March 4, 2013
• Watch Andersen News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Gary Andersen met with the media Monday to discuss the opening of spring football.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Andersen's remarks can be found below.
ANDERSEN: First of all, watching the last few weeks, it's a very, very important time in Wisconsin athletics for other sports as they close their seasons. I'd like to wish all the athletes and the coaches best of luck. We'll be watching and hope it turns out the way they want it to. Good luck to them.
As we move forward, spring ball, it's been a very good offseason. We get back from recruiting. Coaches can get in and spend a couple of hours a week with kids in the film room. I think we put a lot of pressure on the young men in the program to handle a lot of things on their own as far as developing within the offense. With the rules and the way they are today and the conditioning periods, a lot goes back to young men having to prepare themselves.
The young men in our program have done a tremendous job of wrapping their arms around the offensive and defensive schemes, and they're very hungry to learn and excited to get out on the practice field.
It's gone as well as possible, I would say, as we moved through the past few weeks, the ability of the players to get to know the coaches on a more personal level has been a big part of this process, and it always is. We want a family environment. We've done our best to create that family environment over the past few weeks.
So, moving in the right direction. The weight room has been a big positive. With the reports that we get, as far as from the young men in the program, they're getting stronger, bigger, faster, which is ultimately the goal. So I'm pleased with that process.
So as we move into this Saturday, it will be a big step forward. We're excited about the opportunity to get out and compete. It's nice to be in the office for a few days and be around the kids for myself, I know that much. It's going to be a great week this week and looking forward to Saturday as we move forward.
From there, I'll take your questions. The one thing I would ask from you is, right now, all the players are basically on one level. They're all the same guy. So it's not about them right now. It's about the direction we're headed. So individual questions, if we can hold off on those until we get into spring, about kids. We haven't seen them do a lot yet.
So from there, fire away.
QUESTION: Coach, your reaction to the departure of Coach (Jay) Boulware. And how difficult of a challenge is it to replace him?
ANDERSEN: I told the kids this morning in the workout, ultimately, I hired him. It's my fault. It's upsetting, and I brought the wrong guy in here. We'll be better off as we move forward. Hopefully, it happens quickly over the next several days. It's my responsibility to get the right coaches in here. I don't like the timing of it. I don't like the situation that we're in at all, but we'll get a coach in here that's as excited about Wisconsin football and wants to be here in the worst way, and he'll do a tremendous job. We'll rebound very quickly.
It's a little taxing on some young men, and it's taxing on myself because I feel like I did a poor job. And I'll point that finger right at myself, and we'll make it right for him and very, very soon.
QUESTION: With the pro day on Wednesday, A, how important is it that the kids perform well in terms of for the program, how important is that? B, how much do you sell the prospect of becoming an NFL player to recruits?
ANDERSEN: I'm sure the young men that are here for pro day are going to be well prepared and excited, and they'll do a nice job. Any time I hope the best for every one of them. I hope every kid in this program goes on to play 10 years in the NFL and it will be a great experience for them.
It's important. Pro day is big. The combine is big. All the tests, the individual meetings that all those kids go through, when they walk back out on their own turf and they're able to test whatever they decide to test on, it's a big day. I'm sure it's important.
I know those young men are excited. I'm excited to get around a couple of them and meet them on a personal level because I didn't get to spend much time with them at the Rose Bowl and they've departed since then. I know they're back in town. I would love to be able to sit down and communicate with them as we move forward.
As far as selling young men moving into the NFL, you want to talk about it. We want to recruit kids that want to play at the highest level. It's obviously something that we talk about. We communicate with young men as we go through the process, and it's something that you look right outside the locker room. There's a big wall there that has every young man that's played in the NFL.
So it's very important to families. It's very important to young men. Again, we want young men that want to compete and play at the highest level. I wouldn't say we necessarily sell it, but we definitely talk about it.
QUESTION: Gary, what would you have done differently in the hiring process?
ANDERSEN: As I look back, nothing. Absolutely nothing. It caught me by surprise. There's time and there's structure, and there's departure, and it's part of college football, but the timing of this was something I thought I had handled and I thought I had addressed throughout the hiring process. I don't know how I would have stopped it or could have stopped it.
As I move forward, I can't really even say I learned anything that I would prepare myself different or I'll handle an interview different. It's just something that took place. Again, I'll look at it and continue to try to learn from it. It is what it is. When something like this happens, again, I look at myself first because I want coaches that are going to take care of kids first. I said it. You'll hear me say that a million times.
We'll move forward and find somebody that wants to get that done.
QUESTION: What are you blaming yourself for then?
ANDERSEN: Because I failed the kids in this situation. That's the bottom line. I just think that it's important. We talked about building a family environment and getting the right guys in here. It's part of the process, and there's no one else to look at and say, well, why did you do this? Why did you do that? We'll find the right guy here.
I don't know if I'm blaming myself, but there's no one else to blame. So I'll look at myself in the mirror on that one.
QUESTION: Gary, given the hiring procedures you have to go through here, when is the earliest you can bring someone in? Also, when you first hired Jay, you said the big reason was special teams experience. Can you get someone with that at this point, or do you just go with maybe a tight ends coach, and you can rely on a guy like (Bill) Busch, who you know has done special teams work for you?
ANDERSEN: The spacing of the staff is very important with nine coaches. The five and the four is a big component to where you want the special teams to fall. Bill could take the special teams and run with them in one second and wouldn't have any problem at all. He'd do a great job.
But there's four guys on the defensive side of the football, and we're learning a new scheme. The new coach that comes in will handle the special teams, will handle the tight ends. He will have a lot of experience, and he'll be a tremendous recruiter, and he'll care about the kids. I expect the timing of that to take place as soon as I can get it through human relations the right way.
Whether that's a couple days or two or three days, I don't really know, but I know everyone is working hard to make it happen in a timely manner.
QUESTION: Gary, are there any injured players that can't take part in spring? Can you give us an update on Jon Budmayr?
ANDERSEN: What Jon's going to do, he's going to work with us as a student coach at this point. He's excited about it, and so are we. It's a great opportunity for young men who may want to turn around and coach one day. So he'll use that window of opportunity.
The other kids, we'll give you an injury update as we move closer to spring. The young men that had surgeries at the end of the season, we're going to be very smart and very careful with them, as well as we will with the returning players.
You'll see us as we go through spring football, certain young men that have been in a lot of big-time college football games, we're going to do everything we can to prepare them to get them to understand the scheme, but they don't need to go out to spring ball and get a thousand reps. A lot of those reps will be reserved for young players.
QUESTION: Gary, just to clarify then, you are hopeful to have a coach in house, if possible, before the opening spring practice on Saturday?
ANDERSEN: Yes, that is the plan right now.
QUESTION: Over the last few years, Wisconsin has really solidified itself as a top ten team, not only in Big Ten, but in the country. Do you feel added pressure with that, and how does that feel or affect how you go into spring practice and looking ahead to the next season?
ANDERSEN: No added pressure at all. This team wants to be great. It's interesting, as you go through the cycle of the last couple months, you sit down and talk to kids. They have high expectations. We have high expectations as a staff. That puts us all on the same page there. I do know this. As much success as the young men in the program, when I sat down individually in their meetings two weeks ago and had each young man had a 10-minute meeting and just let them talk and get to know them better and understand their family situations, it came out time and time again that 8-6, they don't feel like that's a tremendous year for them.
They feel like they're a dominant power in college football, which I believe they should feel that way. They're in one of the best conferences, if not the best conference in the country. Those are two debatable things. We can talk about it all we want, but that's what I believe and that's what I feel. I think these young men want to play at a high level. So they can get to the championship game, and playing in a big-time bowl game and getting to the Rose Bowl is very important.
But there was an underlying factor off of this year's group of kids that, when they came in and talked to me, those six losses and some close losses and some close wins, they like to see that flip flop to a few more wins or a few more Ws in the win column for sure.
QUESTION: Gary, I was just curious. What reason did Jay give for leaving Wisconsin for Oklahoma? What was I don't know how much you can share, but kind of the series of events on when you found out and what you said to try to convince him to stay.
ANDERSEN: The first thing and Jay's got his own world. I don't want to get... I don't want to start all that stuff. I'll probably say something I shouldn't say. So I'm just going to shut up. It's easier for me to be in that position.
At the end, when did I find out? I found out probably about four hours before you guys found out because that's the world that we live in today. It gets out there pretty quick. It went it was a little bit back and forth for a second. But, again, my philosophy on that is a little bit different. I will never beg a coach to stay. And I feel the same way in recruiting. I will never beg a kid to come to Wisconsin. If you have something you think is better, then so be it.
I'll voice my opinion why I think you're wrong and the direction that you're heading. It may compromise the relationship between me and whoever, and I'm okay with that. I'm here for the University of Wisconsin. I'm here to make everybody proud of the football program on and off the field. If I've got a coach or a player that doesn't want to buy into that, so be it, move along, because there's a lot of people that would love to be a part of it.
QUESTION: Gary, when you look at the changes you're making on both sides of the ball, subtle as they may be, are there some position groups that stand out that you think will have the biggest changes?
ANDERSEN: That's a great question. I would probably say, No. 1, corners, man coverage. There's the challenge to walk in and play man coverage and be into those positions is a big challenge. How much we can do of that and how much we can handle, we'll see as we move through spring.
I think there's going to be the next one, I would move to the skill players on the other side of the football on the offensive side and talk about the wide receivers. We want to put a lot of stress. We want to make plays in all three areas of the passing game. We want to find a way to get to all three zones. We want to throw the ball, and we want to catch the ball. They're going to have to get off of man coverage. They're going to have to understand how to be physical out there. They're very physical in their blocking and have been very, very physical. Now you get a guy up in your face in man coverage, it's a little different animal.
Thirdly, I'd probably say the communication with a very talented linebacker corps, which we know and I love that group of kids, but the communication that has to take place now with the linebackers consistently moving from the even front to the odd front. The zone blitz concepts that are going to come within the scheme consistently will be an adjustment just verbally communicating to the defensive line a little bit more.
QUESTION: Gary, I think the coaches around the Big Ten have made their feelings known, administrators around the Big Ten have made their feelings known, but how do you feel about the potential changes that are coming down with regards to recruiting? Some of the restrictions that have been removed. I know it's been official yet, but how do you feel?
ANDERSEN: I think we made it pretty apparent in the Big Ten as a group of coaches that we'd like to keep it status quo and take a deep breath and sit back and think about what we're doing.
There's a lot of stress that goes into young men's lives if these rules change. There's a lot of stress that goes into coaches, financial burdens on each one of the schools. I could go on and on. So I think that there's change is change, but these are fairly drastic.
And maybe most important, in the whole scheme of this, the changes to me is the stress it's going to put on high school coaches and the young men that are getting recruited. It will do nothing but give people more access to them, if you will.
It's pretty hard in a high school environment to be teaching an English class and get 55 text messages every class period and try to help the young man in your program that's highly recruited and also handle the young men and young ladies that you're trying to educate. So there's a lot to think about. I'm right there with all the Big Ten coaches in the statement that's come out.
QUESTION: Gary, recently, one of your former bosses, Urban Meyer, said he had some advice for the rest of the Big Ten and was going to let the rest of the coaches know it about recruiting. One, how did the coaches, would you say, receive that advice that sounded a little bit like you guys need to pick up the pace. And Badger fans have had an interesting relationship with Meyer and Ohio State. How would you tell them to react to those comments?
ANDERSEN: I talked to Urban about that a couple days after, and he said it was taken out of context. So it was not an issue at all. I think we all want to compete and recruit at a very, very high level. We're all excited about doing that. To my knowledge, there was no falling out or any issues with that whatsoever with any of the coaches in the Big Ten.
QUESTION: Gary, lots of experience coming back at the quarterback position. Not to talk about anyone specifically, what do you need to see out of the guy who's eventually going to win that starting job for you guys?
ANDERSEN: Really the same thing I want to see from the football team is I want to see 15 consistent practices. That's something we're going to talk about time and time again. There's going to be good days for the offense, bad days for the offense, vice versa with the defense, same thing with the special teams. But if we look at the and break it down, I want to see 15 consecutive consistent practices. That's important for us.
I want to see tremendous effort out of all the positions, but at the quarterback position, it's important to be great effort mentally every day and great effort physically every day. At the quarterback position, you want to see leadership. I want to see someone who's going to break the huddle, and I want to see those five offensive linemen's eyes look right in the quarterback's eyes and say, I know you got us. If I do my job, I know you're going to take care of business.
And one that can absorb the scheme, and we can adjust the scheme around the talents of the quarterback that we see is going to take the majority of the snaps in the fall. There's a lot to that position. Their want to to learn is really incredible. It's impressive. They're up there all the time watching the film on their own, breaking it down. They ask tremendous questions.
So far, so good, but those are the things we'll look at. A lot of things you want to look at the first few days, but everything is new also. So we're going to have to be a little patient.
QUESTION: Have you made any position switches, Gary, or do you anticipate, once you get them on the field, possibly making some?
ANDERSEN: There's one or two possible tweaks, and we're still in a little bit of that evaluation stage. It's hard when all you can see them is in conditioning because you can't have any type of really position specific work now. So everything has to go through and funnel through the weight room guys.
But there is a couple young men that we have sat down, discussed possible situations. Nothing drastic, not really flopping over from one side of the ball to the other, but a couple DBs that may turn around and get a safety play. There was a corner that may play safety or vice versa. Linebackers moving from what was a defensive end to really what we call the "B" linebacker now.
So there's some of that out there, but we'll just have to wait and see as we move forward. If we're going to do that, it will happen quickly.
QUESTION: Gary, you're coming here from Utah State to a new league, and now this league at some point is going to probably realign with the divisions. Who knows what it's going to turn out to be. Do you have any thoughts on that, any preferences? Have you talked to Barry how that's going? What's your general impression?
ANDERSEN: It's going to be interesting. Coach Alvarez does a tremendous job of keeping me up to date with all the information that's coming through. I know this. I'm not going to control it. I'm not going to handle it in any way, shape, or form. It's highly contested. It's going to continue to get better and better, I believe, with teams that are coming in.
How you break it down regionally and what's best for the fans and all that, I don't have all those answers, but I know we'll have to continue to compete at a high level to play. It's very obvious in college football that we're continuing moving to the dominant conference, I guess you could say. You sure like to say, and I think, and what I see is that the Big Ten is definitely one of those conferences.
QUESTION: Gary, where do you stand on the possibility of nine or 10 conference games? Do you prefer one or the other? Since it looks like you're going to go to at least one of them.
ANDERSEN: If we go to 10, there's going to be a lot of sore kids, I'll tell you that much. If you're in this league and you're going to play that many games, it's going to be very difficult. There's a lot of games to be played.
As I study this conference and listen to the coaches or assistant coaches who watch much more game film than I have, it's exactly as you would order walking in. It's physical. There's good technique on the front seven play. It's a tough, tough brand of football.
So is it going to be nine? It very well may be nine at some point. I don't personally see it going to 10. I just think that's going to be a very difficult scenario as they move forward. Again, I'm in for whatever they throw down on it. So whatever we got to do, we'll line up and play.
QUESTION: Gary, what are some areas on the team you feel like you need some answers in these 15 spring practices?
ANDERSEN: I would say quarterback is obviously, that's a big question mark. That would come up and be No. 1. The defensive line is interesting, a lot of talented kids. A few young men that aren't going to play in spring football, and we all know that. So I'm excited to see the youth at the defensive line spot get 15 practices underneath their belt and watch those young players develop. That's going to be a very interesting.
And I would say the exact same thing, who's going to come in at the center position? That's a big communication point. It takes a very smart young man and a very durable young man. A tough minded kid that's a great athlete that can play there. So that's why I played center. Just kidding. But it's going to take a special kid to come and get into that spot and replace what was a tremendous player. The defensive line, offensive lines will be very interesting and the quarterback spot.
QUESTION: What's going to be the biggest adjustment for you coming from a smaller school conference to a conference like the Big Ten or a BCS conference?
ANDERSEN: I don't think there's any adjustment. I don't feel any different in any way, shape, or form the way we're prepared. I don't feel any different with the kids in this program. I've learned to love them in a very short period of time. They put a smile on my face when I walk in there at 6 in the morning because they're so hungry and aggressive.
Week in and week out, more fans. Better job of me as a head coach preparing for crowd noise on the road, and making sure at home that I prepare that defense for very, very loud third downs at home because there is a lot of communication. People don't talk about that, but we will work hard on that in spring that, as much as we communicate on defense at home, it is a huge factor for us to be able to get ourselves lined up the right way because we want it to be as loud as possible, obviously, and allow our kids to be able to communicate and be prepared for a very hostile environment in the best stadium in the United States of America.
QUESTION: Gary, on the topic of quarterback, do you hope or expect that, by the end of spring camp, you would have a feel for who would have an edge? Do you anticipate this is the type of situation that you would go deep into fall camp and still have it be up in the air given that another quarterback even still has to come into the fold?
ANDERSEN: I would foresee us going into fall camp for sure. I've said this before. Any time you get a young man that is potentially in the two or three (junior college) kids that we have, and there may be another JC kid before we go through this next spring recruiting cycle and move forward. Those junior college kids are going to have a chance. They're going to walk in, and they're going to get reps early in fall camp because that's why you recruited them.
We know what the other kids are doing in the program and what they have done for the 15 spring practices, so we owe it to the kids on the team to give those junior college kids an opportunity.
That being said, wherever there's a junior college young man, we are going to walk him in here and give him an opportunity, whether it's an offensive lineman, a wide receiver, a corner, or a quarterback.
QUESTION: Coach, just wondered, a couple of years ago, everyone was asking Russell Wilson, when he arrived late, whether he had that "welcome to Madison" moment or part of a team. He brought up a story of what happened the first couple of weeks. Wondering if you've had that yet or is it going to take spring practice or fall camp to have that, or have you had that welcome to the team, Madison kind of moment?
ANDERSEN: Myself personally?
ANDERSEN: Probably today. As I would sit back and I've been away for seven days. That was I told the kids a week ago when I had to leave, I said, this is really different for me to go out and do what I have to do for the next seven days, and it's part of the job, and it's all good stuff.
But to be departed away for that long, and the communication and the kids is really, really improved, from text messaging to the communication that we want to have. I think it's always a little bit of adjustment with new coaches.
But when I walked in there this morning, it was I really walked in there for first time, and I said, "Hey, we're all together." We're where we need to be, and it was great for me. I felt that way, that very comfortable in that setting today and the way the kids handled themselves. I would say this morning would have been that day to this point.
QUESTION: Gary, what's your comfort level with your new town, with your new place, with your new employers? Do you know how to get around? Are you still figuring things out? Do you still need a GPS? What?
ANDERSEN: I can get to my new home, and I can get out of the office, but they just changed that. Now getting out of the office just flipped me upside down again. I'm probably better off in town than I am in the office. A GPS inside the office would be better for me than within town.
But the adjustment is awesome. I just was with Stacey the last couple days this weekend, and then when I left on Saturday evening, she was so excited. She gets to come back on Saturday, and she'll be here for nine days. She was like, “I can't wait to get in the house.“
And just to see her be that excited is a great thing. I feel the exact same way. But the adjustment, again, I've said it many times, from the administration, people out in the community, the ability for my assistant coaches to be able to get settled and people helpful with getting homes and getting young people into school, I can go on and on with that.
Even with the graduate assistants, and married graduate assistants walk in, and wives are involved, and they turn around and have an opportunity to go in and present themselves in a job interview and get a job has just been fantastic.
So all that being said, it's been very simple and clean process. I say thank you to a whole bunch of people when I say that.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else for Coach?
ANDERSEN: Thank you all. Go Badgers.