Gary Andersen: A lot of respect for Iowa
Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen spoke with the media Tuesday morning on the Big Ten's weekly coaches teleconference ahead of the Badgers' game against Iowa.
Andersen discussed the importance of players understanding the Iowa rivalry, the improvement of Wisconsin's wide receivers, the effectiveness of Melvin Gordon on jet sweeps and James White's role with the team.
Here is the full transcript of Andersen's conference call:
Andersen: It's great to be back after a bye week and preparing for the Iowa game. Obviously, we're fairly deep into the preparation at this point and feel good where we're at. Know we have a tremendous challenge. We're going to another great Big Ten environment. It's a big-time game. It's a trophy game as we move through this week and obviously that puts a little bit more into the game. Overall, we're excited about the opportunity. It's a tremendous challenge.
Iowa is a big, physical, powerful team. The more you watch them on tape, you more you respect the kids in the program and the coaches. The way they play the game is the right way. We're excited. We think it's a tremendous matchup on both sides. Should be a terrific game.
Q: How important has it been to have a senior-laden team that has memories of playing against Iowa in 2010?
A: There is a fair amount of kids that have had the opportunity to play against Iowa. It's 42-42-2 over the years. So whether you've played in that game or if you haven't played in that game, if that doesn't gain your respect, then nothing really will.
I think it's good to always shave kids that have been in the environment. I think that's the biggest thing for the kids in our program that haven't been there.
Our players that have been there understand. They've seen it first-hand and they understand the terrific crowd. It's a hectic environment. It's a tough place to play. The crowd is very close to you. Those could be very positive things if you allow them to be positive because it's a great college environment. That's why kids play college football. It can be a negative if you're not prepared for it. So I think there's so valuable information that comes from the kids.
Throw on the tape and watch them play, that will gain your respect faster than anything else will. It's a great rivalry and we're excited about the opportunity to play in it.
Q: What strides have other wide receivers made outside of Jared Abbrederis?
A: I think Jordan Fredrick has done some good things. Alex Erickson has become involved in the offense in a lot of positive ways. I think the tight ends continue to take steps forward. It's tight end by committee. All three of those kids are contributing and doing some good things. A.J. Jordan continues to get better on the wide receiver side of things, and also he's a big, big part of what we're doing on special teams.
It's great to see. Robert Wheelwright doesn't show that much on games at this point, but that young man is continually working unbelievably hard in practice and really progressing. I thought he had his best practice of the year yesterday for us. The young wideouts are definitely improving. That's a credit to them and it's also a credit to coach Beatty and the way he handles those kids.
Q: Is the notion of the postgame handshake between coaches in the past?
A: That's always a good question. I think ultimately there's a lot of emotion that comes with games. At the end, it's really a little bit uncomfortable at times. I think it's a big part of it. Yes, for sportsmanship for the kids and the coaches, you should have the same sportsmanship.
Many times, what do you say really? You walk up to each other and somebody won, somebody lost. It's a simple handshake in my mind. Move along and good luck the rest of the way. That's what it comes to.
I think it should be part of it. I think it's important for those kids to recognize each other after the game, and the coaches should do the same.
Q: Do you have any tricks to hold it together with the cameras rolling?
A: No. Find the coach and say congratulations and keep your mouth shut is probably the best thing to do. Like you said, there's a lot of cameras out there. What you say can and will be held against you, I suppose. So just move along.
Q: What is it that makes the jet sweep package with Melvin Gordon so effective?
A: First of all, the young man running the ball in that situation is the most important factor. Melvin has a great feel for it. He has great ability, which we all know. He loves the opportunity to get the ball in his hands in those situations. So that's the biggest part of his success. Secondly, it does stretch defenses because we have the ability to have the zone play attached to it with another tremendous running back that can get the ball.
So if you cheat the box too much, it causes you issues. And then you get the ball on the edge of the defense. If Melvin has the ability to get his shoulders squared, he's very difficult to tackle, and it takes a talented young man to bring him down in the open field.
Thirdly, I would say this. Our wide receivers are invested. Their care factor for blocking is very high. They make it happen on the perimeter to develop a crease. It's not just one thing. It's all those things kind of rolled together that makes it be a successful series for us.
Q: Did you look at film from the past coaches and decide to keep it?
A: I think (offensive coordinator) Andy's (Ludwig) had that in his package for a long time. But without question, you look at the success it had, especially if you went back to the championship game a year ago. It's something that Melvin's very good at and you try to use kids' talents to give them the opportunity to succeed at the highest level on Saturdays.
It was in the system prior to with coach Ludwig and the other coaches. Obviously the success that was had here in the past was a big part of it also.
Q: What is it about running back James White that he's able to accept his role and succeed in it?
A: It's James and his ability to understand where he is. Ask coach (Thomas) Hammock, ask the offensive coaches, ask myself, ask Melvin Gordon who the starting running back is, and they're all going to tell you it's James.
He deserves that. He's earned that opportunity. He's earned that right. The numbers speak for themselves and the way he's carried himself through the years in this program has given him that opportunity to be labeled as the starter for us.
He's unbelievably unselfish. He's a team-first kid. The way he practice and carries himself. He loves the game of football, which I think is so important in college football. Especially when you get to this point in the season, kids have to still be liking what they're doing and hopefully loving the game.
But he's a tremendous talent. He believes in his position coach in coach Hammock. He believes in the offense. He believes in Melvin Gordon. I can go on and on. He believes in his offensive line, his tight ends, his wide receivers. He's an unbelievable team player.
He's been through that, even in high school it was the same situation for him. He doesn't count his reps. He makes his reps count. He's tremendous at it. He knows his role. And he knows he's a vital part of this program.
Q: Melvin Gordon has never lost a fumble and James has only lost two in his career. Have you been around running backs that get that many touches and don't fumble that much?
A: No I have not. And I agree with that. Again, it goes back to their practice habits, the emphasis with what coach Hammock puts on them.
You can emphasize whatever you want as a coach. When you see it implemented in practice through the kids and how important it is to them, and I think our defense plays a part in that too because if there is an opportunity to strip the ball or if they see some error in there, they're going to go for that football and try to get it out.
It starts with the kids. They don't walk off that field at any point and have a ball in their hands, whether it's stretch or through the whole practice, without being conscious of high and tight. Squeeze it. It's all over our meeting rooms. But they do a great job with that, and hopefully that continues now that we're talking about it. I really hope it continues.
Q: What are your thoughts on Iowa's personnel?
A: Great question. First of all, if you look at them on the offensive side of the ball, talented, physical. We like to play the same brand of football on the offensive line, and I would also say the defensive line. Kids that are going to play with great technique. I think they're coached the right way. They understand where they fit within the offense as far as their block schemes, and the tight ends are also included in there. Very physical. They like to get into that kind of football game.
There's teams that talk about being physical, that want to be physical and say all the right things. And there's other teams that back it up on tape. These guys back it up on tape. They like those physical football games. I guess you could call it kind of an old-school game in today's world of football.
They like it. We pride ourselves on wanting to be in those types of games. Very productive on offense. They understand where they're going, what they're doing. Use their players the right way in my opinion and give them opportunities to succeed. Don't ask kids to do too much.
That's a credit to the kids and the coaches in the program. On defense, very solid. Salty up front ad all through their front seven. Back end kids seem to communicate very, very well as far as knowing where they're going, what direction they are. They're good tacklers on defense. So it's a solid program. And the same thing with their special teams. You don't flip on the tape and see weaknesses in Iowa's football program. You see well-coached, tough-minded kids that like to play the game of football, and that's why they hang in there. If the game is tight, they're right in there and they're battling. If they've got somebody beat pretty good, they're going to play hard all the way through the fourth quarter, regardless of who's on the field. It's an impressive crew, and it has been that way for many years. You watch from afar where you're not in the conference, and you gain respect for a program. I've done nothing but gained more respect as we've sat down this last seven or eight days and prepared for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter