Aug. 26, 2013
• Andersen News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Gary Andersen met with members of the media for his first weekly news conference of the season Monday at Camp Randall Stadium and looked ahead to Saturday's season-opening game vs. UMass.
Video of Andersen's media session can be found above, and a complete transcript of his remarks is below.
ANDERSEN: As we move into game week, it's really two days into game week last week. We'll treat today as like a Tuesday and tomorrow like a Wednesday and so on. So kids are excited. The first morning meeting is normal weekly structure today.
I think they're ready to move into transition to a true game week versus camp. And like every team in America, they look forward to the opportunity to play against somebody else. It's going good, going smooth, I think you have a lot of questions, and I think I've talked enough. So we'll take some questions and roll from there.
QUESTION: Gary, a couple of guys, (Sojourn) Shelton and Tyler Marz. I know Shelton got here early, but what allowed you to list him number one on the depth chart? And on the offensive line how much of it is Tyler's development or maybe some uncertain at center?
ANDERSEN: Well, the thing with the depth chart is it's ever changing. And Darius is starting corner. But if we get to our nickel packages, I think it's always fair for the 12th defender on the package, because we're going to play in this conference, quite frankly, so much of the nickel package that Darius and P.J. and Sojourn are the starting corners. That's where we're at.
So to say that we jog out there on our base, that can flip flop back and forth depending on scheme and where we're at. So Darius (Hillary) is by no means been beaten out. He's still the starting corner. But we see it in our depth chart minds to be starting corner.
So with Tyler, Tyler did take advantage of the opportunity he had in camp playing tackle, moving into playing some guard, playing the other tackle, three day run of practices where he was playing almost the whole practice. Did a tremendous job. And Dan's (Voltz) not back yet. We'll see what today holds. I don't know how much he's going to go. He was running probably 70 percent at the end of last week.
But the good thing is we have nine guys that we walk into on the offensive line, and we feel like we've got to put the pieces of the puzzle together with those nine.
And so obviously Ryan (Groy) can play different position, Dan can come in and play center. Dallas (Lewallen) can move where he needs to move. Tyler can play where he plays. And so it's going to be some moving pictures. And as far as that goes, throughout the year, just hopefully we stay healthy, because it gets really hard fast if we lose a young man or two.
QUESTION: Do you like Ryan Groy at left guard, is that part of your thinking, too?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, Ryan is very experienced at guard. He's been very unselfish, very open to moving wherever we ask him to play. I think he looks at helping the team first, and number two helping his development of his future, which is the way he should look at it. I think it's good to look at it both those ways.
But he's played a lot of football at the guard spot. Could he play left tackle? Absolutely. It's just a matter of putting it all together. He's a very versatile young man, very smart. He would help a young center, if Dan was in there or Dallas, for that case, just to call moving defense a little bit, Ryan's played a whole bunch of football so that could help there also.
So that plays a factor. It's not the ultimate factor but that's part of the equation as Coach (T.J.) Woods and the offensive staff tried to make sure we get the best five out there consistently. But I think you're going to see six or seven of them play in the game.
QUESTION: Can you relate to the challenges UMass Coach Charlie Molnar is going through trying to build a competitive FBS program and what are the biggest challenges of trying to do that?
ANDERSEN: I have no idea of one program to the next. I know when you walk in there, you have a plan and a belief. And I think the challenges are much the same. In my career, at the different places I've gone, I've tried to have a plan I believe in and implement it and do what I believe in, obviously we don't need to go into that, but take care of the kids and do the things we do.
That never changed for me whether it was coming to Wisconsin, going to Southern Utah as a head coach or Utah State. But there's unique challenges. Every job has very unique challenges. And I'm sure they have great positives at UMass, and I'm sure there's things that are challenges just like it is everywhere.
QUESTION: I know you said you don't want to publicly announce a quarterback. But when are you going to privately tell the guys, particularly the quarterbacks, the rest of the team who is going to be the starter on Saturday?
ANDERSEN: The rest of the team, we don't do that at the left guard or the corner position or free safety position. So quarterbacks know who the quarterback is, and away we go with it.
So I just really don't believe that the quarterback position needs to be treated any different. We had a flip flop at linebacker a week ago. We didn't sit down and send out smoke signals and have a big meeting about it, we just said it is what it is. And we believe in the direction we're headed with the young men involved. And it's in house, the way we do everything.
But the quarterbacks know who is going to play.
QUESTION: The flip flop at linebacker, was that Landisch and O'Neill?
QUESTION: Can you explain, I know you said both guys would play. But what eventually led to Landisch?
ANDERSEN: I think (Derek) Landisch, as he went through camp he was so productive in the scrimmages, like we talked about. But they're going to play a lot. And (Marcus) Trotter is going to play some, too. You get in there with Chris (Borland), I think as we go through the year you're going to see Chris involved in some edge rushing and some possibilities there. And so we're going to need all four of those really starting inside linebackers, if you will. Chris will be on the field all the time, at least most of the time for sure.
The other two will battle back and forth and Trotter definitely has a role especially, when you get in the bigger packages; he's such a tough, physical tackler.
QUESTION: Could you explain in your mind what makes for an ideal linebacker; and, secondly, I know you've gone through this before, but could you kind of characterize the linebacking positions on your football team?
ANDERSEN: Yep. The ideal linebacker is, first of all, yes, he has to be physical and tough. And, thirdly, on that, has to be a very good tackler, and he wants to tackle people. Has to be that toughness about him, which is so important.
Secondly, I would say he has to have the mind to be able to play within our scheme, because it's not the most complicated defense in America, but it does come with some responsibility as an inside linebacker and an outside linebacker, he has to have enough smarts to be able to understand what's happening around him; and for him to be an effective linebacker and play at the best of his abilities he needs to know his scheme pretty much inside and out. So he's got to be a smart kid.
Thirdly, that can be overrun. You want to get those linebackers and go sideline to sideline and they can make some special plays because of their athletic ability. So we really have inside linebackers and outside linebackers. Now with the way we're playing, there's not a big difference between the Mack and Rover backer; but they're definitely inside linebackers. They'll play within the box, if you will, the tackle box.
And their responsibilities are to run and throw and get the defensive linemen lined up every single snap. The outside linebackers which we call our F and our Bs, they're very different. Both outside linebackers. The B is more a defensive end body type with the ability to drop into coverage. That can change from year to year or even from the depth chart from the first one to the first team young men to the second team young men. Which we're a little bit like that now with B.K. (Brendan Kelly) starting at the B and then Vince (Biegel) comes in, it's a little different body type, but job description is the same.
So the scheme doesn't change but the alignments may change a little bit with those guys. The F linebacker is a big safety. We'd rather see him as a safety, smaller linebacker body versus the B backer, who is a bigger defensive and slash linebacker body. Those are the four.
QUESTION: You talked about the players getting ready to get going here. Are you ready to get a team on the field and coach it?
ANDERSEN: Yes, please Saturday come here as fast as possible. We'll never turn down a practice opportunity, but it's just time. It's time for these young men to get their legs back and that's a big focus.
I am absolutely excited about the opportunity to take the field with this crew and watch them go to work and I know they're excited about it. And it's going to be fun. That's one of the big reasons why you coach is to see the young men go out and have fun playing the game of football, excited about that.
QUESTION: A lot of different things here for you at Wisconsin as opposed to Utah State. Is coaching in a game perhaps the one thing that doesn't change?
ANDERSEN: I agree with that 100 percent. Once you get in a game, it's standard operating procedure. I believe the staff's ready to go in the way we prepare and handle it. And we're ready. And so that will be the thing.
Looking forward to being on the sidelines. That will be a big part of it. Coaching a game of football is coaching the game. There's going to be those first game jitters, you worry about the players, the coaches and everybody settling in. But once the ball is in the air there, we should settle in and just be fine.
QUESTION: With Dez at nickel. Dez obvious number one nickel throughout campus; is he going to be in that role?
ANDERSEN: Dez (Southward) is going to be the number two nickel. So one of those first three corners will be out there doing what they do. And if T.J. (Reynard) is completely healthy and ready to go, he would be the fourth corner, depending on if he fit outside or inside.
We have another grouping of people which we call dime which puts four corners on the field at times. We may go that package this week if we can just from the ability of a health status.
Dez always has the opportunity to drop down and play corner. He's trained to be play outside and trained to play inside and trained to play in the post. But with Michael (Caputo) and Moose (Leo Musso) and Dez, you know, safety positions, that's kind of taken a little bit away from Dez's time at the corner position, whether that be a nickel or dime or true outside corner. But he can do it if needed.
QUESTION: You mentioned that coaching a game doesn't change. Different coaches have different rituals the day of a game or superstitions, whatever you want to call them. What will your game day be like from the moment you wake up to get to the stadium?
ANDERSEN: I'm not superstitious at all. So that's one thing that I try to pride myself on, never becoming superstitious. So I don't have any real rituals. I really truly don't. The one thing I do is I talk to my pops before I go out before kickoff, that's about it. I don't have anything else. I like to walk up the tunnel with the kids at the beginning and I like to watch them take the field.
And, in fact, myself and Pat Muldoon made a deal, he was walking yesterday, we walked out for I guess it was Saturday, walked out and he was in the very back, walking out through the tunnels, did our pregame stuff.
And I said: Pat, that's just like you to be in the back here, you don't like the bright lights and all that stuff. He said: No, Coach, I come out last. I said now there's going to be two of us. We'll come out together at the end of it, the two of us. I don't have rituals or superstitions, just line them up and let them go play.
QUESTION: You said Ethan (Armstrong) at the start of camp wasn't (concerned about missing time) and coming back from injury he said wasn't worried about missing time at camp. And I see he's listed
ANDERSEN: Who was that? Ethan?
QUESTION: Is there any curiosity how he will perform having missed so much time?
ANDERSEN: You know, there is a little bit. I feel when he's in there and fresh I was the one that took him out on Saturday's practice.
He was in there getting his ankles taped and I said: Ethan, you need to stay off. I tried to watch those older kids and watch them closely on tape. That's one of the first things I do, I don't sit and watch the scheme the whole time. I watch and see how they're moving around. It's an older team.
And we need to get those kids prepared on game day. I held him out myself. I feel good about him when he's out there. Ethan's played so many snaps. He's a good tackler. And he understands concepts of defense from the media room.
It doesn't take him nearly as long to take it from the media room, and he's done a lot of it before, I guess, if you will, in games.
So I feel confident that he'll walk out there and be a good player. Burgeoning on a great player, especially if we can get him to where he's completely healthy every week.
QUESTION: I know you probably have a good read on this team, but games are when you really learn about a team. But what are you looking at most curiously, the questions to get answered this week, what are you most curious about?
ANDERSEN: How we experience the game, first of all, see how we handle administrative penalties, turnovers and simple things that seem so simple.
Getting out of the huddle and understanding game day operation is important. You're never going to be flawless, but I would surely expect us to go out and move around the field like we've been there before a little bit like we've been through what we call two preseason games and two scrimmages. I'm hopeful for that. There's no guarantees.
But we've tried to dust off every issue that could possibly happen and address it. So I want to see how they function. Next I want to see how they are as far as game shape goes because you never know. Put them through conditioning and make them practice hard and do all the stuff you do there, it will be interesting to see what kind of game shape they're in. I feel good about that.
But as we go through getting to the third and fourth quarters, see how they're going, the game momentum and not just surviving. And interested in special teams, how many of those young kids can step up take a little bit of the pressure off some of the older players by performing on special teams at a high level. If they can't, they won't and we'll put the old guys back in there.
QUESTION: Follow up on the earlier linebacker question. How those guys adapt to the jobs and your expectations you have in that position.
ANDERSEN: I think very well. Coach (Dave) Aranda being the defensive coordinator and being inside linebacker coach has been a huge advantage for the inside linebackers and we’ve got ourselves, too, the F and the B coach, Aaron (Schwanz), does a nice job, a graduate assistant, but he's way ahead of his time as far as handling those guys. He's done a nice job.
I've been fortunate to be able to spend a little time in those meetings, especially in camp. So they have the core concepts. They're very smart young men. The challenge is for young player like Leon (Jacobs) to break in there and get the message in the meeting and take it out on the field with minimal reps. I don't worry about B.K. doing that or don't worry about Ethan doing that.
Vince is a young player and Joe is a young player, but those kids pick it up quickly and move on to the field with it which is good because we'd like to have them be involved in some of our sub packages. They're coached well. But the most important thing they're a group of kids that have a high care factor and they're a talented crew for the most part. We'll see how they play.
QUESTION: Preseason All Big Ten teams, Melvin Gordon maybe second team and James (White) not mentioned. Are you comfortable with James as your starter and why?
ANDERSEN: Again, I would say it's one and one. You can put "ors" on a lot of different spots on the depth chart. James has done so much. I would bet you if you sat down James and Melvin side by side and Melvin wouldn't want that "or" next to his name, because he knows what James has done and how hard he's worked to get this opportunity.
They're both going to get a ton of reps. We have running back A and B or running back one and one, however you want to put it. They'll be effective in the offense and be a big part of the offense and both have big play capability.
So in my own mind, I know Coach (Thomas) Hammock's mind and Coach (Andy) Ludwig's mind there's not a real starter; there's two very good linebackers and lucky to have them both.
QUESTION: You referred to Dave Aranda earlier this summer as the maddest of scientists. How would you characterize Andy Ludwig?
ANDERSEN: Maybe the madder-ist, however that word may be. They're both the same. It's amazing. They work well together because it's the way that they sit back and bounce ideas off of each other is really unique as coordinators.
That happens in some places. I wasn't like that as a coordinator. I wanted to win every day and beat the offense and some would say I bend the rules of scrimmages, but that's okay.
Those guys work together and work very well together. But I think they try to be on the cutting edge of using their personnel. And to me if I use the term mad scientist, that's kind of what I'm talking about, because you can change as a coordinator and it's important to change as a coordinator because every year is different. Nearly every week is different.
With an injury, with whatever is coming away, with a young man, you try to put the team in the best position with the kids that are on the team. And I think they both do a great job with that. And their demeanors are much like that also.
Their demeanors are way different than mine. But it all worked. And Andy, I've worked with Andy, I know what his demeanor is. And I worked with Dave now for a year and I know what his demeanor is. And they both have a special way of getting the kids to respond.
QUESTION: You mentioned that Leon didn't have the best of practices. I'm curious, how did he respond the next day on Saturday?
ANDERSEN: I think good. And those young men need to be challenged in those spots. I'm always concerned when you throw a young freshman out there on the football field from the standpoint of not becoming overwhelmed at moments. And I feel the same with Sojourn. And I feel that same way same if T.J. gets in there or feel the same way if Tanner (McEvoy) gets in there.
But I think Leon, because of his lack of football playing, sheer reps over the years, whether it's high school or even junior high school and now jumping into this level, I'm not saying the learning curve is larger, but it's going to be bigger and I want to do everything I can to prepare him as a coach to make sure he's prepared for that.
He's going to be challenged and make mistakes, but he has to show us he can handle that prior to getting on the big stage or at least give him every opportunity to do that. But he practiced better.
QUESTION: There's no "or" between Kyle and Jack, the kicker, how would you evaluate that position? And is Kyle solid for now?
ANDERSEN: Kyle will kick right now. Jack's had an injury for the last week. And so went back and forth and throughout camp. And so we'll see. Kyle has bounced back very well from the poor performance he had, which that's football, that's life, that's athletics.
I'm proud of the way he's handled that. But Jack will get some opportunities if he's better and if he's ready. That's where it sits. The snaps and the holds have been good, mostly through camp, which is great to see.
QUESTION: You've been asked to do a lot of reflecting since you were hired here. Could you do it one more time. A year ago you were sitting talking about a different team, a different place, a different staff, different players. What strikes you about this particular moment, preparing for this particular game compared to where you were a year ago?
ANDERSEN: Really there's nothing for me as I hone in … I woke up this morning and going into game day, game week, excuse me, I feel like I'm surrounded by good kids at a university where I'm excited to wake up and represent the university, and that stuff matters to me. It's a big part of who I am, and that's what drives me.
And it's not different. It's just not different. There's a few more cameras. But other than that, it's really the same ideas. I haven't changed a bit. And I expect to do my job at the highest level.
I expect the young men to do their job at the highest level, the coaches, and we're going to work like crazy to make Badger Nation crowd. A year ago we were working like crazy to make Aggie Nation proud. That's what matters because we're here to do more than just a job is change kids' lives and talk about the football side of it.
We're here to make people proud of the football program. And I like waking up every day and having that challenge.
QUESTION: You mentioned Coach Ludwig's demeanor, with so much focus on the quarterback position, has his experience brought some stability to that? He's seen everything. There's not much that's going to surprise him. Does that help in that situation?
ANDERSEN: I think it does. He's kind of been through it all I guess if you look back through his years, through the quarterbacks having a couple of them that had played and decisions he had to go through as a coordinator 25-plus years.
He's one of those coordinators when you talk to him about how important it is for him to coordinate and coach the quarterbacks, some guys aren't like that, but his ability to be a coordinator is he basically demands that and I think it's a good thing also.
So his experience is good. I think playing will be a part of it and all that he's gone through, this piece of the puzzle is another, it's another recruiting or, excuse me, another quarterback controversy or whatever you want to call it.
But I will say this, I'm proud the way the kids handled it. It's not easy. It's tough. It's such a everybody wants to talk about it. It's right there. Bright lights, big city talking about the quarterback spot. But all three kids have been in the middle of it.
It's not easy for Tanner to have to understand, accept the role that he's going to have.
And as we move through it, the kids have all just been good with it. Probably not happy with some of the things but they've accepted it. And I think that reflects on to Andy because he's handled that. It's not me walking into those meetings.
Again, I don't walk into that quarterback meeting and say, okay, now we're going to have this big special announcement of the starting quarterback, drum roll please. I don't do that. Andy handles it just like Coach Aranda handles the linebackers. I'm proud of the kids.
QUESTION: You talk about the need to have multiple safeties available. At what point did Nate Hammon become a guy you said we can depend on him in certain moments?
ANDERSEN: Coach Busch basically looked at Nate and Moose (Musso) were kind of the same deal. Played a lot of defense, did some things, ran through defense, watched them through spring and winter conditioning, when we have an opportunity to watch the kids, and we just needed to find some young men, number one, that were smart kids and, number two, could run fairly well at that spot. And that's definitely a prerequisite at safety to play the way we want to play. And there's been some talented kids that played back there last year that aren't in that back end which we know.
So numbers being down, freshmen numbers coming in, we wanted to make sure there was a couple in the program that could handle it. But Nate, again, he can run; he's long. He's learning every day to get out of his break sooner, his anticipation reading defense not only during the play but pre snap is improving which allows him to be a step or two ahead and I think that will continue to move forward in the next few weeks as we get into some games.
QUESTION: Abby's down as one of the punt returners; is there a level of concern about using that kind of guy in that role?
ANDERSEN: Yes, that keeps me up at night. It really truly does. And we have some young men that can go back there and catch the punts but it's such an important, important part. And James can go back there, Kenzel (Doe) can go back there and Jared can go back there, and I feel it needs right now to be one of those guys. And Kenzel has done such a good job of just catching it, you watch him at practice, it's just so easy for him. And Abby (Jared Abbrederis) has done such a great job of doing that. So you definitely want to protect hip, you want to be careful, but you just can't put balls on the ground in that situation.
And, again, when you look at who we have, right now, there's not a long list of a freshmen back there. So, okay, he's going to go catch it. We've tried, trust me, we've put them back there and there's been experiments that didn't go so well.
So they're not ready to do it yet. The kickoff return thing is really going to be no different. I expect that team to be a very good weapon, if we're going to use those kids, back there as returners, the blockers better accept responsibility and take great pride and let's make that a special team. Not just punt return, but kickoff return also.