Game Week Mailbag

With the loss and firing of an offensive line coach by the football team, developments on the recruiting front and the unofficial start to the basketball season, there are a lot of good questions to be answered in this week's Badger Nation mailbag.

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What was it about Mike Markuson that made him a bad hire for Wisconsin?

Markuson has a ton of experience and knowledge, two things Bret Bielema touted when he hired him. But having talked to some people away from the program, the philosophies that Markuson was trying to teach the offensive line strayed too far away from what Wisconsin has been known for. Those are evident through the first two games of the season.

Wisconsin's offensive line was known for aggressiveness, technique and pure dominance. Watching them play in Corvallis, you wouldn't have recognized Wisconsin if they didn't have the jersey on. Players would grit their teeth and say that although there had been issues, the group was working through the transition. It was a sign, because none of the other players with new position coaches were complaining about the transition. One offensive lineman told me in the spring that a seventh grader could come in and understand what the line was doing. Markuson basically wanted to take steps back before moving forward, which was a huge mistake for a line that exudes talent year in and year out.

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Will Bart Miller invigorate Wisconsin's offensive line and the Badgers' recruiting efforts?

I think Miller already has. Talking with the offensive players and the coaches made available to the media on Tuesday, all said Wisconsin had a spirited practice on Tuesday and like the direction where the offense is headed. One player told me that things are ‘so much better' now that Miller is in the fold, a sign that the players were getting to a boiling point with some of the techniques and struggles that were being taught by Markuson. I don't think Wisconsin is going to go back to a dominant offense over night, but I think this is a step in the right direction for a coach that utilizes what former coach Bob Bostad taught.

I also spoke with Monona Grove junior offensive lineman Jaden Gauly, an obvious interested observer in the new offensive line coach. When I told him about Miller, he because very excited. Apparently at UW's summer camp, Gault worked overtime with Miller and really developed a good relationship for the man's style, technique and philosophy. Miller is a young and eager, according to Bielema, so I can see recruiting continue to move forward under Miller.

What are your honest thoughts on Danny O'Brien? Can he lead Wisconsin to success over the next two years? Just because a quarterback has one bad game doesn't mean the sky is falling and Bret Bielema can't coach. Badgers fans have just been spoiled over the last two years with teams that have looked invincible offensively on their way to Pasadena that were led by two super senior quarterbacks.

O'Brien is young compared to Scott Tolzien and Russell Wilson and he's commanding an offense that has a lot of new faces and a lot of new coaches with different philosophies. That's a tall task for a guy with only 19 career starts under his belt and still slightly rusty after missing the last half of last season with a broken arm. O'Brien had a bad day at the office, nothing more. I truly believe he has the right mindset and skill set to be a good leader for Wisconsin over the next two years.

Since we haven't seen Michael Trotter on the field, what kind of player is he and how can he help the secondary?

For the 4-3 scheme that Wisconsin runs, Trotter fits in nicely because he has a bigger body that allows him to be aggressive in the run game. With his size, he has the ability to take on blockers and defend wide receivers. He's athletic enough that you don't feel bad about putting him in the middle of the field. I don't think he's a guy to walk down and cover the slot receivers for 20 or 30 snaps, but he definitely has the ability to play over the tight end. He gives you a presence and a versatility to keep him around the box and sill feel comfortable with his range from sideline to sideline. He was that way in high school and he is still is today.

An overall good tackler and a player who create a lot of turnovers his senior year of high school, Trotter has the instinct to make a play, like his did with his third-down sack against Oregon State. I thought Trotter could see the field early in his career, but bouts with mono and hamstring issues have stunted his development. The next few games will be key for him to establish himself as the team's 2013 starting safety.

When will the 2014 class be ranked and where do you think the Badgers' four verbal commits will rank? The rankings should come out this fall and I think Conor Sheehy and Jaden Gault will open as four-star kids and George Panos and Chance Stewart as high three-star kids. I have seen Gault play and was really impressed with his strength and his technique. I will see Sheehy play on Friday when his team goes head-to-head with Brookfield Central and Chikwe Obasih. I haven't seen Panos or Stewart play, but everything I have seen on them leads me to believe that they certainly have four-star potential will be junior and senior seasons.

Who is Wisconsin still recruiting in 2013?

The following are all the uncommitted prospects Wisconsin is still looking at for its class and who the Badgers have offered: David Williams and Corey Clement (running backs), David Knevel (offensive line), Kenton Gibbs and Monty Nelson (defensive line), Jalen Banks, Cameron Walker, Sojourn Shelton, Marcus Ball and Boaz Joseph (secondary). There are a bunch of committed players UW is monitoring as well as a bunch of quarterbacks (Zack Greenlee, John Franklin, etc.) but those are the players off the top of my head.

What have been your early impressions of the Wisconsin basketball team?

I have ventured out to the hill at Elver Park twice to watch these guys and they are an impressive looking bunch. Sam Dekker is as big as Evan Anderson and much more physically fit. All the guys, with the exception of Anderson, ran without their shirts on and the group looks cut and in really good shape. I spoke to assistant head coach Gary Close for a piece on ‘Inside Badger Nation' (Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on Madison's CW) and he said that getting a chance to work with the guys this summer was a huge bonus after the NCAA changed the rules. I think this team is going to be very good (better than last year) and think a starting lineup of Gasser, Brust, Evans, Bruesewitz and Berggren with Dekker, Marshall, Kaminski coming off the bench will be a solid mix.

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