On the BadgerBeat: What we learned about the Badgers at Big Ten media days

2013-07-25T16:59:00Z On the BadgerBeat: What we learned about the Badgers at Big Ten media daysROB HERNANDEZ | rhernandez@madison.com | 608-252-6173 madison.com

CHICAGO -- The bank of elevators at the Hilton Chicago this week had a different Big Ten Conference school logo on each of the 12 doors, which seemed appropriate.

Each door had some mystery behind it as coaches and players looked ahead to the 2013 season during the 42nd Big Ten Media Days.

We knew before arriving at the two-day festivities that Ohio State was the odds-on favorite in the Leaders Division ahead of the University of Wisconsin. Michigan was a slight favorite to win the Legends Division ahead of Nebraska.

Here are some other things we learned about the state of the Badgers this week:

He's the real deal: If I've been asked once over the last seven months, I've been asked a couple dozen times: Is Gary Andersen a good fit as the new coach for the University of Wisconsin?

The last two days only supported my answer: He couldn't be better.

Anderson was the most humble, genuine and likable guy in the room during his two days in the Windy City. He made it clear that he wasn't there to make waves -- or bold predictions -- and he established that the Badger program will be all about the players in it under his watch.

College football has cultivated a wide range of coaching personalities, most of them symbolic of the traveling salesmen portrayed in the movie "The Blind Side" and the revolving door of recruiting pitches Southeastern Conference coaches made to Michael Oher. But Andersen seems anything but that.

The new coach couldn't have been more comfortable or engaging in the media-day setting. Among the stories he shared was that his summer has included a ride on the Screaming Hyena -- the new vertical tube slide at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells that starts when the bottom drops out.

We'll see how his personality holds up through the wild ride that is every Big Ten season. But it's my hunch that what we saw of Anderson the last two days is what we'll get just about every day of the upcoming season.

Articulate and insightful: Chris Borland's status as the go-to guy for reporters only became stronger during the media-days marathon as the Badgers linebacker fielded every question with tremendous insight.

For example, I asked Chris about the pros and cons of fall camp for a video we'll be posting to madison.com next week. Here's a portion of his answer:

"I like the simplicity of fall camp -- it's football and it's hanging out with your buddies and you've got to love that," Borland said. "It's everybody's passion on the team; you get to do it everyday. On the flip side, what you don't like is maybe you get to do it too much. It gets to be a grind at times, but it has to be if you want success." 

Remembering his roots: Those of us who remember Jared Abbrederis as the option quarterback on the Wautoma football team that beat Travis Frederick and Walworth Big Foot for the 2008 WIAA Division 4 state title continue to marvel at how far he has come over the last five years.

(We also shudder to think about the state of the Badgers' receiving corps if Abbrederis hadn't convinced coach Bret Bielema to walk-on to the football team when he arrived on campus as a track-and-field walk-on candidate.)

Abbrederis hasn't forgotten how far he has come -- he told the story over and over the last two days -- or where he came from. He told me he was looking forward to Saturday and going home to Wautoma to play in the Hornets Football Golf Outing, a scramble at Two Oaks North Golf Course.

What's in a name ... is what you get: It's hard to tinker with a name as simple on the tongue as James White, which is why I had to chuckle this morning when I heard a reporter approach the Badgers tailback and begin his question "Mon-TAY, tell me about ... ."

It's hard to believe it was just a year ago that the Big Ten media day had a little phonetic training to it when UW's most recent featured tailback asked for a tweak to the pronunciation of his first name. 

It's even harder to believe that a new season begins Aug. 5 without any of that.

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