful 1â€‘2 punch.
I know they worked extremely hard this summer. I'm proud of the way they handled themselves throughout the summer as a running back crew. Need a third back to step up. But overall as the football team, I'd say those two young men are prepared like so many on our team the way that you would hope they would as a program as a whole.
But proud of those two. They'll be a big part of our offense.
Q. Any update on Tanner's health and what the reaction was like in Madison with the news this week with Tanner?
COACH ANDERSEN: Tanner's fine. Those were always tricky situations, and, again, I go back and share with you what I tell young men all the time in team meetings.
And I say this in recruiting all the time, you gotta understand your situation. You gotta understand your surroundings. Doesn't matter if you grow up in a town of 40 or grow up in a town of 4 million. There's alwaysâ€‘â€‘ there's issues that can pop up and you have to be careful.
And still there's still problems that pop up that you can't prevent. So it happened. We're going to do our best to learn from it as a football program. I know we'll do our best to reach out to many of the studentâ€‘athletes as we can to talk about it and not just football players, to be able to be prepared to understand your surroundings.
But Tanner will be fine. He's back with us now. Expect him to walk into camp full steam ahead and be prepared to compete for that quarterback role.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.