Earning the Room's Respect

With his excitement and passion on full display for his newest challenge during the conference's preseason media event, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen - having earned the admiration of his players - has already secured the respect of his fellow coaches.

CHICAGO - Making his first appearance at the conference's biggest event, talk around the room was that the energy and professionalism that Gary Andersen was bringing to the table in his first season as Wisconsin's head coach was noticeable.

When told about his head coach impressing some long-time conference media members, senior James White was not surprised. He had seen that type of demeanor since Andersen walked into the program.

"He definitely brings a lot of energy and pushes us to a point that we rarely have been pushed to," said White. "We actually have full team practice now which hasn't happened since I at least got here. It is really great that he started doing that."

While transitions between coaches can often be a rocky process (take Wisconsin's failed transition from Bob Bostad to Mike Markuson last fall), the switch from Bret Bielema to Andersen has been met with great enthusiasm by a Wisconsin team expected to be competitive once again.

In the spring, practices were shorter, more up-tempo and had a more competitive edge to it than recent seasons. More importantly, Andersen has based his coaching philosophy on productivity, not willing to waste a minute.

"Practices are a lot shorter and quicker with more of a competitive edge to it," said wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. "He is all about the players and would do anything for you … Trusting him and his coaching staff just seemed natural. We, as a team, melded together with him and his staff almost instantly."

Not only is Andersen being well received for his passion for coaching and making academic success a priority goal by his players, he is making an impact with the other head coaches around the conference after only six-and-a-half months on the job.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke knows Andersen going back to Hoke's days when the two coached against one another when Andersen was at Utah State and Hoke was in charge at San Diego State. Andersen made an impression on Hoke after his Aztecs beat the Aggies, 41-7, in San Diego in 2010, simply by the way they competed.

"I could tell that his team was disciplined and just a hard-nosed football team," said Hoke. "They fought till the end and they played as if it was 0-0."

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill called Andersen a "great hire" for Wisconsin because of the morals he laid out for his players, and the way he has already embraced some of the rich history of the conference and the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry.

"The significance of the Paul Bunyan axe is priceless," said Kill. "Even though it's just an axe, it still signifies the intense rivalry between two really solid teams. Aside from the rivalry, Andersen is going to be an exciting coach to watch."

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer called Andersen one of the best hires he ever made while at Utah; Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said he was impressed with how well coached Utah State was last season; and Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said he quickly earned his respect after reaching out to him shortly after he was hired.

"I have a ton of respect for the way his teams plays," said Fitzgerald, who said he studying Utah State because of the success the program. "I watched his teams play and I was real impressed … He's not going to be somebody he's not. Talking to Coach Alvarez, the players love him. He has a plan; he's executing his plan and it'll be fun to watch it unfold."

During his introductory press conference, Andersen said his goal over the ensuing several months was to earn the trust of his players and build a family-oriented atmosphere. With fall practices starting August 5, it's evident that Andersen has already succeeded in his first true test at Wisconsin.

"We all have tremendous respect for him and the team camaraderie is really showing this year," said senior linebacker Chris Borland. "We are looking forward to seeing where he can take us this season."

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