UW's Bielema pleased with new line coach

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema isn't publicly naming his starting quarterback for the Indiana game, and he even declined to say if he's voting today.

You know, being in a battleground state and all.

But Bielema did offer a strong endorsement for interim offensive line coach Bart Miller, who he appointed in Week 3 after dismissing first-year line coach Mike Markuson. Bielema promoted Miller from a graduate assistant role, a move that raised eyebrows at the time.

Wisconsin's offensive production since has improved, particularly in the run game, although the entire unit struggled mightily against Michigan State in its last outing Oct. 30, finishing with just 19 net rush yards. After averaging 16.7 points in the first three games, Wisconsin has averaged 30.7 points in the last six, which includes a 13-point effort against Michigan State. Some of the Badgers' offensive hallmarks -- red zone touchdown efficiency, big-play runs, overpowering play in the second half and particularly in the fourth quarter -- are starting to return.

It sounds as if Miller will return, too, in a permanent role in 2013.

"We'll kind of take that whole thing under consideration at the end of the year," Bielema said Tuesday, "but he has given me every indication that he can handle the job. I really like the results that we've been able to see on a daily basis."

Bielema, who himself skyrocketed up the coaching ladder despite his young age, saw potential in Miller that he believes has been fulfilled so far this season.

"I wouldn't have put him in there if I didn't think he could handle it," Bielema said. "Bart had demonstrated to me over the last several years that he's a guy that could handle a lot of things coming at him. He has definitely got the respect of his players. Just because they put 'coach' on your shirt doesn't mean they've got to respect you. He's earned their respect."

After Wisconsin lost six assistants during the last offseason, it makes sense to stick with a guy who has fostered improvement. Bielema said Miller has brought an aggressive mentality to the line and improved pass-protection techniques.

"The No. 1 thing was probably communication, just getting everybody on the right page, on the same page," Bielema said. "If you get beat and you know what you're doing and you know the task, that's one thing. But if you're unaware of what your role or your responsibility or your rule is, we've got issues.

"He's really cleaned up the language and the verbiage of offensive line play very, very well."