Miller brings offensive line experience across the border

Bart Miller may not have known it at the time, but he likely made a major impression on his future boss on Oct. 20, 2012.

Miller was serving as Wisconsin’s offensive line coach at the time and his unit paved the way for 337 rushing yards in a blowout 38-13 win for the Badgers at home. Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys wasn’t able to stop the Badgers fearsome front all game.

Miller will be on the opposite sideline when he returns to Camp Randall this year though, after being announced as the Gophers new offensive line coach on Dec. 30.

“Bart, there’s no question for his background,” Claeys, now the Gophers head coach, said at an introductory press conference for Miller and new Gophers offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson on Friday. “He played for Bob Bostad, one of the best offensive line coaches there is. Played for him, then worked for him at Wisconsin. That’s a style and what they teach was what I was interested in doing.”

Miller played college football at New Mexico under Bostad and was a two year letterwinner. Bostad later was the offensive line coach at Wisconsin from 2008-2011 and in his final season Miller was brought along as a graduate assistant.

Miller returned the following season but the Badgers normally dominant ground game struggled. Offensive line coach Mike Markuson was fired Sept. 8 and Miller was promoted in his stead.

Wisconsin was 103rd in the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing average at the end of September with only 101 yards per game. But by the end of the season, behind future NFL draft picks Travis Frederick, Ricky Wagner and Ryan Groy on the offensive line, the Badgers were 12th in rushing average at 237.8 yards per game.

“It was obviously a difficult situation to take over at that time but one of the things that we were so good at there was being physical and running the football and having that mentality,” Miller said. “They got away from that a little bit and when we took over we reestablished that mentality of being the most physical, of being the most dominant and taking pride in that.”

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema left for Arkansas at the end of the 2012 season leaving Miller’s new job in jeopardy. Badgers athletics director Barry Alvarez wanted to keep Miller on the coaching staff but new head coach Gary Andersen wanted to bring in his own coaches.

Miller had to move on and spent a year serving as the offensive line coach at New Mexico State and two at Florida Atlantic in the same position before being hired by Claeys. He was on the Gophers head coach’s short list and now hopes to bring the Wisconsin mentality he helped revitalize back across the border.

“We’re going to hit at practice, we’re going to pad it up and we’re going to hit it up every day,” Miller said. “They’re going to know when they take the field they’re the most physical guy on the field. They’re going to win. That’s that mentality that they’re going to take on the field.”

Miller said he has more expertise in a gap scheme like the one Wisconsin runs, where linemen often use double teams to create holes and push forward from the line of scrimmage. The Gophers struggled at times to win up front last year due to injuries taking several experienced players out of the lineup, but Miller is hoping some of his techniques from across state lines can turn around another Big Ten starting five.

“I think you’ll see some differences and hopefully as our offense continues to gain some traction, we have some really talented backs and Mitch is a great leader back there, I think you’re going to see the offense go and I think that’ll be a great representation of what we’re doing up front,” Miller said.