Kevin Wilson wasn't at media days, but he was a hot topic
Ohio State football
CHICAGO — Kevin Wilson wasn’t at Big Ten media days, but he was a hot topic. Why not? The new Ohio State offensive coordinator may be the most important assistant coach in the Big Ten in 2017.
Wilson was hired by Urban Meyer in the offseason to get the Buckeye offense back on track. And, in the process, get Ohio State back on top in the Big Ten. It’s hoped Wilson can restore the roar an offense that has lost its edge since coordinator Tom Herman left to coach Houston after a run to the 2014 national championship.
Ed Warinner and Tim Beck took over. They had success. But something was missing. In particular, the work of the offensive line wasn’t up to par. And the passing game had limitations, as big plays down field were too few and far between. Plus, where was the creativity?
“Kevin Wilson is the first established offensive coordinator I’ve ever hired – if you go through the history, either guys promoted on my staff or a young up-and-comer like a Tom Herman,” said Meyer. “But this is a veteran coach that’s led some of the top offenses in America, very well respected in our profession”
If you look at the numbers from last season, the Ohio State attack doesn’t look so bad. OSU was No. 2 in the Big Ten in scoring (39.4 ypg); No. 1 in total offense (459.2 ypg); No. 1 in rushing offense (245.2 ypg); No. 6 in passing. But it’s the efforts in big games the last two years that have hurt Ohio State. And, no doubt, no game was bigger—or more embarrassing—than the 31-0 belly flop to Clemson in the College Football Playoff last season. It was the first time one of Meyer’s teams was held scoreless in 194 games as a head coach.
“I’m not used to it,” Meyer said afterward. “We’re not used it. It’s not going to happen again.”
Has that loss been motivation?
“I’ve been asked that a lot,” said Meyer. “And we kind of let that one go. We’ve been known in the past to use different forms of motivation, a loss here or there or whatever have you.
“That ship has sailed. It’s gone. And we’ve not addressed it. We’ve not talked about it. Professionally, it changed how we do some business on offense and we’re moving forward.
“So it’s in the back of everyone’s mind, and whether I’ll use that during training camp or not is to be determined. But where we’re at as a team, I like where we’re at. So we’re just pushing forward.”
Pushing forward in search of its first Big Ten title (or division title) since 2014. Soon after the abomination vs. eventual national champion Clemson, Warinner took a job coaching Minnesota’s offensive line, while Beck landed the offensive coordinator post at Texas for Herman, the man he replaced at Ohio State. And Meyer turned his focus to Wilson, who abruptly left his head coaching job after six years at Indiana in early December.
“He’s had a lot of input in our offense,” said Meyer. “The other guy that came with him, Ryan Day, is another guy that was with me at Florida, and he’s a starring coach, and his relationship with J.T. (Barrett) and the rest of the quarterbacks is very strong.
“So it’s still going to be the Ohio State offense. However, we had some weaknesses a year ago, and I’d like to see some improvement. And I think Kevin will have a major impact.”
Wilson’s Indiana squads regularly ranked among the best in the Big Ten from 2011-16, showing balance. And, if anything, it was an attack with an edge that churned out 1,000-yard rushers like Tevin Coleman, Jordan Howard and Devine Redding. It also was an attack that often had underrated lines, an area that needs to be strengthened in Columbus.
Before making Indiana relevant, Wilson was a highly successful coordinator at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops. In Norman, Wilson groomed the likes of running back Adrian Peterson and Heisman winning quarterback Sam Bradford in crafting some of the nation’s top attacks.
To approach that level, the Buckeye offensive line has something to prove in 2017. There are four starters back, but issues loom over the unit. The right guard slot needs to develop. And Billy Price is flipping from guard to center. Without a doubt, the pass protection must improve, too. Barrett often was flushed from the pocket, as Ohio State yielded 28 sacks in 2016. Only seven conference schools allowed more. Not good.
“Obviously, we weren’t at the top a year ago,” said Meyer. “We were near the top. And Ohio State is always going to be there. I mean, it should be one of the top schools in our conference.”
With Wilson running the attack, the Buckeyes just may regain their throne.