Offensive line coach Mike Markuson

Wisconsin Badgers offensive line coach Mike Markuson works with freshmen Jake Meador (57) and Walker Williams (62) during an Aug. 6, 2012 practice at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

M.P. KING - State Journal

Mike Markuson has been coaching the offensive line at the college level for 25 years, dating back to his time as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma State in 1987.

The University of Wisconsin is the eighth school where he has coached the position over that time, following 14 seasons in the Southeastern Conference at Arkansas and Ole Miss.

But Markuson has never been at a place that respected and appreciated linemen quite like UW.

It's part of the culture here. Casual fans know the names and the history. Ardent fans could break down the intricacies of the zone blocking scheme.

Offensive linemen are supposed to be anonymous players who only get mentioned when they mess up.

At UW, they are treated like rock stars, only they don't act like rock stars.

"It's fun to coach in a place with the kind of offense we have," Markuson said. "It's an offensive line coach's dream.

"These guys want to be physical. That's how they've won here forever. I don't want to change that culture."

While Markuson has embraced the culture with open arms, the reception he received from players was more reserved after they spent four years under Bob Bostad.

"I think it was a fairly large transition," junior center Travis Frederick said. "He's definitely a different coach. Coach Markuson has a different coaching style.

"We have a new offense. From the outside it probably won't look much different but it's a little bit different for us. I think we definitely hit a few speed bumps in the spring."

A new voice to be heard

The players had a love-hate relationship with Bostad, who originally went to the University of Pittsburgh when former UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was named the head coach. Bostad left a short time later to go to the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bostad was about as intense and demanding as a coach could be. But he got results, especially the last two years, with five players going in the NFL draft, including two first-rounders, and four All-Americans.

"Any time you have change on the staff, particularly a guy who these guys had been around a while, it's difficult," Markuson said. "A new personality, a new way of saying things. It takes time."

Markuson went through similar situations in his first year at previous stops. But the roots here run so deep, with so much success, it's only natural to expect some resistance.

"You go home and you wonder if you're reaching them or not," he said of the spring. "Are they listening, are they really buying into what you're telling them?"

Solid foundation

UW coach Bret Bielema said all six of his new assistants went through their own transitions. But he also acknowledged, "Bo was such a dominant personality."

Perhaps the best parting gifts Bostad left behind were well-trained players, with strong work ethics and the ability to adapt.

"All of the kids here know how to work and there's no griping about it," Markuson said. "They just do it. That's refreshing to me."

Bostad made sure his players learned a variety of positions and that adaptability might be the thing that serves them best in the long run.

"They can adjust pretty quick, the guys who have played," Markuson said. "They understand if there's a change that has to occur or something we want to do fundamentally a little bit different, or the defense is presenting a problem to us, can we do this?

"That's a credit to their last coach. They're a well-coached group of guys. You watch the film, you can't dispute that."

'Out for their best interests'

Near the end of the spring, Markuson had the feeling the players were starting to get comfortable with him. Since preseason camp started, there have been no issues.

"We've got a good room," Markuson said. "They're great kids, they're smart guys, they're very attentive. They want to do right, they want to win."

The real test for Markuson comes when the games start. If the team is winning and the line plays well, his methods will be embraced. He's got high standards to follow, but he also has many of the same players who helped set those standards.

"My job is to help those guys get better in every aspect of their lives," Markuson said. "However I can help them out on this football field, to be better fundamental football players, preparing them to win games, that's my job.

"I think it's important for all of us as coaches, for players to know you care about them and you're out for their best interests. That's what we do."

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