Prescient fans might have predicted the disaster looming along the offensive line heading into the 2012 season just by reading the tea leaves from fall camp practice reports. Then-offensive line coach Mike Markuson spoke openly about his struggles getting players to listen, and those struggles were later confirmed to be signs of a "near mutiny" that eventually led to Markuson's firing after Wisconsin's traditionally stout front wall crumbled unexpectedly against Northern Iowa and Oregon State.
The Badgers will once again have a new man coaching the offensive line, with new head coach Gary Andersen opting to bring T.J. Woods with him from Utah State and let Bart Miller, who did an incredibly admirable job as Markuson's replacement, explore other pastures. Those looking for similar signs of discord to last season will be disappointed, however. Players have either learned to choose their words more carefully, or Woods is doing a much better job assimilating his coaching style and philosophies with this year's group of linemen.
Here's projected starting right tackle Rob Havenstein speaking at Wisconsin media day:
"I think coach Woods has done an absolutely great job working with the calls and all the communication going on between the linemen, especially with us," Havenstein said. "He's kept a lot of calls that we've had in the past, so a lot of the younger guys have grown up with and that's what they've learned. It's not a whole new system, a lot of it transfers over, and I can't speak enough of how much that helps us out and coach Woods has done an absolutely excellent job with us."
Havenstein emphasized that Woods will not be changing Wisconsin's blocking system drastically, which should come as encouraging news for fans. Markuson was accused of trying to overhaul a unit that had been operating successfully under a power blocking scheme for years, and losing the confidence of his players in the process.
Players were vindicated by Miller's ascension. Wisconsin ended the season rushing for 218 yards on 4.8 yards per carry against a Stanford run defense that had been giving up just 97 yards per game, after opening the season rushing for 168 yards on 3.8 YPC against a Northern Iowa defense that was several stratospheres removed from that of the Pac-12 champs.
Havenstein also had news for those who think Wisconsin is becoming an all-out spread offense.
"We're still going to run the same, similar style of offense," Havenstein said. "The plays aren't going to change drastically, we're not going to be running a full option or quick pass offense. We're still going to be doing what traditionally what Wisconsin does--running the ball and throwing the ball when it's appropriate and kind of feeling the game plan, things like that."
Ideally, Wisconsin will return to 2010/2011 levels of offensive dominance on the backs of an offensive line that can rival some NFL units. At the very least, the Badgers should avoid the unnecessary drama that almost derailed the 2012 season.
More from Bucky's 5th Quarter:
- Badger Bits: 5-star running back Joe Mixon is visiting Madison
- KKSE Episode 5: Wisconsin media day recap and interviews
- As fall camp unwinds, Wisconsin's seniors reflect on their legacies
- 2013 Wisconsin media day: Notebook of news and quotes
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