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Continued: Former Utah State coach Andersen excited to coach Badgers football

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 11, 2013 - 12:16 PM

“Apparently, Ohio State is the best college football team to ever strap up their helmets, so we’ll see,” he said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to compete.”

When Meyer left for Florida in 2005, Andersen became Utah’s defensive coordinator under Kyle Whittingham. The Utes went undefeated again in 2008 before Andersen left to become the head coach at Utah State.

One challenge at Wisconsin is that Andersen and his top assistants had limited experience recruiting the Midwest. To help bridge that gap, he kept three holdovers from Bielema’s staff — Ben Strickland, Henry Mason and former Gophers assistant Thomas Hammock.

Last month, the Gophers received a verbal commitment from Gaelin Elmore, a tight end from Somerset, Wis., even though Wisconsin had offered, too. But overall, recruiting appears to be going well for the Badgers, who landed a 2014 commitment from one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country on Monday in Jacksonville, Fla., native D.J. Gillins.

“There is more time here spent recruiting,” Andersen said. “I would say it’s tripled, minimum, throughout the year. You’re recruiting like we would in January at Utah State all spring and summer.”

Lesson learned

Andersen, 49, is determined not to let the work overwhelm his staff. At Utah State, he stressed the importance of Sunday night family dinners and a one-week summer vacation. He said those will be just as important at Wisconsin.

It’s a lesson he learned the hard way, he said, during his second year at Utah State, after a 41-7 loss to San Diego State.

“It was probably the worst game we ever played,” he said. “I just felt like I kind of lost focus for a short period of time and ended up in the hospital.

“I forgot about everything. I forgot about eating. I forgot about sleeping. I forgot about taking time away. Nothing else mattered but football, and because of that I wasn’t as good of a football coach.

“It took a doctor to look at me and go, ‘You’re pretty much going to kill yourself if you don’t stop.’ That day changed me dramatically.”

Andersen scaled back the hours he expects his assistants to stay in the office and reduced practice times by 20 minutes each day.

“The same stress I was feeling was on the assistant coaches,” he said. “It was on the football players. It was on everybody who cared about the program.”

Plenty to offer

It should be easier selling recruits on Madison than Logan, Utah. The Badgers just overhauled their facilities, giving the football team a new locker room, weight room, training area and academic center inside the bowels of Camp Randall.

That will only add to what recruits see on visits this fall to the 80,000-seat stadium. Andersen got his taste last Sept. 15.

“I remember we were on the team bus, and the [Wisconsin] band was playing in the parking lot,” he said. “We’d been driving through people for goodness knows how long, trying to get to the stadium. It was an unbelievable atmosphere. On that day, you’re trying not to be distracted by it, but it was special.”

Wisconsin fans are “good football fans, period,” Andersen said. “It’s not over the top. It’s the way it should be.”

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  • Gary Andersen, coaching this spring, got a taste of the Wisconsin football experience last fall when his Utah State team nearly upset the Badgers.

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