Something was obviously wrong with the Badgers offensive line the first two games of the season. They had big problems against Northern Iowa, but were able to survive it thanks to an overwhelming talent advantage. But this weekend against Oregon State they didn’t have that advantage and the line issues became even more obvious. The Beavers’ defensive line dominated the Badgers, holding Montee Ball in check and harassing QB Danny O’Brien. The resulting upset sent shockwaves through Madison, and now we are seeing the fallout. Mike Markuson is out as offensive line coach after just two games and Bart Miller is in.
Firing the o-line coach here seems like a panic move, but it’s also very possibly the right move. Markuson is a highly respected coach but it seems there were communication issues between him and the players. It also seems that Markuson’s schematic tweaks were causing problems for some of the guys. Clearly, things were not working correctly. New offensive line coach Bart Miller worked under former o-line coach Bob Bostad, who is now in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers, and is expected to re-insert the scheme used the past few years when the Badgers totally dominated people up front.
I don’t know what happened behind-the-scenes with Markuson and the players, but if it’s true there were serious communication problems, then firing Markuson was a pretty easy decision. The question is, can Miller get this turned around in time to salvage the season? Right now things are a total mess with this offense. Just re-establishing Bostad’s principles likely won’t be enough. You still have to figure out who is going to play right guard, since Zac Matthias looks totally overmatched. There’s also the question of Matt Canada’s offense and how he’s been running it. The good news is, you have two straight home games before the Big 10 season starts. The next game is against a tough Utah State squad that just beat Utah, so that isn’t necessarily a cupcake game. If things haven’t improved by this Saturday, there could be another upset in the offing.
The pressure is on Miller and his players to reverse whatever damage Markuson did and do it quickly, because that showdown game with Nebraska is looming and the way things are now, that has a chance to be a total embarrassment. And what if Markuson wasn’t the whole problem? What if the guys up front just aren’t as good as the guys Wisconsin has had in the past? Then this could be a very long, very frustrating season.