Anderson set for battle with alma mater

Brian Anderson will coach against his alma mater for the ninth time.

Gophers football running backs coach Brian Anderson watches as the football players warm up for practice on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, at the Bierman Field.

Gophers football running backs coach Brian Anderson watches as the football players warm up for practice on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, at the Bierman Field.

Nate Gotlieb

Gophers running backs coach Brian Anderson played wide receiver for Western Illinois from 1990-92. This Saturday, he will coach against his alma mater for the ninth time.

Anderson and the Gophers play WIU at 11 a.m. Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Anderson, a former wide receivers coach at Southern Illinois and tight ends coach at Northern Illinois, has played the Leathernecks eight times in his career and has compiled a 7-1 record against them.

“I’ve always followed the program,” Anderson said of his alma mater. “I met a lot of great people there.”

WIU was 5-17 over the past two seasons but is 2-0 this year under new head coach Bob Nielson.

The Leathernecks have a modest football tradition, making nine NCAA Division I-AA playoff appearances.

They have also  produced 32 National Football League draftees. Anderson played there with two of the most notable ones.

All-Pro NFL defensemen Rodney Harrison and Bryan Cox played at WIU during the early 1990s. Both earned All-America honors at the school.

Anderson had a modest playing career by comparison.

A transfer from Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, he played for WIU from 1990-92 but only started his senior season.

Anderson coached receivers at WIU for two seasons following his graduation in 1994. He then worked two other coaching jobs before joining Jerry Kill’s staff at SIU in 2001.

While he’s worked for Kill ever since then, Anderson only recently started to coach running backs. Kill originally hired Anderson at Minnesota as a defensive quality control assistant but promoted him to running backs coach when Thomas Hammock resigned in February 2011.

Anderson said coaching running backs has helped improve his football knowledge.

“It’s been great because I’ve learned the different levels of football as far as the pass game and the run game,” he said.

Anderson’s running back corps powered the Gophers to a 44-21 victory over New Mexico State last Saturday. With starting running back Donnell Kirkwood out with an ankle injury, sophomore Rodrick Williams Jr. ran for 148 yards and junior David Cobb added 56 more.

Kill hasn’t said whether Kirkwood will play this week but said Tuesday that he was impressed with Williams’ and Cobb’s performances.

Anderson appeared to agree this week.

“It’s a positive step,” he said, “but now we just have to keep building off of it.”