April 14, 2010

Little things offer big strides for Anderson

MADISON - Last season was a double-edged sword of sorts for Isaac Anderson. After starting the season with an 80-yard touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage, Anderson had a bit of a roller coaster ride for the remainder of the season.

Just call that the high point, or peak, of a tumultuous season that had more ups and downs than a Sunday drive through the hills of Pennsylvania.

For every highlight reel grab, or stat building catch, Anderson had a moment that left coaches scratching their heads or wondering whether his concentration level was at its highest level.

"I'd say there were two games that stood out to me last year," Anderson said following a recent practice. "Northwestern and Ohio State. After those games I kind of sat down with coach Paul Chryst and DelVaughn Alexander and spoke about things that were on my mind and things like that.

"It came down to me trying too hard in certain situations trying to make up for certain plays I missed."

Against Northwestern, a somewhat surprising loss towards the end of the season, Anderson was on the wrong end of a few obvious mental miscues that thwarted a couple of UW scoring chances.

Whether he was flagged for a false start, cut off a route or simply failed to reel in a pass, Anderson was the focal point of what could have been following that game.

"Coach Chryst said if I just stick to my fundamentals and go with what you've been doing and practicing, I think you'll be fine," Anderson said. "He said to relax for me out there. It wasn't anything where I couldn't do the thing, it was just over doing it and trying too hard."

In essence, trying too hard becomes the worst thing possible. When a player starts to over exert, or press, with hopes of making an impact and making an impact fast, the concentration level starts to dip while penalties start piling up.

"You definitely become frustrated," Anderson said. "Coach Chryst pulled me to the side and was like, 'Man, just focus on your fundamentals and trust yourself.' I think that helped me out a lot so I learned from that situation. I don't feel that anxiety or frustration.

"I just trust my fundamentals."

Maybe spring camp is exactly what Anderson needed after a season with such peaks and valleys. Obviously, with the speed he displays and the ball skills he possesses, Anderson can, and has shown, to be a playmaker on the Badger offense.

However, spring camp has also been a bit of a challenge for Anderson. Because he has class scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday during scheduled practice times, Anderson has the unfortunate challenge to get from class and into football mode in a very short period of time.

"It's been a different spring for me," Anderson said. "I get out here about an hour late for practice and it's hard to get warmed up. It's hard to miss some meeting time, too. Everybody is warmed up and you're getting out here nice and stiff and trying to get here from class and rushing over. You get taped out here and the tape might not feel right, the feet might be numb and things like that.

"But it's just a hard transition coming out straight from class and trying to get on the field and make plays when your number is called."

In the 12 total practices so far this spring, it seems as though Anderson is starting to make strides on the field both individually and as a leader, even though he has to deal with those challenges. He has great speed and solid hands that make him yet another threat on an offensive unit that is stacked on paper.

Whether he can keep that high level of focus and concentration, though, is something that really won't be determined until UW opens its regular season schedule next fall.

"Coach Bret Bielema definitely rides me a lot more than a lot of other receivers," Anderson said. "I understand the expectation is high and just the thought of the expectations being high is something to look forward to and it's a challenge."

As camp winds down, Anderson is looking to continue to separate himself as a starting wide receiver in Chryst's offensive sets. He is attempting to stay detail oriented with hopes of becoming a leader by example.

"That's what we're looking for some of those guys to do because they may not be out here talking a lot and trying to get guys to do things verbally," Alexander said. "They are trying to do all the little things."

And for Anderson, the little things are where everything starts.

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