With several common threads running through Monday's opening session of Big Ten media days, there are a few leftover items for Tuesday morning. Rex is also still in Chicago and will be following up with a few more stories, including a couple on the opener vs. LSU and the still-unsettled quarterback situation.
For now, here are some various thoughts from Gary Andersen's post-press conference media scrum.
Former Monona Grove standout and incoming recruit Jaden Gault is taking a leave from Wisconsin's football team while battling depression, the Wisconsin State Journal reported earlier this month. Monday, Andersen made his first comments on Gault, a four-star offensive tackle recruit who missed spring practice to seek therapy, and said he remains confident that Gault will eventually return to the Badgers.
"I sure think so," Andersen said. "Jaden, we all know, is a very talented football player. I expect him to be a very talented football player as we move forward, but that's not the concern today. The concern is to get Jaden back into the proper scenarios to be able to move forward in life.
Gault faced a series of tough challenges last winter before beginning college. Six days after winning the state title with Monona Grove, his grandfather died after a long battle with cancer. Nine days later, his 30-year-old uncle died after suffering a blood clot. Gault then delayed an official visit to Madison in December, played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4, before moving into his UW dorm room a few days later. Then on Jan. 29, he underwent knee surgery.
The State Journal reported Gault was hospitalized twice for having suicidal thoughts, once in early February and again in March. At the time of the July 7 report, it was believed Gault could return to the program in January if his condition improves.
"The basic plan for Jaden now is to get Jaden in school, mainstreamed in school and support Jaden," Andersen said. "And that is it. We're excited about that, we're going to be at Jaden's pace.
When Wisconsin released its official fall roster on July 18, nose tackle Bryce Gilbert was one of the most surprising departures. Badgernation.com's Badger Worgull reported at the time that Gilbert had graduated from UW and sought a transfer to a smaller school. Andersen addressed the departure for the first time on Monday.
"He had his degree, which is great for Bryce," Andersen said. "We sat down, Bryce came into my office one day and we just discussed his situation and where he sat. He wanted to kind of move on, and I supported him. I would've supported him fully if he stayed; he decided that he wanted to go do that. He's playing at a smaller school, I think he's excited to continue his degree and that's where Bryce went. Our communication after he decided to do what he did was very good and I'll always be there for Bryce, and he knows that."
New NCAA rules on summer workouts
Back in December, the NCAA amended its bylaws to enable schools to require players to participate in up to eight hours per week of summer activities. Included in the possibilities are conditioning, weight training and up to two hours of film study per week.
When asked about the latter, Andersen said the new rules haven't changed much about Wisconsin's process in the summer. Previously, coaches couldn't communicate with players in the summer months and team workouts were expected to be purely voluntary.
"I put it a lot on the assistant coaches. We did not change our summer schedule as far as our coaches' vacation," Andersen said. "I'm a true believer in leadership between the team is built between the team, and not between the coaches in the summer time. So it's important to me that we've identified our leaders, we've put our leadership committee into work during the summer. I expect them to do a great job of handling it, so our coaches pushed away.
"We were there sometimes for two weeks, sometimes we weren't there at all for a week and then the next week, maybe we were there for an hour. It just depended on what the coaches felt they needed. We were prepared to educate our kids through video and everything we had without the new rule change, but the new rule change ... is a huge positive. But we have not changed how we work through summer; coaches gotta get away from players, players gotta get away from coaches. It's a long enough season without it; they'll look at us game five and say, 'Man, I'm so tired of you coach, I can't look you at anymore.' So we've got to be fresh."
Monday's media session might've been light on hard news, but the nature of the event is that questions are slung toward coaches and players on all sorts of topics. Here are a few more worthwhile quotes from Andersen.
On the College Football Playoff:
"I see it game-by-game, one-by-one. I think it's great for college football. You sit back and you're going to have four teams playing it off, and everybody wants to be in that spot. It would be a tremendous opportunity to get there. There's a lot that's got to happen between now and then.
"But overall, I would say, it brings just a little bit more excitement to it. The semifinals, the final game and those four teams that make it are going to be very fortunate. Would we like to be one of those teams? Everybody in the world's going to say, "Absolutely, yes" to that question. But you've got to take business one week at a time for sure."
On the Big Ten splitting into East and West Divisions
"First of all, I had no say in it whatsoever. I feel good about it. We get to keep our rivalries, which is so important. We get to keep the Iowa game, we get to keep the Minnesota game. That matters a ton to us, I think, because of the recruiting base and where and how we recruit. There's 54 kids from the state of Wisconsin, there's mid-70s of our kids from the Midwest, so our ability to kind of stay around there -- Northwestern, Illinois -- to be able to move through those is great for our recruiting base. So I like the way it's broken up. It's highly competitive, as I've said many times today and I'll continue to say it.
On suggested NCAA contact limitations:
"It did not change us one bit. In fact, we can still be even more physical wearing full pads more. We never crossed that line. For us, I think we practice clean, hard, crisp and fast, but I believe in keeping them as fresh as I can. So those rules did not affect us at all."