Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen spoke with the media Tuesday morning on the Big Ten’s weekly coaches teleconference in advance of the Badgers’ Saturday home game against Northwestern.
Andersen discussed his thoughts on Northwestern’s two-quarterback system,, what makes wide receiver Jared Abbrederis a special player and the job Tanner McEvoy has done for Wisconsin at safety.
Here is the full transcript of Andersen’s conference call:
Andersen: To review the bye week: It was good. It was solid. Obviously no game for us. I think the kids came back refreshed and ready to go. We’re right in the middle of preparation for a very talented Northwestern team, which you guys all know. You’ve seen them play. It’s going to be a great game. It’s good to be back home. We’re excited about that opportunity to play in front of our fans against a quality opponent.
Q: What are your thoughts on a team that has to use two quarterbacks? Do you prefer playing two quarterbacks or one, and is this as good as you’ve seen from two?
A: No. 1, yes. It’s as good a two-quarterback system as I’ve ever faced. This is two weeks in a row where we’ve kind of prepared for two quarterbacks. It is a little bit different. Ohio State is very much the same on offense with both quarterbacks. The quarterbacks in this situation, it flips upside down a little bit on what they want to do offensively. They’re both talented. They’ve both had a great deal of success. They both can run the style of offense that they want. But Kain (Colter) has a chance to get out and move around a little bit more. It’s obvious what he can do as a wide receiver.
The thing that worries me the most is when they’re both on the field together. A two-quarterback system, when the other guy is not as good as the other one doesn’t worry me as much. But in this case, they’re both very talented. So it causes some issues in scheme and by personnel.
Q: Is it essential that a quarterback in this league has to be able to run and pass?
A: If you have that, it’s a definite dimension. I’m going back to my defensive mindset over the years that if you have a quarterback who can beat you with his arms and his legs and his mind, you’ve got a real problem on your hands. If you can take one of those variables away, it truly helps you on the defensive side of the ball as far as scheming and putting your kids in position to be able to hopefully make plays.
Is it essential? I would say it is. If you don’t have a very talented offensive line in today’s brand of football and a quarterback that can’t run and you’re very average on the offensive line, it’s probably going to be a long year for you. I think we would all like to have all three aspects of that out of a quarterback, but it doesn’t always happen. I like having all three of them. I think they’ve got to be able to throw it and they’ve got to be able to manage the game and handle it with their mind first and their legs are definitely third.
Q: When you look at how many Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 25 in rushing offense and top 20 in rushing defense, how important is it to run the ball and stop the run in this league?
A: It’s always No. 1 on offense and defense, especially with us. We feel like we’ve got to be able to run it, and we’ve got to be able to stop the run. I think that holds true to almost anywhere in the country. This is a physical league. It has good backs. It has good schemes in the run game.
The run game week-in and week-out changes. Very much so. Which is again a credit to the coaches. There’s different ways to run the football and there’s different schemes. You’ve got to be able to stop the run. If you can’t stop the run, it becomes very difficult to play defense. It’s obviously a big part of this league this year. I haven’t been in this league for years. But watching it from afar, it’s been a big part of this league for a long time. And this year seems to be a very talented crew running the ball from top to bottom.
Q: When did you realize you had something special in Jared Abbrederis?
A: Not this summer. The summer prior to, getting ready to play him. I didn’t know I was going to be on that field obviously and coaching him at some point.
Jared has been a great player for a long period of time. And then once we got here, the way he carries himself the way he prepares and you get him out there and spring ball. The plays that he makes just are special.
I think what sets Jared apart from a bunch of other players in the country at any position is his work ethic and his love of football. The kid loves practice. You can’t say that about every kid. That, in turn, carries over to game day for him in a great way. Probably the first, second or third day of spring ball I thought this kid is definitely a difference maker because he’s so much faster than you really think he is once he gets on the football field.
Q: What is Melvin Gordon’s status?
A: He’s good. He practiced full steam yesterday. A scare is a good term for that. He’s right back where he needs to be and looked very good yesterday in practice.
Q: What separates Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, and what makes him so unique?
A: He’s a very talented athlete. We all know that. I think he has a very good concept and understanding of their scheme, what his role is. And he can make plays when the play breaks down, whether it’s at wide receiver or at quarterback. He runs the option and makes good decisions in the option game. And I think that carries over to their team. I think the way they work as a unit, and when the play is there to make, they make them for the most part.
When they’re not, they have a couple special players that if you break down on defense, they’re going to make you pay. I think that both quarterbacks do that and obviously the Mark kid (running back Venric Mark) is tremendous with that also.
Q: What have you seen from the rest of the wide receiver corps, and can Kenzel Doe get another crack against the Northwestern secondary?
A: That’s going to be a key for us. It may be Kenzel. There’s a couple other guys that we look at. (Jeff) Duckworth is back this week, which gives us another opportunity to have another wide receiver and including the tight ends in there. Jordan (Fredrick) has had some opportunities. (Alex) Erickson’s had some opportunities.
The key is that they just make those plays when they have a chance to make them. The more we can get another player or two involved in the throw game, I believe it’ll really help us and give Jared an opportunity to not have as many coverages pushed his way with some other young men making players.
I think we’ve made strides in that area. It’s a work in progress. We’re working hard to get that done.
Q: Do you like what Tanner McEvoy is doing at safety?
A: I really do. He had his best day at practice yesterday and hopefully that continues today when we get out there on the practice field. He’s a smart young man. For him to be able to make that adjustment has been a big positive to this point. We’ll see exactly how it carries over on game day when he’s playing more. In the Ohio State game, I thought he did some good things. But it’s a credit to him. It’s his third position since he’s been here now. Obviously when he hurt his hand he couldn’t catch anymore and couldn’t play quarterback anymore.
He wants to get on the field. He’s big. He can run. And he seems to have pretty good instincts back there. He’s a presence whether he’s in the post or playing our down safety. It’s going to be very interesting to see how he develops for the next few weeks at the safety spot. I expect him to play well. We’ll see how it goes.
Q: Does his quarterbacking background allow him to see some different things as a safety?
A: I would definitely say yes. He has that knowledge base of coverages. He has the knowledge base of what defenses are trying to do. and then he has some confidence of routes on the offensive side. There should be carryover there and I’d imagine it has helped him.