We're just six days away from the start of spring practice and while the focus should be all about the kids, for coach Andersen and AD Barry Alvarez they've also had to refocus on the staff he will have in place. That's because tight end and special teams coach Jay Boulware up and left the program suddenly last Friday.
To say it upset Andersen and caught him off guard may be putting it lightly, but it also gave us a refreshing glimpse into a coach that is just going to be honest in how he speaks. That's because he firmly laid the blame at his own feet during Monday's spring football preview press conference.
"I told the kids, ultimately, I hired him," Andersen said at his first spring press conference. "It's my fault. It's upsetting, and I brought the wrong guy in here. We'll be better off as we move forward. Hopefully, it happens quickly over the next several days. It's my responsibility to get the right coaches in here."
Clearly how things were done and the timing of it were a big issue for a coach that puts a big emphasis on building a family atmosphere and is just in the beginning stages of that at Wisconsin.
"I don't like the timing of it," he said. "I don't like the situation that we're in at all, but we'll get a coach in here that's as excited about Wisconsin football and wants to be here in the worst way, and he'll do a tremendous job."
Andersen made it clear that he wants coaches that want to be here in the worst way, but that whether it was a coach or a player he wouldn't be begging anyone to come here or stay here.
He also made it clear that the new coach would be both a tight end's coach and a special teams coach. That coach would also have a lot of experience and that the coach would be in place before the start of spring practices on Saturday.
Ultimately he feels he owes that much at the very minimum to his players, especially entering the critical time of spring drills. After all, this team only gets 15 practices to work things out together before fall camp hits.
However, that's where Andersen has been most impressed with this team – what they've done individually to work and improve on their own up until this point and that's what has him excited heading into spring practices. He is happy with how they've responded to the pressure of handling a new offense and defense within the restrictions that are put on them.
"The young men in our program have done a tremendous job of wrapping their arms around the offensive and defensive schemes, and they're very hungry to learn and excited to get out on the practice field," said Andersen.
As for who's actually going to be out on the field come Saturday? Well, some of that will remain a mystery and likely not known to us until after practice begins anyway. However, one man that won't be on the field in a jersey and pads will be quarterback Jon Budmayr.
Instead he will be working as a student assistant and Andersen says Budmayr has aspirations of one day being a coach himself.
Another change could be in the way the experienced players see action in spring, at least this season under Andersen. It appears that this spring will be more about the youth, depth, and learning of schemes for this team and less about reps for players with a ton of game experience.
"We're going to do everything we can to prepare them to get them to understand the scheme, but they don't need to go out to spring ball and get a thousand reps," Andersen said about the more experienced members of the UW roster. "A lot of those reps will be reserved for young players."
As for those younger players and where they could find bigger roles on this team? Well, Andersen clearly looking at cornerback, the offensive and defensive lines along with the ever important quarterback as the key positions to watch – mainly because they are the ones with the biggest changes to them (personnel and/or scheme changes).
So, what would he consider to be a successful spring for the quarterbacks out there for Wisconsin? Well, the key word is consistency and not just at the QB position either.
"Really the same thing I want to see from the football team is I want to see 15 consistent practices," Andersen said. "That's something we're going to talk about time and time again."
"At the quarterback position, you want to see leadership," he continued. "I want to see someone who's going to break the huddle, and I want to see those five offensive linemen's eyes and say, I know you got it. If you do your job, I know you're going to take care of business."
However, don't expect the QB battle or really any of them to be locked down coming out of spring practice just yet because Andersen firmly believes in giving the Juco's the same chance as everyone else when they come on board at Wisconsin.
That's not to say someone won't separate themselves from the group of players in attendance, it's just that nothing will be handed to anyone and ultimately that's what it's all about – competition, right?