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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers O-line set to return to familiarity under Miller

Fifth year senior and starting left tackle Ricky Wagner (58) cited comfort with Miller at the helm as the Badgers’ offensive line prepares for yet another coaching transition.[/media-credit]

Shock and surprise rocked the Wisconsin football program Sunday night
when head coach Bret Bielema announced the departure of offensive line
coach Mike Markuson.

But the surprises didn’t end there. Markuson’s replacement was none
other than an untested UW graduate assistant, Bart Miller.

“Oh I was definitely surprised,” running backs coach Thomas Hammock
said of Bielema’s decision. “I respect
his decision. As a head coach he’s responsible for the program and
doing what he feels is necessary to move the program forward.”


Hammock and offensive coordinator Matt
Canada were the first people Bielema informed of his decision. Canada added it’s a completely unique situation, something he
personally has never experienced before.

While the situation is unlike any other in recent program history,
Canada preached the need to keep moving forward.

“Our job is very structured; our schedule is what it is,” Canada said.
“You move forward, you come in, you do your job, the players play, the
coaches coach. … Obviously it’s a change, but you just have to adapt
to it and move on.”

Markuson was only two games into his tenure at Wisconsin and seemingly
became a scapegoat for the Badgers’ poor play through those two games
and the embarrassing 10-7 loss to Oregon State.

Miller, on the other hand, while praised to be “mature beyond his
years” by Bielema, has only helped coach the offensive line in a
limited sense. The one credential Miller currently holds is the fact
that former offensive line coach Bob Bostad coached him at the
University of New Mexico for two years. Miller also helped coach the
offensive line last season under Bostad’s supervision.

Ultimately Miller serves as a bridge, according to Bielema, to
Bostad’s infamous style of coaching, with minor changes and details, a
quality senior left guard Ricky Wagner parroted.

“We have all the confidence in the world; we’re real happy that they
picked Bart,” Wagner said. “He’s kind of a mix of Bo and Markuson, I
guess you could say, and we’re real excited to get working with him.

“He’ll get on you; you don’t want to mess up in front of him,” Wagner
added of Miller’s similarities to Bostad.

After UW’s coaching staff was shaken up at the end of last season with
the departure of six assistant coaches, dismissing one of those in the
midst of a transition causes yet another transition – the players now
have to get used to a second “new” coach in only a few short weeks.

Yet despite another transition, Wagner did indicate the o-line has plenty of confidence in Miller’s capabilities.

“He’s been right along side us the last two years; he was just like a
second coach,” Wagner said. “He knows everything. I have a lot of
confidence in him and love his coaching style.”

Through only two games, the normally dominant and crushing o-line –
which has churned out All-Americans year in and year out – failed to
provide consistent and solid protection for quarterback Danny O’Brien
and running backs Montee Ball and James White.

Far too often did O’Brien find his pocket quickly collapsing around
him; nor could Ball and White consistently find the necessary gaps to
gain significant yardage on the ground. While the offensive line isn’t
totally to blame, it’s still at the root of those issues.

“The bottom line is it’s not close enough to what we expect from our
offense and the way we’re going to play,” Canada said.

With all the drama surrounding Bielema’s swift decision, especially
after such a poor performance last Saturday in Corvallis, Ore., – 207
total offensive yards from 35 rushing yards and 172 passing yards –
Wisconsin still has to move forward and prepare for its next matchup.
As such, Wagner and Canada each noted that Tuesday night they had one
of the best practices they’ve had all season.

Now it’s a matter of translating practice to Saturday.

“I think it’s just to keep up the way we practice,” Wagner said. “We
had a couple of not too good preparation weeks and I think [Tuesday]
really turned that around.”

“You just have to execute and we have to play situations better,”
Hammock said. “We’ve got to be better on third down and … in the red

While the results of this unprecedented situation have yet to be
confirmed, one thing is clear: The o-line needs to play better.
Miller’s first words to the unit were used simply to remind it that
it’s just as talented as it ever was.

“He wanted to get through to us that we’re going to be the old o-line
of the last couple of years here,” Wagner said. “We still have all the
skills; we have the same personnel. We’ve just got to show it.”

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