Sept. 2, 2013
Andersen News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Gary Andersen met with members of the media Monday at Camp Randall Stadium to review the Badgers' season-opening win over UMass and look ahead to Saturday's game vs. Tennessee Tech.
Video of Andersen's media session can be found above, and a complete transcript of his remarks is below.
ANDERSEN: Just a quick review of the game, offense, defense, special teams. Wide receivers blocked extremely well in the run game. That was great to see. You don't always see that from the field level. They did a great job. All three runners ran hard, which the stats would show that.
I was really pleased with the rotation of the offensive line also. It went well, and the tight ends did a nice job of blocking.
Looking to get the tight ends more involved in the throw game as we move forward and excited about that opportunity. Explosive offense at times, definitely well worth noting.
Defensively, as you sit back and look at it, I think we ran to the ball well. Like we talked about after the game, we tackled well.
A couple young players of note that played well, I thought Sojourn game in and played well. Ethan, although far from a young player, did a tremendous job of being injured in camp and then coming back and playing the way that he played in that game. Just a couple things there.
Special teams needs to improve. If we can't take care of the special teams and get it to where it needs to be, it will end up costing us games. The two miscues on the snaps were also big. We've got to be able to get that fixed.
Proud of the kids. Played hard. Handled the situation, handled the preparation of the first game very well.
Tennessee Tech, wide open offense now. They've got some kids that can run. They're a skillful group and had their ups and downs.
Obviously, the first week they scored a bunch of points and showed that they are a true spread offense. They give you everything that they can possibly do to spread the field north and south and east and west. Did a very good job of that in the first game. So it will be a big, big challenge.
As far as our offense goes, we need to make sure we come out and sustain the ball, take care of the ball. Run the ball effectively and let the pass game hopefully continue to take strides forward.
Like I said, we'll have to play better on special teams. These kids can run on special teams and on offense and defense. We'd better watch that very closely and prepare the right way.
QUESTION: Gary, you mentioned the special teams were just okay after the game. Obviously, people will look at the missed field goal attempt. What other things did you see in your mind that need to be crisper or sharper?
ANDERSEN: Kickoff coverage was -- you can say they're getting the ball on the 26 yard line. It was three times on the 25, 26 yard line. That's where you're going to get it when you take a knee also.
When you've got one kid making a tackle on 25, 26 yard line, that concerns me. That's one broken tackle away from being a huge play. That will hurt us. That will haunt us.
Our PAT, field goal protection had some definite leakage in it. It's our fault as coaches. We need to coach it better.
Our technique was not good enough. Some of those scenarios, they did not take advantage of it, but it's on film, and they will take advantage of it now. So we need to do a better job in that area.
I thought that the indecisions on the punt return, it's a hard -- the punter was hard to gauge. The ball was all over the field, if you will, but we have got to be able to communicate in those critical, critical situations.
Ball's on the ground three times in that game, and we get it back three times, once on the punt return and two times on the CQ (center-quarterback exchange). It's not going to happen. We're living on the edge in a tight ball game, and if we just let it go away and don't address it, it will be a big time issue, and we'll all be sitting here with a loss one day.
Those things concern me. They concern me highly, and I'll never just look the other way and say, "oh, well, we'll be okay next time."
QUESTION: On the ceiling for the running backs, James White and Melvin Gordon ...
ANDERSEN: There's always room for improvement. I'm sure there's a couple of creases in there they'd like to see. The big thing is there was movement on the offensive line. There was consistent blocking.
Ryan Groy did as good a job as I've ever seen coming up on the power play and getting to the next level. He was tremendous at it. It was very impressive to see him do that at the guard position throughout the game.
He had some movement and got himself through there. James was very patient with his runs. Melvin hit the ball down the field. You all know what Corey did. What's their ceiling? I don't know. I hope it's higher. If they run like they did last week every single week, we'll be a pretty good team. We'll see what happens.
It's going to be tougher sledding as we move forward. We've got a lot of things we'll have to button up. I think sometimes our pad level can still get a little lower as a whole on the offense. I would say that's also with the defense. We can get our pad level down a little bit lower, and it will help the line of scrimmages even more as we move forward.
QUESTION: Gary, is the defensive scheme becoming second nature to your players, or do you think they're still thinking a little bit too much out there?
ANDERSEN: No, I don't think -- well, I'll tell you this. In this game, it's an interesting concept. What they ended up doing on offense was a pretty radical departure from what they did a year ago. They were much more of a true spread team. You saw them line up much more in the pistol and even two backs a lot of times with an anchor tight end. That was not the case nearly as much a year ago.
I was real proud of the defensive staff, Coach Aranda and his staff, and the players to the quick adjustments within two series to be able to go back and really start to defend some things they haven't defended since the second or third week of fall camp.
So there was a little bit of thinking in that transition. I didn't notice it on tape with the effort they played with and the way they ran around the football.
The plan was a good plan, they walked in with UMass to come in and get the ball out quick. We did disrupt the quarterback. In my opinion, we took the quarterback out of the football game, and that doesn't have to be from sacks. It doesn't have to be from hitting him.
It's from confusing him and letting him know that the clock, in his mind, when he gets to two seconds, he'd better be thinking I'd better get rid of this football, or I am going to get hit. I think you saw that in the second half especially.
The disruption was there. The run game was very solid. Had 212 yards and 3.6 or whatever it was per play. You play that well on defense every week, and you're going to have a hard time losing football games.
QUESTION: Gary, you know what it's like to be an FCS coach for a season and coming to a game against an FBS opponent. What's the mindset of those guys coming in? What did all the upsets tell you about the two levels from the first week?
ANDERSEN: You know, first of all, the mindset is it's a tremendous opportunity. Once in a lifetime for these kids. They're going to walk into this stadium one time, and they're always going to be able to say they played at Camp Randall. What better for them to say they came into Camp Randall and played well and won.
I'm sure it will be their mindset. It should be the mindset of their team, and I'm sure it will be. They're going to watch the film. They'll be excited to come in and play.
But as far as the upsets that are out there, it happens every year. I haven't really looked at the scores, to be honest with you. A lot of them, I know there were some upsets. Is there an abnormal amount? I can't really speak for that.
It happens every year. People are closing in. That's why you've got to be careful when you recruit young men to make sure they're the right fit for your program.
Again, coaches need to continually evaluate the tape and not let people evaluate the tape for them when you're taking guys you want and recruiting.
It's important for us, as we step forward, our schedule continues to improve, getting tougher and tougher in the next few years, that we do a great job of recruiting the speed to keep up with the schedule, if you will. That's the point of emphasis for us and will continue to be. I'm excited about that opportunity.
Those guys are good coaches at that level. They have hungry young men that have a chip on their shoulders. The longer they hang in games, the more excited they get about winning, and they start believing. That's when it gets a little bit scary. You'd better make some plays to win.
QUESTION: Coach, Tennessee Tech's quarterback Darian Stone, dual threat quarterback first, what challenges does he pose to your defense? Second off, do you maybe use this as a blueprint for Braxton Miller going forward?
ANDERSEN: Well, to play spread teams is good. It's good for -- potentially, I guess, for Ohio State, Arizona State. We're going to get some of that from Northwestern. You're going to get a taste of it. They're all different. Indiana, whatever it is, as you go through the schedule.
It is good to be able to play those teams. He is a dual threat quarterback. He runs the ball. They run the ball with the option threat. They run the ball with the true quarterback run game, whether it's the power or the rat play or the o-zone, whatever you want to call it, it's a called quarterback run.
There's a lot of check with me, it appears. Either it's a run in the offense, the zone play, where they can hand off the zone play, the quarterback can keep it, or if the backer overplays the run game, they can simply go and throw the throw, and it's a pretty simple slant play. That's become more of a common play, very difficult to defend. You've got to be on guard.
It will be good preparation for us. I'm not really worried about the future. I'm worried about defending it against these guys. They had some big plays in this last game with some kids that can really run.
QUESTION: Gary, you mentioned Ryan's productivity pulling. It's interesting because, as mobile as he is, he said he's never been a good guy pulling and blocking. He doesn't necessarily like it as much. What led to the improvement? I know he's going to face tougher competition. What led to the improvement for him?
ANDERSEN: I don't know. I don't know if he's -- he just looks comfortable when he's pulling. He looks athletic in this game. It was just one of those things that was noticeable to me. I guess maybe I'm jealous because I wish I could have done that when I was playing, I don't know.
It just looked fluid. It looked simple. It looked clean. He was on the right guys. He was physical when he got them to the next level. It's hard for offensive linemen to track those linebackers when they're running in space. That's not what they do every single snap.
I really don't know why it caught my eye. In fact, I haven't even talked to Coach (T.J.) Woods about that. I watched the tape again this morning, and he just jumped out at me. I'll pass that on to Ryan. It was noticeable. So he's worked hard, I know that much.
QUESTION: Gary, how and where does a spread, true spread, stress your front seven?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, it stresses you a lot, big play capabilities. Multiple, multiple formations. They'll go from formation in the boundary to a quads look into the field, motioning guys all over to two or three guys in the backfield. So there's a lot of a mental part to it. Pre-snap awareness is important.
I think it does force you to simplify a game plan, which is a lot what spread teams are looking for. But it does. You can't do 50 different things when they're going at pace, and sometimes they play fast. Sometimes they don't play fast. They have look over.
In turn, there's a lot of offense there too. It's usually somewhat simplified.
But it does stress you. You have to be on guard, and you have to be prepared to tackle well in space because there's going to be some plays that the ball is going to be thrown out in space, and you're going to have to make plays.
It's something that I think these kids have played against, and they've done a good job of it in the past, sometimes better than others. We're excited to get started on it today.
QUESTION: You mentioned the speed that UMass got the ball out. Do you have any concerns about your defense not recording any TFLs, or is that a product of what they did and maybe not showing everything?
ANDERSEN: I think it's some credit to them in the run game, to be honest with you. The defensive staff may sit back and look at a couple of spots. I was all good with the crew and how it was officiated and the way it went.
The TFLs, they did a good job of getting the ball back to the line of scrimmage. They did. That's just the way it is. I don't think we had a bunch of opportunities.
The sacks, that can happen. I've been in many of those games to where, again, I think we disrupted the quarterback, which is our goal.
But TFLs, is that highly concerning? No. Three-point-four, I think it was, per rush, or three-point something like that. Three yards or under is playing great, great defense in the run game. Anywhere between 3.0 and 3.5, if you're doing that at the end of the year, you'll be one of the best rush teams in the country.
We do want to make plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. We had a couple of opportunities, and he just kind of popped back up there to the line of scrimmage. Hopefully, we can get that swung a little bit in our direction.
QUESTION: Gary, do you have any idea if Derek Watt is going to be okay for practice? Based on what you saw on tape, what was (Derek) Straus able to do, at least in the interim when he was out?
COACH ANDERSEN: First of all I don't know how with Derek. We'll have to wait and see. The big thing is to get him back and get him healthy. The last thing you want is to have a recurrence of an injury in that place with a hamstring situation.
Straus came in, and he did some good things. We're going to activate Austin (Ramesh). Austin is going to play too. Want to create competition, like we always talk about, and we will create some competition in that area.
It was effective. The run game stayed effective. Watt has such a good knack of positioning. You don't need to just be a killer blocker every single time as a fullback. The positioning of the blocking is so important. It's a lot like the way our tight ends block at times, and the ability to not hold at the moment and get off the block when you feel and go by.
There's so many of those little things, the intangibles that Watt does such a good job of that's going to be a challenge for those other two as we move forward.
But it was as good as Mr. Watt? No. But it's a work in progress, and that's the way it's going to be for the next week or so.
QUESTION: Coach, you mentioned special teams was a problem last week. Tennessee Tech's return guy, Vanlier, returned a 93-yard punt for a touchdown, doesn't get much easier. Your initial thoughts. And also, watching tape, he kind of reminded me of Kenzel Doe. Did you make the same connection?
ANDERSEN: He does remind me of Kenzel, and he is lightning fast. That was an impressive play I saw, and there was another one where he hit it up the sidelines on kind of what we call a Zorro play in the game, and he outran everybody kind of like they were standing still.
We know he's going to be there, and he's a talented young man. He has very good speed. There's a couple of other kids out there that play real well. They had a wide receiver that graduated, No. 21 last year, was a tremendous player. These guys are a threat when they get the ball in their hands. You'd better be closing in on space pretty fast.
QUESTION: You mentioned after Saturday's game that you were going to go home and have dinner and just kind of relax there with the other coaches. I'm wondering, over the last 48 hours, what's been the highlight or the best moment for you or something that someone said to you in celebration of what you remember about this moment?
ANDERSEN: Gosh, probably the message my mom left me. I think I told you earlier, she was kind of getting after me a little bit about here we go. She left me a nice message, and that was a huge positive.
There's a lot of text messages and a lot of complimentary people. It was great to just be on the field and get the victory. That was the main thing. Move on to the next one. But we did enjoy it.
QUESTION: The Big Ten has talked about eliminating these FCS games. Do you have a strong feeling on that either way?
ANDERSEN: Well, it sounds like we're doing it. So I hope everybody else does it.
I don't know what the stances are to say this is exactly how we're going to do it. I've heard talks about it. I don't know if everybody's going to do that. Again, it's not really any of my business at the end of the day. Our schedule is going to be what our schedule is.
If it all goes away, I've been at that level. I've coached at that level, and it's going to be a sad day for those programs if that happens. Not just from a financial standpoint, from an opportunity standpoint for those kids to walk into games like this and be able to play.
I remember it as a coach, and I remember those kids being fired up for those opportunities. But if that's the way it all goes, I just hope everybody is on the same page when they do go down that road.
QUESTION: Gary, at Utah State, you weren't afraid to schedule basically whoever. You come here, and the beginning of the schedule is more of a transition, the smaller schools coming in, then you've got some SEC opponents coming up in the near future. What do you prefer personally? Would you rather play the big dogs first, or would you rather play the small schools first?
ANDERSEN: Because of the way it's scheduled out the next few years, I'm excited about playing the big dogs first, I guess. That's what we've got.
It will be good for us. I've said it a lot of times, said it many times, if we're going to play those games early, I consider ourselves a big dog, and we're going to play another big dog. You like to play that early if it's a nonconference game.
I don't think it has to be game one, but I'd sure like to see that in game one or two, in my opinion. You really don't want a game seven or eight on the back end of the schedule, and I don't think you want to play a game three or four as you're going through a season.
That's the direction we're headed. I think it's a credit to Wisconsin overall. We have to recruit that way, and it's a big part of our recruiting philosophy right now is we are playing those teams. You want an opportunity to be on that national stage on whatever that game may be, first game of the year, special place to be. So come be part of it.
QUESTION: You mentioned about getting the tight ends more involved in the throw game. If I remember correctly, in camp there was a focus on really getting the wide receivers involved first to try to build some depth there. Is that a little bit of what we saw Saturday? Is this going to take an effort from Ludwig to say, okay, we've got to get the tight ends more involved?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, I believe that's part of it. I think there was some limitations a little bit on some calls as far as having the full playbook in. They're going to have more of those opportunities.
They did do some decent things as far as jumping some routes on the over routes and some crossing routes that you don't always see. If you're going to see it again the next week, you might scheme up a little bit different against it.
They're going to be a big part of it. They need to be, and I would expect them to catch more passes, I think, with the people understanding now that every time a wide receiver cracks, you'd better be ready for them to run right by your face because they're going to do it two or three times a game, and if you don't, it's going to be 21 points because they'll not connect on it, and then they'll do it again five or six snaps later.
That should really loosen that up, and it should get that intermediate zone a little bit looser for the tight end to roam around in there and make some plays.
QUESTION: What did you see out of (Michael) Caputo on Saturday?
ANDERSEN: He played very well. Physical. Very sound in his assignment. He's what we call a Champion Performance without question, so was his counterpart Dez (Southward). They played well.
Michael was very physical, not just in his re-routes, but in his tackling and the full -- he just felt comfortable out there to me, which was great to see, because there was so much communication between those safeties.
He even got himself, the times he had to play back in the post and was in good position. You saw him get over the top on the one deep ball they threw down the middle, and he was eating up some ground pretty good there. A lot of good solid play out of him, and I think it will continue to move him forward. He gained a lot of confidence.
Another kid that he wasn't caught up in that moment at all. It was I'm going out here with a purpose, and I'm prepared. That was great to see.
QUESTION: Leading up to last week over the last eight months, there was buildup of transition, unknowns, your debut, all of that stuff going in. Is this week more of a sense it's routine, it's down to business, it's all about football. Is there a little less of that stuff going on for you guys?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, there's no real surprises or curveballs, if you will. Even the hotel the first time through and singing `On, Wisconsin' the first time through. All that stuff that came with it, we've done it all one time, and we'll be better at everything we do. I truly believe that.
It is nice to get into just a game week mode and get into the season and grind away as coaches and make sure we're doing what we can to prepare the kids.
QUESTION: Gary, when you rehash a game one-on-one with a guy like Corey Clement, do you -- is your first thought to bring up his last carry or every carry up to that point?
ANDERSEN: That's a great question. For me, I'd probably -- I try to tell myself not to do what you said there on the latter, as far as just focus on the last carry that he had. It will definitely be discussed and communicated with, especially with Coach (Thomas) Hammock.
Corey, I'm proud of him, and we'll definitely talk about a lot of the good things he did. That's a learning moment. Thomas Hammock probably put it best in the staff meeting when he said what a great learning tool that you've got to understand, if you're in there five or six or seven plays, you're going to get tired, and you'd better have a focus even more on ball security. Snap one is kind of easy to squeeze that ball. Snap seven not so fast when you're breathing hard.
We'll use that as a learning moment. That's how we always try to use those situations is a [true] learning moment. That's what coaching is. True coaches coach in those moments. Poor coaches use another word that I won't say right here in those moments, and that's what we try to make sure that we can learn from those moments and handle them the right way.
I was proud of the way he played. He was physical, tough minded, and he was definitely, again, prepared for that moment.
QUESTION: You flip-flopped the offense and defense on the bench from the way it's been done here in the past. Is that just the way you do it? Were there any collisions or guys going to the wrong place?
ANDERSEN: I don't even know why we did that. We came out, and I had no idea until we went for our mock game, and Ryan Groy walked by, and he says, "Whoa, I don't know where to go. What's going on?"
It probably had more to do with the connection, the head sets up top because of the way we configure our head sets and the numbers we use, I believe. That's my guess. Other than that, I could quite frankly care less which side of the bench they're on. It makes no difference to me whatsoever.
QUESTION: Gary, when Dave Aranda first met with us back in winter, he talked about the importance of turnovers, which you can obviously chart. How important is the charting of the attempts to get the ball out for you guys? Rip attempt, strip attempts, guys getting their hands on ball in the passing game?
ANDERSEN: Dave has done a tremendous job of emphasizing that. As a coordinator, I never did. If we're just talking about the passes, I talked about getting our hands on the ball and the PBUs.
But as far as the strip attempts, you count the things that the stats count, and that's what I did. Dave has taken a whole other step to it. It's the amount of rips and the strips and the things they try to get out. You see it in the game, and you see it in practice.
It's a great way to do it. The kids like it. They bought into it. They like to see those checks at their name when they get an opportunity to get those attempts. I deem it as a positive.