Madison-- There was little doubt from those in attendance at Friday at the Gary Andersen introductory press conference that Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and Wisconsin found a head coach with a mind set and philosophy similar to the program's history.
Andersen won't change much on the offensive side of the ball, but defensively plans to bring more aggressiveness to the table.
Andersen was very complimentary of the academics, facilities, players, fans, and history of Wisconsin football, winning over the majority of those who attended and watched from home.
He said just about everything we wanted to hear and then some. Andersen got off to a great start as Wisconsin's head coach Friday, but he's not nearly finished.
Wisconsin may have established themselves as one of the cream of the crop programs inside the Big Ten Conference, and an outside threat to compete for a national championship, but it's up to Andersen to not only maintain that level of play, but increase it.
"What the priorities are for me right now is, number one, the kids in the program," said Andersen. "When I say that, it's important for me to let them know one thing really now and one thing only, here's my phone number. If you have questions, please call me. If I can help you in any way, shape, or form, I will be there for you. I'd love to sit down and talk to you when the times appropriate, but these kids need to go win the Rose Bowl.
"And number two is to reach out and secure our commits. That's so important for us to be able to --there's been a lot of hard work, a lot of hours, countless hours put into having these young men commit to the University of Wisconsin and to play football here. It's my job now to reach out to those young men, to those families, and let them understand the direction that we're headed and that they're in great hands. So that's obviously a high priority.
"And number three is to reach out and start recruiting. When I say that I want to recruit the state, the easiest way for me to tell you, show you that I want to recruit the state is I went to Utah State four years ago, there was 18 young men from the state of Utah on that team. There are now 55. There are 50 plus young men from the state of Wisconsin that are on the roster at this point. I believe the number is 53 is what I've been told.
"We will secure our own state. We'll wrap our arms around the coaches. We'll wrap our arms around every player, and we'll have a strong walk on program because there are terrific coaches, there are terrific players in the state of Wisconsin. And that's another reason why I sat back and looked at this job."
The biggest question heading into the press conference was whether or not Wisconsin would transition into a spread offense under Andersen, who ran that style while at Utah State. Wisconsin will have to adapt to Andersen in many ways, but offensive style won't be one of them.
Andersen's easily won over the Wisconsin faithful on Friday, but his on field results need to be proven.
"This is the University of Wisconsin," he said. "I've seen the young men walk around the hallways. I had an opportunity to sit down with a couple of the offensive linemen. I've seen the tight ends. I know the tradition of the running backs. And the biggest thing I can tell you is I had to work again all summer long to try to find a way to hang in there against this offensive line and the running backs, let alone their tradition of running the football.
"So we will be a power run team. We will use tight ends and use multiple sets and multiple formations, absolutely. I believe we'll be a football team that will be run first, and our goal and our mindset and our want to will be to wear you downs as the game goes on and to out tough you and out physical you.
"When you talk about an offense in those ways, there is ways to use the best players on your football team, and we'll always do that. We'll always get the best 11 to 18 kids out there on the field, depending on the subgroups and the packages we play with. I don't want to be predictable. I want to keep people on edge.
"I do want to have a touch of option within the game, the game plan every week to force defenses to deal with it. But we're going to line up and let those big kids work. That's what they like to do."
Defensively, Andersen plans to bring more aggressiveness to the table. The Aggies were terrific on that side of the ball in 2012, allowing just 15.4 points per game, good for No. 8 in the country. Despite the change in philosophy on that side of the ball, that suits Alvarez just fine.
"He's a little different structure than we use, but the fundamentals are the same," Alvarez explained. "The fact that we have a pretty good offensive line, the best running back in the country. We had 230 yards total offense, and you see that consistently throughout his program, very, very fundamentally sound, very physical, and they have fun. They're having a lot of fun when they play.
"They're coached very well, and that's what you look for. As a defensive coach, I look for I don't care what the front is. I don't care the structure, as long as it's sound, and it was very sound and very physical."
Not only did Andersen talk a good game about on the field performance, but he talked an even bigger game regarding the recruiting trail. Despite the ties of his and many of the assistant coaches he'll bring with him to Madison to the West coast, Andersen sees no reason why that won't translate to recruiting parts of the country Wisconsin has already had success in, particularly the Midwest and East coast.
Andersen plans to keep his distance until after the Rose Bowl and then hit the ground running.
"Wisconsin, the football program's recruiting, in my opinion, is obviously very well respected throughout the country, and as a staff and as a football program, we should be able to get into any recruiting fight that we want to get ourselves into," he said. "There's nowhere you can go in the country when you're a football player that you can't understand the logo of the University of Wisconsin. That's very important for everybody to understand.
"Some people said, you're not from here. How are you going to be able to recruit back here? It's the West Coast and all this stuff. I completely disagree with that. Good coaches, good recruiters can walk into any living room and show what a university is.
"A lot of coaches like to talk about, oh, when you're a recruiter, you've got to sell your university. No, you don't, not here. You have to show what you have. You have to get young men on campus. You have to get the mentor or the parents or the coach or whoever it may be on campus, and there's just --you just have to show who you are and what you have. There's no selling."
Andersen spent the last four seasons at Utah State, turning around an abysmal program. He led the Aggies to an 11-2 record in 2012, capping off their season with a win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl over Toledo.
Inheriting a program that's won three-straight Big Ten Championships, Andersen can hit the ground running next season with a team that doesn't need a change in mindset.
"It's often said in coaching, when you get a job, you're either getting a team that wasn't very good or a team that's really good," Andersen said. "That's the facts.
It's a little different dynamic, but the hardest thing to break down and build in my opinion is the belief to win.
"There's something to be said about that. It's not in a bottle. It's not magic dust that you sprinkle on top of their heads. It's an expectation that they work all year long to do, and these young men expect to win. Because of that, everything is a challenge, and every year is a different set of challenges. I know the young men that are here, and we're excited to continue a winning tradition. It's a little different than when we took over the last one for sure."
Andersen did a lot of talking Friday about what he brings to the table, how the team will perform under his watch, and his admiration for the program. Although he won't get a chance to prove it until the Badgers take the field next season, Andersen now has a lot to live up to.
He wasn't cocky or big headed, but Andersen oozed with confidence, putting his mark on the program with a single one-hour press conference that pumped excitement and optimism into the program.
With the Big Ten continuing to expand and programs such as Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, and Ohio State rising up the national totem pole as well, Andersen will have to back that talk up in the fall, which he fully understands.
"Easy to things to sit up on the podium and say, but that will be the mindset, and that's the way it's always been whenever I've had an opportunity to coach a football team," he said. "I'm not a prediction guy. I'm not going to reach out there and say we're going to do this or we're going to do that. I just let the results speak for themselves when we get out on the field.
"I know this football program has everything it needs to compete at the highest level. In everybody's mind, I'm sure the national championship is at the highest level. Again, that's all talk.
"The table's been set for these young men to have everything they need, academically, socially, and athletically, to succeed at a high level. How high that level is, only time will tell."
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