Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema made a couple of shocking moves after the Badgers lost to Oregon State 10-7 on Saturday.
First, he parted ways with offensive line coach Mike Markuson just two games into the season.
Then for a replacement, Bielema promoted graduate assistant Bart Miller, a 2003 Elk Grove High School grad.
“I don’t know if I would have made the move if I didn’t feel so good about his replacement,” Bielema said at this weekly news conference. “So give Bart this opportunity to hop into this role and a guy that can maybe marriage the bridge that we need right now.”
Markuson was hired in January after spending the past 14 years coaching in the SEC at Mississippi and Arkansas.
Bielema made it clear that he’d prefer a link to former offensive line coach Bob Bostad, who left after six years with the Badgers to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After starring at Elk Grove, Miller became a two-time all-conference lineman at New Mexico, where he played for Bostad early in his career. Miller was in his second season as a Wisconsin grad assistant.
When he left New Mexico, Miller took a job in the Blackhawks front office, working in the sponsorship department. But he soon returned to football as a graduate assistant for New Mexico State.
“I think his story is cool, being from where he’s from, play at New Mexico, play as well as he did there,” Bielema said of Miller. “I think when he came in, you get impressed with people. He’s got a tremendous wife. Amy and him make a great couple. They make a great dynamic.
“(He’s) very mature beyond his years. I think the years he spent with the Blackhawks, just that whole element. He’s able to go into another dimension and still come back out of it.”
Wisconsin rushed for 267 yards on 70 carries (3.8 avg.) in its first two games, despite having a Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Montee Ball. The Badgers opened the season with a narrow victory over Northern Iowa.
Bielema said he thought hard about hiring Miller as offensive line coach last winter. But with six new coaches joining the staff, he didn’t want to promote a second graduate assistant. When practice began, there were suggestions the Badgers’ offensive linemen had trouble getting used to Markuson’s style.
“It’s something, it weighed on my heart very much,” Bielema said. “But I think that’s also part of the reason why we’ve had success. I’m never going to make a decision or delay a decision that I can, that I think will help us win football games.
“Bart, I don’t think I can exactly use the phrase he said (when offered the job on Sunday). But he was very, very surprised, and then suddenly changed to excitement.
“Then I said, ‘Hey, this is just a process. We’re going to get together later in the day.’ Talked to him probably two or three times (Monday). Had a nice visit with him this morning. He hit the ground running. And I know nobody’s going to log more hours in that office than Bart Miller in the next three or four months.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.