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Football: AD Gene Smith talks Kevin Wilson and new coaching changes

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Senior Vice President and Athletic Director Gene Smith sits down with The Lantern on Jan. 24. Screenshot by Colin Hass-Hill | Assistant Sports Director

Ohio State’s 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl came as a shock to many. What happened after the Fiesta Bowl wasn’t surprising to anyone.

Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson were hired to co-coordinate the offense while former coordinators Ed Warinner and Tim Beck took on other opportunities. Day will coach the quarterbacks and Wilson will coach tight ends on top of their duties as offensive coordinators. Warinner was named Minnesota’s offensive line coach and Beck will coordinate Texas’ offense.

OSU Senior Vice President and Athletic Director Gene Smith told The Lantern in an exclusive interview that those discussions of revamping the coaching staff happened immediately after the game in Glendale, Arizona.

Smith said Meyer approached him to talk about staffing after the conclusion of the Fiesta Bowl. Meyer and Smith worked out a schedule over days of meetings, pinpointing selective dates when Meyer wanted to have matters concerning his staff completed.

“(Urban Meyer) began to talk about people and who he wanted to get, and so we went through that process and he kind of had a vision of what he thought he needed to do,” Smith said.

One of those people was Wilson, whom Meyer has known for a long time. Wilson resigned from his head-coaching position at Indiana University on Dec. 1 during his sixth season with the Hoosiers amid “philosophical differences” with Indiana Athletic Director Fred Glass. Multiple reports cited Wilson’s treatment of players, including one player who told the Indianapolis Star that Wilson forced him back during an injury.

Smith said the first thing discussed regarding Wilson was the terms of which he left Indiana.

“We talked about that from the beginning before (Meyer) even made the call (to Wilson),” he said.

Meyer and Smith discussed, at length, how they would vet Wilson before offering him the position. The two assembled lists of people who could talk about Wilson as a coach and as a person. The first name on Smith’s call list was Glass, who Smith said is a good friend of his.

“(Glass and I) kind of went through the details of what happened there and I felt comfortable at the end,” Smith said.

“Urban and I came together and we talked about what we found out and we felt comfortable. Kevin sat at this table and we had a good conversation on what happened there, and how it’s going to work here. He was thoroughly vetted and we had a good, candid conversation. He’ll fit our culture fine.”

Smith declined to share details on the conversations he had with Glass or Wilson to respect their privacy.

Smith said he also reached out to people who were at the University of Oklahoma when Wilson was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator from 2002 to 2010. Smith added that his one-on-one, sit-down conversation with Wilson was “phenomenal” and Meyer’s familiarity with Wilson’s career helped him decide that the former Indiana coach was ethically suited for the job.

Regarding the other hired coaches, Smith expressed his excitement for Day and new linebackers coach Bill Davis, who replaced former co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.

“Ryan Day is, like, off the chain and Kevin Wilson is like a mad scientist. They’re really, really good people and they fit our culture,” Smith said. “We had Bill Davis in mind and he was already here (as a defensive analyst). And so that was a benefit for us.”

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of The Lantern’s conversation with OSU Senior Vice President and Athletic Director Gene Smith. Part 2 will print in Thursday’s paper.

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