At first glance, the following wouldn’t appear to make future Wisconsin football opponents quake in their cleats.
Dividing into two groups to toss footballs into trash cans. Holding a dance contest at the end of practice, complete with coaches as judges. Seeing who can learn the words to the school song the quickest.
Giggle if you want, but new UW coach Gary Andersen says there is a method to what you might think is madness.
“It’s meant to have fun and put a smile on your face, but also have a winner and a loser,’’ he said. “I want competitors.
“It’s important in football and it’s important in life. There are no days off. They better be able to look in the mirror at the end of the day and say, ‘We played well enough to win today.’ ’’
Wisconsin has played well enough to be crowned Big Ten champion the past three seasons, the only power conference school to have such a streak.
But three days after the Badgers claimed the most recent title with a thrashing of Nebraska, coach Bret Bielema resigned without a heads-up to UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez — who hand-picked Bielema as his successor seven years ago — to go to Arkansas.
“Initially, we were surprised,’’ senior linebacker Chris Borland said. “But things blew over quickly. Coach Alvarez calmed guys’ nerves and things were back to normal pretty quickly.’’
“We have hit it off as a team with coach Andersen from the get-go,’’ Borland said. “He’s a player-oriented coach. Everybody has a lot of respect for him.’’
Andersen deserves respect. He took over a Utah State program that had won six games in three years and went 4-8, 4-8, 7-6 and 11-3. In the final 2012 Sagarin rankings, Utah State was No. 19 — ahead of No. 22 Nebraska and No. 23 Wisconsin.
The new UW staff inherits a 27-man senior class, of which Bielema predicted 12 would be NFL-draft worthy.
Speeding the transition has been hiring five assistants who have been with Andersen before. That has meant more time coaching players than coaching coaches.
“It’s a great advantage having people who have been with me,’’ Andersen said. “I’m a little bit knee-jerk, yell, change things on the go and flip-flop if I believe it’s something better for the kids.
“I don’t care how it inconveniences the coaches. I want to make sure the kids are in the right spot.’’
Among the familiar faces to Andersen is Bill Busch, a native Nebraskan and one-time Husker assistant who has worked with Andersen at four schools.
“Bill is a tremendous sounding board for me,’’ the head coach said. “He’s somebody who will walk off with me and say, ‘You sure you want to do it that way, Gary?’
“He always puts the kids first. He is a tremendous coach, whether it is special teams or working with the back end on defense or the overall scheme. And he is one of the best recruiters, if not the best recruiter, I’ve ever been around. He’s very valuable to me.’’
So now that the coaching change appears to have gone smoothly for Wisconsin, what’s next?
“It’s all about winning,’’ Borland said. “We got that done last year, and that’s what we want to do this year.’’
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