Wisconsin football coach Gary Andersen spoke with the media Tuesday morning on the Big Ten’s weekly coaches teleconference ahead of his team’s game against Ohio State.
Andersen touched on the play of running back Melvin Gordon, linebacker Chris Borland and how Wisconsin intends to prepare for the possibility of facing quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton. No. 23 Wisconsin (3-1) travels to face No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) at 7 p.m. CT Saturday in a game that will provide the winner with the early inside track on the Leaders Division title.
Here is the full transcript of Andersen’s conference call:
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Andersen: Quick review of the game. I thought Melvin had a tremendous game along with James. The running game was again a big part of who we are on offense. We were able to run the ball effectively throughout the day, so that was great. The offensive line, tight ends, wide receivers, fullbacks, they all blocked very well and gave those kids some holes. They took advantage of them.
On defense, we were very solid. Chris Borland continues to play at a very high level in my opinion. As the leader of that defense he gets those gets lined up, gets them in the right spots, has high expectations of himself and of his defense. It was good to see. I think Beau Allen, the nose guard, had his best game for us along with Conor O’Neill played very, very well.
It was a great win. To get to 1-0 in conference, it was good to be there. It was a great atmosphere. My first Big Ten game at home in Camp Randall so that was a special experience for myself. Obviously the kids have gone through that, but for us as a staff, that’s the first time. It was a great victory.
Moving on to Ohio State, tremendous football team. We have a ton of respect for them, what they’ve done, where they’re going, the speed, the athleticism they have is very, very good. They’re very well coached. Fast starters. It’s like 102-14 or whatever it is in that first quarter. That’s an unbelievable stat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stat like that in all my years of coaching. They’re a powerful football team and really to this point this year have not been challenged. Maybe after halftime for sure they haven’t been challenged and not much even after the first quarter. So looking forward to the game and looking forward to start preparing today.
Q: As a defensive-minded coach, is there a tipping point that something needs to be done rules-wise to help the defense with the pace of the game?
A: There is a lot of points being put up. But I think football is going to adjust. We as coaches, we can look and evaluate and put our two cents in on the rules. To be real honest with you, the pace stuff doesn’t bother me as far as from a coaching standpoint.
The number of reps I think you’ve really got to sit back and look at for the kids and how many games they play. We already ask them to play 12 and then a conference championship if you’re fortune enough to get there is 13 and a bowl game is 14. It could go on past that.
I’m more concerned with the number of reps the kids are playing. That concerns me in a controlled football game where you huddle up and go, a defense and an offense may play 70 snaps I’d imagine being average. Maybe 75. Then you sit around, you look at it and the pace stuff, you’re usually into the 100s with the good pace teams. That’s part of the game. I can’t sit here and say it overly bothers me. I’ve been around that type of offense and I like to be involved in that at times. I think you develop your scheme around who your kids are. The amount of scoring, defenses will adjust, trust me. Just like I think you’re seeing in the NFL right now. Defenses will adjust to whatever comes their way and football will go full circle as it always does.
Q: How challenging is it as a defense to slow down offenses?
A: It’s very difficult. Especially with the athletic quarterbacks. What it’s done is the quarterback just adds a whole new dimension. And in turn you have to jeopardize coverages. That’s exactly what happens. That’s why you see the big pass plays because people are locked up and tied up to play the run because when a quarterback runs the ball, what you’ve done is you’ve created another gap, you’ve created another option and another alley within whatever defensive structure you play and that’s cause you to bring down a safety or get someone else involved in the run game.
With really good offenses that do that, a lot of times it takes two safeties to come down and do that. Then you have man-to-man coverage on the back side with no help, and that leads to big plays a lot of times. It has definitely become more difficult. The athletic quarterbacks have changed the game.
Q: Where does Melvin Gordon rank among running backs you have coached and what makes him so effective?
A: Melvin’s right up there with the best I’ve ever been around and the best I’ve ever really prepared to play against.
What makes him so dynamic and special is his ability. He’s developed some patience within the tackles. He had tremendous speed. His God-given ability is unbelievable. I think he’s turned into a speed back and a power back and he’s a patient back, which is a pretty vicious combination.
Q: When you see Kenny Guiton on film, does it amaze you Ohio State has a quarterback who is better than he is that you might see Saturday?
A: They’re both great quarterbacks. Without question. Kenny’s done a tremendous job of controlling the offense. Throwing the ball, running the ball. He’s very poised. And it’s amazing that they do have two quarterbacks the quality that they have. It’s a credit to the kids in the program. It’s a credit to the recruiting that they’ve done. Kenny’s been there for a while. On the outside looking in, it’s great to see a kid get his opportunity, but he’s playing real well and we’ve got to play against him.
And Braxton is who Braxton is. I’ve gained tremendous respect as we’ve prepared for him. They have two — not good — they have two great quarterbacks.
Q: Is it harder for your defense to plan for the spread or harder for Urban Meyer to plan for your run-heavy offense?
A: They’re both difficult to prepare for, without question. I couldn’t really say one is more difficult than the other. I’m sure they’ve got their scout teams prepared and they’ll do a tremendous job of getting ready. Hopefully our guys will do the same. They’re both a little bit unique in today’s college football. So they both come with their challenges.
Q: What do you hope wide receiver Rob Wheelwright can add as a complementary receiver to Jared Abbrederis?
A: First of all, Robert, we’d like him to be a vertical threat. When an opportunity presents itself to make sure No. 1 we catch the ball and No. 2 catch the contested balls that come his way. He’s working his way into that. Difficult spot for a freshman to walk in and play as we all know at any position. He’s working his way through it. He’s getting better every week. He’s more involved on special teams. And we’d like to see a receiver, if it’s Robert, that’d be great, but a receiver step up and really take some pressure and become a playmaker for us.
Q: Will kicker Andrew Endicott possibly handle extra points or field goals instead of Kyle French?
A: No, Kyle is kicking the ball well and he’s kicked it well for a couple weeks now. He’s definitely our PAT field goal kicker.
Endicott’s done a good job. He came in last week and kicked the ball. I feel pretty steady where we’re at. We’ll always create competition in practice, but in the games right now we’ve performed pretty good the last couple weeks there. Obviously what we got done with the kickoffs last week was improved, so that’s where we’re at today.
Q: How will Kenzel Doe’s injury change things for the return game?
A: Quite a bit. That’s going to put Jared (Abbrederis) back there on punts. Jared’s good at that. He’s very adequate at handling that.
The question is who’s the next guy up and right now that’d be James (White). We brought James in late last game to go back and catch one, and he did a nice job. In the kickoff return game, you saw Kyle Zuleger back there returning. We’re getting Corey (Clement) ready to return there. There’s a possibility you may see Melvin back there also in certain situations. We’ve got some guys. It’s just a matter of shuffling the deck a little bit and hopefully we get Kenzel back here real quick.
Q: What kind of impact has Chris Borland had on the defense, and how has he adjusted to a new scheme?
A: No. 1, he’s a tremendous leader. He is the catalyst of that front seven. He leads by example, the way he lives his life and the way he practices every day and that’s great for every kid in this program. Especially for the youth because they can see a great player and what it means to him. And he leads our team in community service. That’s just another thing that I make sure and point out to the young kids. He’s a great player, he’s a great kid, he’s a great person.
As far as adjusting to the defense, I think he’s done a tremendous job. He studies. He works hard at it. I think the scheme fits in well. He’s making a lot of plays for us, been involved in a lot of tackles. He’s a force to be dealt with out there. It allows him to roam maybe a little bit more at times. I won’t say freelance is the right word, but it does free him up to run to make some plays, which is really what he does best. So it’s been a great fit for him and I think it’ll be a great fit for his future as he moves on to the NFL playing in this package.
Q: What do you see in Borland’s NFL future? Is he a little undersized?
A: To me, his size is a complete non-factor. I think he’s a great linebacker. What do I know about the NFL? Not much. But I’d want him on my team wherever I was, and I think he’ll be a tremendous pro for a number of years.
Q: Is it more difficult to prepare for the possibility of playing two quarterbacks?
A: Let’s just look at this game first. The scheme doesn’t change drastically. Sometimes when you prepare for two quarterbacks, there’s a drastic change or even just a little change in scheme. I don’t see a drastic change in scheme with both of these quarterbacks. They both have the ability to run the offense very effectively.
Whether it’s Braxton or Kenny, I think they both are going to do what’s in the offense. They’ve done that for a number of years. It doesn’t matter which quarterback it is. They’re both very talented, but it doesn’t change how we prepare at all.