CHICAGO — One of Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen's top assistants followed him from Utah State, and it's a name Nebraska fans recall: Bill Busch.
Busch played at Nebraska Wesleyan and coached at Nebraska under Bill Callahan from 2004 to '07. He is Andersen's special teams coordinator and co-defensive coordinator — and a guy Andersen said will talk frankly when necessary.
“Bill is very important to me,” Andersen said. “He's not afraid to tell me where he thinks I'm doing something he may not agree with. That's why I hired him. That's why I want him on the staff. He's a tremendous recruiter. He's right up there with the best. He's as good as I've been around.”
Andersen said Busch was instrumental in helping Utah State put more talent and speed on the field. Busch was an aggressive recruiter at Nebraska, too, helping to land former NU All-American Prince Amukamara.
“The territory grows real quick with Bill,” Andersen said. “There's no stopping him. You don't know where he's going to go. But when he calls me and says, 'Coach, we got a guy and I like him and he's going to fit our program but he's got limited film,' I'm going to believe Bill Busch. His track record proves it. He knows what we want.”
Wisconsin still in good shape
Andersen takes over a Wisconsin program that's anything but broken.
“I'm not interested in comparing what was different — whether that may have been what we deem as great, good or indifferent,” he said. “There's going to be differences when you take over a program, and it's important to put your own stamp on it.”
“So I've never asked the question of how things were,” he said. “There's a lot of different ways to do it, and there was a lot of success. For us, it's get our core values into place, let our kids understand the trust factor and let them understand the true set of core values we're going to hold them to.”
Wisconsin returns 16 starters from an 8-6 team that fell 20-14 to Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
The Badgers have won three consecutive Big Ten titles and have an 11-year bowl streak.
Badger best in country?
Chris Borland is flattered that Andersen calls the Badgers' linebacker the best in the country.
Now it's time to prove it.
“It means a lot because obviously he's got confidence in me and he comes from a defensive background,” said Borland, who earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last season. “It's great to hear that. That said, those are just words, so I've got to play well this fall and prove him right.”
Borland, who played in and started 12 games last year, enters his senior season with 308 career tackles, 41?Ĺ for losses and 13 forced fumbles, the most in school history.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke received the most curious question of the day in the main ballroom when a writer asked how Detroit's recent declaration of bankruptcy affected the Wolverines' program and UM players from the city.
Hoke's improvised, fairly impressive response: “We're pulling for Detroit. We're pulling for the city and the state to get together or the federal government, because it's a great town. It's a great city. For our kids, I think every situation is different, but I think all our kids, you know, maybe they haven't thought in detail enough about it.”
Pelini got his own chin-scratcher: What's it like to start Big Ten play with Illinois for the next five years?
“Excuse me?” Pelini said.
The question was repeated.
“I wasn't even aware of that,” Pelini said.
Actually, it's four years. Nebraska opens the 2017 Big Ten season against Rutgers.
Purdue raising expectations
New Purdue coach Darrell Hazell, a longtime Ohio State assistant, won't settle for middle of the pack as he returns to the Big Ten after a short but successful run at Kent State.
“One of the first things I said to our team (at) our very first team meeting was that Purdue was perceived in the middle of the Big Ten — never up here, never down here,” he said. “I told them it's going to take a lot of work, but we're going to climb ourselves out of the middle, we're going to put this program (into) national prominence for a long time.”
Purdue went 6-7 overall last year. Hazell's team was 11-3 overall and 8-0 in the Mid-American Conference East in his second and final Kent State season. He also guided the Golden Flashes to the program's first bowl game in 40 years.
“I think it all starts with your self-image, how you see yourselves,” said Hazell, who spent seven years as an Ohio State assistant. “If you don't see yourself as a champion, no one else is going to see you as a champion.”
Wildcats staying patient
Pat Fitzgerald said recruiting at Northwestern might take more time, but extra effort pays off.
“If you look at our history in recruiting, we're typically a day late, a week late, a month late in potentially offering a young person,” the Wildcats' coach said. “I know sometimes that frustrates our fans, but we're going to make sure when we offer a young man, that's someone we truly want to be a part of our football family.”
Northwestern's recruiting philosophy also heads off potential discipline problems.
“I think discipline begins with recruiting,” Fitzgerald said. “The identification of a student-athlete that fits your program in Evanston starts with that character evaluation. We've got a set of questions that are married with the values of our program.”
Hoke said Michigan has greatly improved its offensive and defensive line depth since he took over in 2011. Michigan has “15 or 16” scholarship offensive linemen compared with nine when he arrived. ... Hoke said the Wolverines are returning to a pro-style offense because its physicality helps the defense with “downhill schemes” and combination blocks. Michigan lost badly last year to Alabama in its season opener, with the Crimson Tide carving holes through the Wolverines' defense. Quarterback Devin Gardner fits the pro-style offense, Hoke said, because he “spins the ball a bit tighter” and has height to the see over the line of scrimmage. ... Fitzgerald, who recently had hip surgery, said he'd be “full go” for fall camp even if he's “questionable as an athlete.”... Illinois coach Tim Beckman, still winless in the Big Ten, began his main ballroom session for the second straight year by wishing his mother a happy birthday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.