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.

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