For the past two seasons, the offense of the Ohio State football team has not received nearly as much production as it had in the past from the passing game.
Since winning the National Championship in January 2015, the Buckeyes rank eighth in the Big Ten in total passing yards with only 5,236.
Enter Kevin Wilson, former Indiana head coach, who has become the next co-offensive coordinator for OSU. Wilson shares the coordinator duties with quarterbacks coach Ryan Day.
During Wilson’s tenure at Indiana, the Hoosiers have consistently featured a dominant aerial attack. No team has accumulated more than Indiana’s 18,883 passing yards in the six years that Wilson has been its coach.
Though Wilson will be coming into a school that has featured more of a running offense than passing, he said he’s not going to come into OSU and make tremendous changes in the way the team goes about putting points on the board.
“I have core values in offensive football, the parallel — almost exactly word-for-word verbatim to what coach (Urban) Meyer believes,” Wilson said. “So the first adjustment is not an adjustment because we’re on the same page as far as how you want to run the offense. Maybe the language is different, maybe things you emphasize as I continue to learn and grow that, in time, maybe we enhance.”
One aspect Wilson will be sure to work on improving is the play of the offensive line. In 2016, the o-line surrendered 28 sacks, the second-most in the Urban Meyer era of OSU football.
In his playing days for the University of North Carolina, Wilson played both guard and center, two positions familiar to redshirt senior center Billy Price.
Price is making the transition from guard to center this season and though Wilson will be the offensive coordinator and tight ends coach, Price said Wilson has helped him adjust to the position change and has already started to make his mark felt on the other members of the offensive line.
“When the tight ends are in special teams or doing passing stuff, (Wilson’s) working with us directly. Today he was on my case a little bit just to make sure because he’s an offensive coordinator so he is responsible for us as a head,” Price said. “He’s doing a real good job with us. He’s helping (redshirt junior right tackle) Isaiah (Prince), helping (senior left tackle) Jamarco (Jones), myself. You’ve got to take a great player to be an elite player and it’s having that support system and the role models around you and he’s doing a fantastic job. I’m really glad he’s here.”
But while the offensive line certainly didn’t do its best to protect the quarterback last season, Wilson also believes the receivers have a responsibility to help out Barrett by getting open faster.
Conventional wisdom suggests the receivers are racing against the cornerbacks to try and get open, but Barrett said that Wilson has provided the wideouts with a different mentality to their game.
“When coach Wilson came in, he said, ‘As a receiver, you’re not beating a corner, but you’re beating a defensive end that the left tackle has to block. You got to beat the defensive end, you got to get open in order for me to get you the ball. If you take forever to get open, we can’t get you the ball ‘cause we didn’t beat the defensive end,'” redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett said.
One thing Wilson brings to the team is plenty of experience. He has served in the capacity of either head coach or offensive coordinator for a college football team dating back to his time at Miami (Ohio) in 1992.
Wilson was the offensive coordinator at Miami for seven seasons before moving on to coach at Northwestern for three years. Once his time there was over, he moved on to Oklahoma where he worked under coach Bob Stoops for nine seasons.
Of all the coaches Wilson has coached for, he said former coach Randy Walker has been his biggest influence. Wilson coached for Walker at Miami (Ohio) and Northwestern.
“The main (influence was) Randy Walker who coached me at Miami of Ohio, how to coach, coach our coaches, gave me a chance to run an offense,” Wilson said. “Kind of gave me a chance to fall on my face and make mistakes and learn and grow.”
He also added that while Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops impacted his coaching style, Meyer has apparently already inspired Wilson in the two months Wilson has been on staff.
“I’ve been very fortunate. (I) believe it’s a tough game it’s played physical, but also I believe it’s a game that’s exciting and full of energy and every day you get to coach one of the greatest things in the world — someone’s kid and go out and play football,” Wilson said. “And I’m so happy to be here.”
Barrett said he believes that while Wilson will come in with his own vision of how to run an offense, his ideas will be incorporated into their offensive plans rather than completely reshape them.
“He’s done a lot of great things in his past where it’s been Oklahoma or Indiana,” he said. “We’re not really changing a lot, but he’s bringing in some good ideas that we’re incorporating in. Our offense, it’s not broken, but there’s definitely some things that we can update and adjust and that’s what he’s doing.”