Bret Bielema just wrapped up his weekly Monday press conference and confirmed that Mike Maruson is indeed out as offensive line coach.
As reported last night, offensive quality control coach Bart Miller will take over Markuson's duties. Bielema spent a lot of time praising Miller's work ethic effort as a graduate assistant, noting that he himself began his coaching career as a GA. The press conference lasted around 30 minutes, and it seemed as if at least 20 minutes were devoted to the offensive line.
"I know how to win games and win championships," Bielema said. "The decision I made is what I stand behind going forward."
For what it's worth, Bielema also noted some family concerns for Markuson that played into the decision. Bielema also said there were no "personality issues" with Markuson that influenced his firing.
Perhaps the most interesting theme of the press conference was Bielema pushing the notion that he doesn't make decisions overnight. Like he tells his recruits, Bielema said he elected to sleep on this one and also address his "circle of trust" before making the decision official.
"I didn't tell anybody," Bielema said. "This is something that I've processed through my mind. You guys have never been recruited by me that I'm aware of, but one of the things I always tell recruits, when you make a decision, go to bed on it. Sleep on it. Tell your mom and dad, tell your circle of trust. I always use the reference to 'Meet The Fockers,' know the movie? He's always talking about your circle of trust.
"Everybody's always got that group, and for me, I referenced those people, kind of made a decision. I had some conversations on Sunday morning with administration, the people I need to talk to when I make a move of this nature."
Forgive the odd "Meet The Fockers" reference -- Bielema sure didn't -- but it was apt for the message the seventh-year head coach was pushing. Bielema went into his office on Sunday and the first two people he told of his decision to fire Markuson were offensive coordinator Matt Canada and assistant head coach/running backs coach Thomas Hammock. Canada is one of six first-year assistants on Bielema's staff this year, while Hammock is in his second year with Wisconsin.
Bielema added that he hopes Miller will help "bridge the gap" between the old techniques of former offensive line coach Bob Bostad and the new wrinkles of Canada's offense. That blend clearly hadn't materialized over the first two weeks of the season, as the Badgers sit tied for 107th among FBS schools with an average of 297 yards per game. Wisconsin is also 106th in rushing offense at 101.5 yards per game, while the team's 2.9 yards-per-carry average is tied for 104th. That last number might be misleading considering that quarterback Danny O'Brien finished Saturday's loss to Oregon State with minus-35 rushing yards. Nevertheless, you don't need the box score to tell you the offense has been stunningly incompetent thus far.
"Panic is for the outside world," Bielema said. "Reality is where I live."
Bielema said the Badgers didn't take to the practice field on Sunday because of an Ironman competition that took place in Madison. Instead, Bielema thought "we just needed to get through all the tape" from Oregon State and then get a jump on prepping for Utah State. After a team film session on Sunday night, Bielema said he saw several players in the halls of Camp Randall on Monday, typically a day off for the team.
"We always reference overtime, guys that want to come in and do a little extra," Bielema said. "I've seen more guys up there in the last 27 hours than I've seen, so I think that urgency is very much there."
The offensive line heard about the move following a team meeting on Sunday, after everyone broke into position groups. Miller wasn't in the room when Bielema told the lineman about the move.
"I have mixed emotions because I didn't want it to come out this way, but to make the best of a bad situation, I think we're on top of it," Bielema said.
Some other notes from the press conference:
- Bielema, who sits on the NCAA's rules committee, addressed the hit to Jared Abbrederis' chest that forced the junior wide receiver to leave Reser Stadium in an ambulance. Abbrederis sustained a concussion but no structural damage, and he could play this week.
"Here I am as a head coach, I watch the play, but because of my view, I never even saw the front side of [the hit]," Bielema said. "People made reference to it after the game to me, and then somebody sent me a shot of a pretty apparent sternum shot with the helmet."
Bielema added that he forwarded the photo on to the Big Ten, noting the conference's ability to watch replays.
- Senior safety and team captain Shelton Johnson had surgery on the broken arm he sustained on Saturday. "He should be back with us hopefully in six weeks or a little less," Bielema said. The injury was initially thought to be season-ending, but after the surgery on Sunday, the timetable was shortened. Bielema said he was relieved because Johnson has already used his redshirt year and didn't want to see that be Johnson's last game. Sophomore Michael Trotter is listed in his place at strong safety opposite free safety Dezmen Southward.
- Defensive end Brendan Kelly was "very, very close" to playing on Saturday, Bielema said. After warming up, Kelly didn't feel good enough to play. He should play Saturday.
- Bielema was unhappy with the number of big plays Oregon State produced on Saturday, but thought Wisconsin's defense improved. He "wasn't very happy," though, the offense's drive to start the second half. Another positive Bielema noted was the Badgers' 2-for-4 defense on fourth down.
- Drew Meyer did an "outstanding job" on 7 punts," Bielema said. He was also "really happy" with Kyle French continuing to kick well on kickoffs and PATs.
- As for the onside kick at the end of the game, Bielema said, "It will probably get debated for a long time on whether that ball was legal at the end, but as far as the execution and what we asked Kyle to do, I was very, very happy with that effort I wish we would've got the ball, but obviously we didn't."
- After watching the game film, Bielema thought guys were "straining" on offense. Not quite sure what that means.
- Bielema said the offense's best rhythm all day came in the two-minute offense at the end of the game. He said it was "neat to see Danny orchestrate that."