Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen spoke with the media Tuesday morning on the Big Ten’s weekly coaches teleconference following his team’s game against Ohio State. The Badgers have a bye week and will return to action Oct. 12 with a home game against Northwestern.
Andersen discussed the health status of running back Melvin Gordon and center Dallas Lewallen, along with the strong play of wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and cornerback Sojourn Shelton.
Here is the full transcript of Andersen’s conference call:
Andersen: Briefly on the last game, big-time college football atmosphere, big-time college football game without question. Obviously didn’t turn out the way that we wanted it to. But I thought the kids played unbelievably hard. Performances by Jared Abbrederis and Chris Borland were unbelievable. I could go on and on for five minutes on each one of those kids.
I hope everybody recognizes the type of players they are. As we move through the season, I expect their performances will continue to, if not get better and better, at least hold the same. They were terrific in that football game and were a big reason why we were in it right there until the end. It was a great environment and it showed exactly what the Big Ten is all about. Like to have won it, but it didn’t take place.
Q: How does Jared Abbrederis keep getting open?
A: I think a few things with Jared. No. 1, he prepares very, very well. No. 2, coach Ludwig is doing a good job of finding ways to use him. Joel’s thrown some nice balls.
But it all comes back to Jared. When that ball comes into the air, his ability to want to get to the ball, whether it’s zone coverage, man coverage, a contested football is unbelievable. He competes like crazy. He’s a well-rounded, well-schooled, very, very smart wide receiver who is a big part of our offense. And hopefully that continues.
Q: Do you have an update on Melvin Gordon’s health?
A: Yeah, I believe Melvin will be absolutely fine for the game against Northwestern.
Q: What did you see from freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton in his last game, and what do you expect going forward?
A: Sojourn has done an unbelievable job as a true freshman at one of the most difficult positions on defense to play in college football. And he’s walked in on the road twice in a very, very tough environment and has played very well at home.
He’s got a couple picks. He’d like to have that one back (a drop against Ohio State) without question. If he had tremendous hands and made all those catches, he’d probably be playing wide receiver for us.
He’s competitive. Handles the scenarios. Special mentality he has to be able to do what he’s doing as a freshman. He’s going to get nothing but better as he really gets into an offseason and gets himself into a true spring ball when it’s not the transformation from high school to college as he went through last year. So his upside is tremendous. I feel very good about Darius on the other side. So we’re in a great spot for the future with those two corners.
Q: How can you tell if you’ve had a good bye week, and how do coaches split time between players and recruiting?
A: I have no idea how you would gauge that. I guess by maybe the performance of the next game when you walk out on the field. We look for a lot of things. We look to get ourselves as healthy as possible. We look to keep the kids crisp and fresh of them playing throughout the year. And then we also like to spend a lot of time with our young kids during the bye week. So that’s kind of how we split it up and if we accomplish that during the week, I would say it’s a successful bye week.
As far as the coaches, we do recruit. Yesterday was a fairly normal Monday for us. Today is a normal game week Tuesday. Wednesday is a normal game week Wednesday. Thursday, a lot of coaches will be gone so it’s kind of a watered down practice with more group work with the older kids. And on all three of those days, we also did it yesterday on Monday, we’ll have at least a 20-minute to a 40-minute session with the young kids to have them work with their position coaches and so on and so forth. So the coaches are split. They get out and recruit late in the week. We’ll give the kids Friday, Saturday, Sunday off.
Q: Does technique get more focus during a bye week than it would during a regular game week?
A: No question. With the youth and with the older kids I guess you call them the travelers in the program. We do really try to go back and compete against ourselves a little bit and work on that. Work on the techniques, the pad levels, tackling, some of those things. There’s more individual time in the bye week than there is traditionally during a normal game week.
Q: What did you think of Joel Stave’s performance on the road?
A: I think Joel handled the moment and the situation very good. He’s definitely grown up right before our eyes and that game was another example of that. It was great to see him. That’s a good defensive line now and they were coming after him pretty good. It wasn’t always a clean pocket. He had to move around, step up and make those throws. But he made them when he had to and I’m proud of Joel. He made the plays, which we all saw, which was tremendous to see. Really just as important with that is how he’s handling the team and how he’s moving through a game, moving through practice and becoming more of a leader. Little things. His eyes are right. He’s excited about the moment. He seems to be very into it, more comfortable and in turn he becomes more of a leader at the quarterback position.
He’s made some great strides. I’m proud of him and I’m proud of the way that Curt has also helped mentor Joel as we’ve gone through this process. Curt Phillips I’m talking about. And I also think coach Ludwig’s doing a great job of molding a young quarterback.
Q: How much did No. 63 (Michael Bennett) on pass rushes stand out to you for Ohio State?
A: He caught my eye when we were prepping and not just in the pass rush but also game film as far as the run and the kid plays hard. I think he’s a good football player, and I really like 97 (Joey Bosa), too, as a young freshman. That’s a talented front. But 63 specifically, he plays hard, good pad level. I think he pushes on the run very, very well and stays gap control. Seems to be fairly sound in his technique. He’s an athlete playing that defensive tackle spot, which you don’t always see that type of athlete in that spot.
Q: Did you go into that game with the intent of throwing that much or mixing it up more?
A: I would say mixing it up more was definitely in the gameplan. As much as we did it, I would say no walking into it. But when you have success with something, obviously you’re going to go back to it. We weren’t overly successful running the football. I thought Ohio State’s safeties came down. We knew they were going to play plus-one in the box, which they’ve kind of done that all year long playing more Cover-3.
Didn’t expect as much man coverage as they played, but that gave us an opportunity in the throw game to get Jared matched up 1-on-1. We like that. We like Jared getting matched up in 1-on-1 situations without a safety over the top of him. The defense kind of dictated that from the way they were playing scheme-wise and also it dictated because we had some success.
Q: Where is Dallas Lewallen injury-wise?
A: I would suspect that Dallas would be full speed as we move part of the latter part of this week and be back to normal on Monday. We’ll treat next Monday as really a Tuesday of game week, but I would expect him to be full speed a week from yesterday.
Q: How much do you watch other future opponents this weekend during your bye week? Can it really make a tangible difference when preparing?
A: It’s similar to kind of what we do in the summer time I guess. We try to take a brief look and get a mini scouting report. Do a little of that during the bye week. It’s an opportunity to just have a brief, mild little scouting report I guess you would say. It can help. It’s not the answer, but it can help a few weeks down the road just to make you be more familiar with teams. Seeing them on TV all the time doesn’t do exactly what you get off of film. We do that. We don’t spend an extensive amount of time on it, but it’s definitely in the plan.