Friday, December 21, 2012
Notes from Gary Andersen's introduction
By Brian Bennett
Gary Andersen got his first taste of Wisconsin earlier this year. He spent the summer preparing his Utah State team to play the Badgers in Madison on Sept. 15. During game week, he had "Jump Around" play in the Aggies auditorium and told his players to pretend it wasn't on.
"I had one receiver who just couldn't do it," he said.
Now Andersen doesn't have to worry about his players dancing to House of Pain before the fourth quarter. He was formally introduced as the new Wisconsin head coach on Friday morning and spoke about how much respect he gained in a short time for the Badgers program. After a strong performance at the podium, he probably has gained some respect from Wisconsin fans in a similarly rapid fashion.
Here are some of the key takeaways from Andersen's news conference.
-- Andersen confirmed one assistant he plans to have on staff: current Badgers secondary coach Ben Strickland. "He is Wisconsin, if you will, when it comes to recruiting." He said he's interested in retaining other coaches on the current staff and that it's vitally important that he has assistants who know how to recruit Wisconsin and the Midwest, where Andersen has no previous ties. Andersen said he plans to bring along "three or four" assistants from Utah State and also will look for a couple of coaches currently at other schools.
UPDATE: Andersen told the Big Ten Network later on Friday that Utah State defensive coordinator Dave Aranda would take that same job with the Badgers. A source told ESPN.com that current Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Hammock will also be retained.
Gary Andersen says he plans to continue to run the ball at Wisconsin.
-- The hire people will be most curious about is offensive coordinator. Not surprisingly, the first question Andersen got was about his offensive philosophy. He ran a spread system at Utah State, though it had power run elements.
Andersen said his first priority is to run the football, and he'll use Wisconsin's tradition of mammoth offensive linemen. He also wants to add "a touch of option" to the offensive attack. We'll have more on Andersen's comments about the offense coming up in a bit on the blog.
-- Andersen said he planned on attending the Rose Bowl but didn't want to be a distraction to the team as it prepares for Stanford. He has met with the linebackers and a couple of other players but mostly just to introduce himself. He said he'll focus on securing Wisconsin's current commitments and recruiting new players once the NCAA clears him to start talking to prospects as the Badgers coach.
"These kids need to go win a Rose Bowl," he said. "The last thing they need from me is to hang around them. I'm going to be a fly on the wall"
-- Recruiting will start in state. Andersen noted that Utah State only had 18 kids from Utah on the team when he took the job but had 55 in-state players this year on the roster. He planned to call all the Wisconsin high school coaches right away and vowed to lock down the recruits in the state. But Andersen also said that the Badgers were a big enough brand to recruit nationally.
"We should be able to get in any recruiting fight we want to get ourselves into," he said.
-- Andersen drew some criticism for issuing a statement a couple of weeks ago saying that he was staying at Utah State after interviewing for a few jobs. He said he was ready to stay there and told his players he wasn't leaving but at that time, "Wisconsin was nowhere to be seen for me." Once the Badgers job came open and athletic director Barry Alvarez contacted him, Andersen didn't have to give it much thought.
"When coach offered me the job, I just said yes," he said. "I think I shocked him. I didn't ask any questions."
Andersen did call every one of his players Tuesday night to tell them of the decision. It wasn't easy, since the players had already left campus, and he worked the phones until 2 or 3 in the morning.
"It was probably the most difficult thing I've ever had to do in my college career," he said. "It was emotional, 106 times."
-- Andersen coached for one year under current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer at Utah. He said he reached out to Meyer when considering the job, and the first thing Meyer told him was that Wisconsin was a great job. "But then in the next text, he shot back, 'But you've got to come and play us.'" He said Meyer never got mad at him when they worked together because the Utes didn't lose a game in his one season as a Meyer assistant.
-- He has spent most of his life in the Utah area, so Andersen was asked about the cultural differences in coming to Wisconsin. He joked that he shoveled snow in Logan, Utah, before flying to Madison, where he was greeted by a snowstorm. "Snow is snow," he said. "Cold is cold."
-- Alvarez said he first noticed Andersen when Utah State nearly upset Auburn on the road in 2011. He liked the way Andersen handled himself on the sidelines and how his team played with no fear. After that, he said, he began following Andersen's career closely and got to see him in person in September.
Alvarez said Andersen was the only coach to whom he offered the job, though he said he met face to face with three candidates. During the interview process, the two found their philosophies to be in line. Alvarez said that after talking with Andersen, an associate who was in the room told him, "If I would have had a blindfold on, I would have thought that was you answering the questions."