Illini turn to Elk Grove grad Miller to coach O-line
Bart Miller played high school football at Elk Grove under Bruce Bazsali before going on to his own college career as an offensive lineman and then a coach.
Now he's back in the state, trying to keep talented high school players home.
Miller is the new offensive line coach at Illinois under new coach Bret Bielema.
Miller comes from Wyoming where he was offensive line coach and run game coordinator the past two years.
"We are going to play a physical brand of football," Miller said. "Smart, dependable and tough. I want the meanest, toughest, nastiest dudes on the field."
Miller grew up in Nebraska before moving to Illinois. After graduating from Elk Grove, he played at New Mexico where he received his bachelor's degree in 2007.
At New Mexico from 2003 to 2007 under head coach Rocky Long, Miller was a starter and two-year letterman on the offensive line. He earned Academic All-Mountain West Conference honors as a junior and senior.
The Lobos appeared in four bowl games during Miller's career; they won the 2007 New Mexico Bowl over Nevada.
Miller began coaching as a graduate assistant in 2010 at New Mexico State where he worked primarily with the offensive line. He moved to Wisconsin as a graduate assistant under Bielema, and in 2012 got his big break when Bielema fired the offensive line coach early in the 2012 season and promoted Miller.
The Badgers caught fire and won their third straight Big Ten Championship -- defeating Nebraska -- and played in a third consecutive Rose Bowl.
"Bart was able to show early in his career how effective he is as a teacher and motivator of young men," Bielema said. "Bart has Midwest roots and will help us recruit and keep Illinois players at home."
Miller coached all-Big Ten selections Travis Frederick (center) and Rick Wagner (left tackle) in 2012. Frederick went on to be a first-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys. Wagner was a fifth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens.
Next season Miller will coach Hinsdale Central grad Doug Kramer, who Miller recruited at Florida Atlantic. Kramer recently announced he will take advantage of the NCAA allowing seniors to return for one more season.
"I'm happy to see him (Kramer) coming back," Miller said. "I'm excited to what we have to work with here. I don't see it as a rebuild. I see there are guys (on the roster) and we are going to make it better."
After leaving Wisconsin, Miller coached offensive lines at New Mexico State, Florida Atlantic and Minnesota before a year coaching tight ends at Air Force in 2017, then the O-lines at Ohio and Wyoming before coming to the Illini.
At every stop Miller's duties included recruiting the Chicago area.
"There's a bunch of talent in this state and we are going to keep it home," Miller said. "You have to try to build a fence around your home state. There's no reason we can't lock down the state and keep great players at home."
Miller said he's learned something at each of his stops, and believes success comes down to the big guys up front.
"Our unit has to be cohesive," Miller said. "It's five guys working together to dominate your opponent. There has to be trust. I have to be able to count on the guy next to me. It has to be built through training, preparation. That's where it starts. Practice should be demanding so the test is easy. Losing is not OK. Those guys will know they need to win at everything they do."