By TOM LEA
MADISON – Wisconsin held media availability following Friday’s practice inside the McClain Center, just hours after introducing Gary Andersen as the program’s new head coach.
As expected, several key UW players spent part of their afternoon discussing the hire of Andersen. Here’s what a handful of contributors were saying:
-On meeting Andersen in person:
“I met with him a couple days ago. He seemed like a great guy. He’s going to be a great fit here. He’s one of us.”
-On what impressed he was impressed with regarding his new coach:
“He’s a straight-shooter. He said what he meant and he meant what he said. He’s excited to be here. I think he left a great situation that he had working at Utah State so we’re the only job he wanted.”
-On hearing story of Andersen calling all 106 Utah State players:
“I think that speaks volumes. That’s a really classy move. There are a lot of guys on the football team. He really was dedicated to his guys.”
-Chance to make first impression with new coach:
“I think it’s an opportunity everybody is excited for. Having a new guy means it’s a fresh start for some guys. It’s a chance for other guys to re-establish themselves. I think guys practiced hard today.”
-On if he’s met him:
“I met him briefly. We had a team meeting and I just introduced myself afterwards. From the brief impression he seemed like a good guy. Once I heard they announced him I did some research and he seems like a players coach. He’s got a defensive background, which I really like. I know he’s coached defensive linemen in the past, which kind of gets me excited. He just seems like a good guy and just really honest and earnest in my brief dealings with him. I’m going to try to catch him and have a longer one on one conversation with him later tonight. I’m excited.
-On going about building relationship with Andersen while staying focused for Rose Bowl:
“It’s definitely a unique situation. It’s something I’ve never dealt with before, same with the rest of the guys because this is our first true coaching change. I feel like we’re all kind of navigating it on our own. For me the most important thing right now is the Rose Bowl. It’s going to be my senior year (next year) so I feel like I have time to develop a relationship with coach Andersen after the bowl game and that kind of thing. Right now I think everyone’s focus is on this upcoming game. It’s hard to put the Rose Bowl in the background of everything going on. It is the Rose Bowl. It’s the most important thing on our minds now.”
-On what his research about Andersen entailed:
“I looked at what coaching staffs he’s been a part of, what kind of defense’s he’s been a part of, what kind of coordinators he’s had and what kind of defensive line coaches and stuff like that. Obviously we’ll find out more. Right now, kind of the way the whole process works, it seems like the media knows a lot more than us players. I can’t really comment on too much, but just from what I’ve read and heard it just seems like he’s a great guy.
-On if he’d be open to running a 3-4 defense:
“I’m down to do whatever. Whatever helps out the team. I think that’s something I’ll talk to coach Andersen about. Obviously he’s going to have a staff in place and they’re going to run what they run. We’ve heard rumblings of that. I think that’s kind of a thing we’ll worry about when the time comes. Right now we’ve still got this Rose Bowl and our defensive scheme to worry about. After the game we’ll kind of cross that bridge.
-On learning something about Andersen with story of him calling 106 Utah State players:
“I saw that on Twitter and I thought that was a really classy move. I think that kind of says a lot about him. Ethan Hemer spoke with him last night and he called himself a players coach. That kind of shows through that kind of behavior and I feel like that’s a good thing.”
-Is the program on verge of next step:
“There’s been a lot of interesting things going on, from coach Alvarez coming back…if that doesn’t re-energize you I don’t know what will. Obviously these new things I think everybody’s excited about. We got new facilities, which I’m sure you guys have seen. They’re just top of the line. There’s a lot of exciting things. We’ve dealt with some unique issues with coach Bielema leaving and the coaching changes and stuff like that. I think there’s a lot to be excited about.”
-On whether he’s met coach Andersen yet:
“I haven’t met him personally. I was supposed to yesterday, but the snow and the craziness kind of made it a hard deal. I was in there when he addressed the team before practice. From what I understand he’s a great coach, a really good people person. I know a few guys that play at Utah State and I asked them about him. They have nothing but glowing reports about him. They told me about how sad their whole team was about losing them. When your team rallies behind you like that you know you have a good person and you know you have a good coach. I’m excited about that.”
-On Andersen being a players coach:
“That’s definitely what I hear. I don’t know how much that will be good or bad. I don’t really know exactly what that means. That’s not really something that we’ve had here before, it’s been a little different. But we embrace change as you’ve seen the past three years. There’s so much turnover here because we really do have good coaches and they get opportunities. I think we’ll embrace this change and this transition and it will go as smoothly as possible.”
-If he’d be open to the 3-4 defense:
“I’m open to absolutely anything. I’m open to anything that lets me run around and hit people. Whatever scheme they bring in here, I’m sure that they’ll put the right guys on the right spot. You don’t have a season like they had at Utah State and bring them from who they were without knowing what you’re doing. Anybody that’s been here, we’ll put 100 percent trust in them and we’ll do exactly what they ask us.
-On learning about Andersen’s character when he called all 106 USU players:
“There are a ton of different ways coaches can approach (leaving), down to almost saying absolutely nothing to sending a few text messages to a select few players. I think it speaks volumes to the type of person he is. To be completely honest a lot of the players on the team don’t even contribute as far as game day. To call every single one of them no matter how good or how far along they were throughout the season, to call every single one and address them, it shows that the truly does care and he truly is a people person. I can respect that and it’s something I admire.”
-On how guys reacted when Andersen addressed the team prior to Friday’s practice:
“Anytime anyone speaks from compliance all the way up to any coach that steps up there, everybody is pretty attentive and they’re locked in. There’s no difference for him. Nobody truly knows him and that will be a process after this bowl game. We’ll all truly get a chance to get to meet him and know what type of coach he is. A lot of guys on the team are really excited about this new change. A lot of guys get a new chance, it’s almost like a fresh slate. It should be pretty exciting.”
-On whether he’s met Andersen:
“I haven’t yet. I’m going to try to hopefully do that sometime (soon). I like him. Just from the little bit that he talked to us up at the team meeting he seems like a really good coach and really good guy. I’m excited to play for him.”
-What he wanted to see in new coach:
“Just a leader, someone who comes in with a plan and sticks to it. He’s confident in the decision he makes and leads the team in a way I think will give us a chance to win.”
-Learning about Andersen’s character when he heard story of calling all 106 players:
“He really cares about his players and guys he works with. I think that really means a lot. I think that shows he’s dedicated to his team, no matter the team it is. I think he’ll come in here and show that same kind of dedication.”