Gary Andersen: Chris Borland’s legacy off field will be great, too

Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen spoke with the media
Tuesday morning on the Big Ten’s weekly coaches teleconference ahead of the
Badgers’ regular-season finale against Penn State.

Andersen discussed the success of this senior class,
cornerback Sojourn Shelton’s development and linebacker Chris Borland’s legacy
at Wisconsin.

Here is the full transcript of Andersen’s conference call:

Andersen: First of all, it was great to get the win
at Minnesota obviously. It’s a rivalry game. Two very good teams fought it out.
I was very impressed with the crowd at Minnesota and the football team. It was
a great win for us. 

Moving on to Penn State, great opportunity to come home.
These seniors get to be in Camp Randall for three hours and some change left in
their career. So it’s a very important game. Penn State is impressive on film.
Very, very good young quarterback.

A lot of things we can talk about. They’re a quality
football team. They’ve showed that all year long. Play very tough and physical
on both sides of the football. So this will definitely be a tremendous challenge.
I’m glad it’s in Camp Randall. Hopefully that gives us a little bit of an
advantage, but we’ll have to play well to have an opportunity to win.

Q: What is the attitude the senior class has had that
made them successful in this transition?

A: There’s no question they are a resilient team,
group of seniors. They like each other. They’ve had some ups and downs and
they’ve fought through adversity. They’ve had some great days together prior to
us being here. They’ve had some tough days prior to us being here and that’s
part of life. But they’ve grown up.

They hold the University of Wisconsin, not just as a
football program, but really as a university in such high regard in their own
mindsets. It’s important to them. Then their ability to accept us is I can’t
really explain that. They just did, and it’s a credit to those young men, and
we’re forever indebted to them because they gave us an opportunity to walk in
here in this situation and present our plan to them and they accepted it.

It’s worked out pretty well for them, and I know it’s worked
out great for us as a group of coaches. They’re tremendous, tremendous young
men and they’re ready to move on to the next phase of life, I promise you.

Q: Defensively, what has impressed you about Penn State?

A: The soundness again. This sounds like a broken record in
the Big Ten. But these teams are coached unbelievably well. They know what they
want to do as a scheme. They play very physical in the front seven. Their fits
are very clean and nice.

You don’t see a lot of issues as far as blown gap
assignments in the run game. Physical tacklers. Back end, they know what they
want to do. They understand who they are. They are going to zone blitz you at
certain times. They disguise those zone blitzes very well.

They do a nice job of causing issues from the boundary, from
the field and the middle in their blitz package. And they’ll lock up at times
and play man, so it’s a very well devised scheme in my opinion with some very
good players executing the scheme for them.

Q: How has Sojourn Shelton progressed from when he got
there until now?

A: Sojourn has come a long ways from his first few
days on campus there in the middle of January. That’s a very tough transition
for a freshman to walk in here right out of high school, removed from high
school for whatever, three or four weeks, then hop into college. He had some
growing pains, which they all do from a mentality standpoint as far as
understanding what college is all about. Nothing bad. Just typical things that take
place.

He really took off about halfway through spring ball and
never looked back. Has continued that through summer conditioning, all the way
through camp. He locked down that spot pretty early in fall camp and it was his
and he’s continued to grow.

His four interceptions as a freshman, he’s played very well.
He’s started and played almost every single snap for us this year. Tremendous,
tremendous job for a freshman at a very difficult position to play. He will be
a tremendous leader and a tremendous player as we move forward. Hopefully he
has some recognition at the end of the year for what he’s done as a freshman.

Q: When did you feel like you had confidence in him to
lock down the starting spot?

A: Not until fall camp. Athletically, there wasn’t really
a question. I thought he could do that once we got about halfway through spring
ball. But you worry about it all catching up to him: school and being away from
home and adjusting to life in the college situation.

From a football standpoint athletically, we felt good about
him about halfway through spring. Mentality-wise, him being able to handle the
games mentally, we felt like he could do that probably middle of fall camp, I
would say. But you still worry about him hitting the wall and he did not do
that this year, this season. He plowed through it cleanly in every game. He’s
far from perfect, but he played at a pretty high level most weeks.

Q: What was your reaction to Chris Borland not being a
Butkus Award finalist?

A: It’s surprising to say the least. Same thing I
said yesterday in the press conference, I’ve said it all along. It’s no
disrespect to the young men who are on the finalist list. I was told he wasn’t
on it. I don’t really know who’s even on that list.

But in my opinion, the best linebacker in the country is not
on that list. I’m sure there’s some great players on that list without a
question. But Chris Borland is on our team and he’s the best I’ve ever been
around, so that’s who I have to gauge it by.

Q: The Big Ten is going through a publicity problem in
its level of play the last couple of years. Does that seep into the national
award voting sometimes?

A: I would hope not. People that are looking at it
from that standpoint in my opinion need to really educate themselves a little
bit more than wherever they’re getting their information from.

If you sit down and watch the games week in and week out,
how these teams are coached overall, how they play on the field and what
they’ve done, it’s an elite conference in the country that should be
represented that way every single week. If you really understand and know
exactly what you’re talking about in the Big Ten, then you would agree with
that comment in my opinion.

Q: Did you have any follow up with Minnesota about what
happened after the game on Saturday?

A: No. None at all. I’ve got great respect for those
kids, coach Kill and his staff. It was something I can learn from, something
that maybe some other people can learn from and we’ll turn around and move
forward. I thought the kids handled the situation better than any of the
scenarios I’ve ever been in like that. There were never kids getting to a
position to get in a major confrontation.

My hats off to kids on both teams. Coaches kind of moving
along their way. It gets heated. It gets aggressive. It gets whatever it gets
down there. But the kids handled it well. Like I said, we can sit back and
learn from it and maybe some of the people involved can, too.

Q: What will Chris Borland’s legacy be at Wisconsin?

A: That’s a great question. I would say he’d be held
at the highest regard of defenders. I don’t know a lot of those kids. And
there’s probably some guys that played here a long time ago or played here just
a few years ago that maybe they’d shake their heads at that, I don’t know. For
me, he’s an unbelievable young man, an unbelievable defender. His legacy will
be just as important what he did off the field.

He has touched so many kids’ lives and adults’ lives in a
positive way off the football field that I couldn’t even begin to guess in his
time here the number that would be. He’s affected people in a very positive way
being involved in the community and reaching out when he doesn’t have to. It’s
just because he wants to. And he continues to do that. And on top of that, his
greatness. He’s been an all-American. I’m sure he’ll be an all-American. I’m
sure there’s some awards out there that he’ll get by the time this year is over
with and he’ll be recognized.

The best thing about Chris Borland, when I talked to him
yesterday and he wasn’t a finalist, he looked at me and he said, ‘That’s OK,
coach. We’ll just go out and win.’ That kind of sums it up what that kid’s all
about.

Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter