Andersen Notebook Two: Embracing the Job

Heading into his first media day as head coach of Wisconsin, Gary Andersen is excited to coach in the same conference as Urban Meyer, embrace the championship expectations and to fix the problems on Wisconsin's depth chart.

CHICAGO – After passing the first test of Big Ten Media Days at the Hilton Chicago, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen headed into the next round of questioning with a much smaller group surrounding him for the second round.

"I guess you could say it really is a ‘Big' media day compared to what I'm use to, but it's the same questions and everybody is excited," said Andersen. "I'm ready to go, the staff's excited and even the media is excited to get football going. Today, it's kind of the start of the season for me."

Andersen appeared to be just at ease with the small crowd in front of him as he did with the much larger crowd at the start. Despite moving from the now-defunct WAC to the Big Ten, Andersen found himself some familiar faces, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer being one of them.

"It's great, Urban Meyer is awesome," said Andersen, who was hired by Meyer prior to Utah's undefeated 2004 season. "I have been through this before, one of my best friends in the world is Utah (head coach) Kyle Whittingham. We competed against each other two of the four years when I was at Utah State.

"It's a little different dynamic, but at the end of the day it's still college football. It's all about competing and it's something that we're all very use to. I have a great respect for Urban Meyer, and it's a mutual respect. At the end of the day, it's not about myself, and it's not about Urban Meyer. It's about the young men on the field and how they execute that's what we should worry about."

Big Ten Championship Expectations

Coming off three straight conference championships and returning 14 starters from last season, Andersen is not walking into a Wisconsin team that needs much rebuilding, but will enter the season as underdogs to Meyer's Buckeyes.

After its undefeated campaign last season, which included a 21-14 overtime win at Wisconsin, Ohio State was the overwhelming pick to win the Big Ten Leaders Division and the conference championship in a preseason media poll conducted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Despite winning a championship last season, Andersen acknowledged that his returning players expect more than a 8-6 record, including a 4-4 finish in the Big Ten season.

"Our players understand where we were a year ago, and that five hundred in the Big Ten is not going to get you to where you want to be in the future," said Andersen. "Last year, they got to the big stage and played so well in the championship game last year."

All of Wisconsin's six losses last season came by seven points or less, including four by three points and three in overtime, a sticking point for Andersen and his staff this offseason.

"I have watched the Big Ten Championship game on the Big Ten Network probably ten times alone this summer," laughed Andersen. "The consistency of a great team is to fight adversary, to fight every single week and to win those close games.

"There are great teams in this league and then Big Ten is the highest level to compete at in my opinion. "I have spent the last few years of my life, especially at Utah State, to make sure I'm watching those games early."

Biggest Concerns

Unlike former coach Bret Bielema often saying his biggest concern was his kicking game, Andersen admitted his biggest initial concerned was switching Wisconsin from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4.

While the front seven returned, the Badgers' backfield is lacking in depth. Senior safety Dezmen Southward – the only returning starter in the secondary from last season - will be a key part to leading the defense to success, but he will need assistance if he wants to make a true impact.

"In the defensive backfield, somebody is going to have to step up and play the other safety position," said Andersen. "It was still in question in the spring and it remains in question now in the fall. It's important for Dezmen to have the right guy playing with him. If Dezmen wants to be a great player he's going to need some help back there. So he can be nickel sometimes and he can blitz sometimes so he doesn't have to just sit in the post all season."

The other concern Andersen mentioned is on offense. Senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis led the team with 49 receptions, 837 yards and five touchdowns last season, but Wisconsin heads into its second straight fall camp without a clear-cut number two wide receiver who can help take pressure off the passing game.

"If there's a question on the offensive side, it's who is going to be our next wide receiver," asked Andersen. "Who's going to step up and make Jared the great player he is? Because Jared can't do it all by himself at the wide receiver spot, he's going to need help."

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