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Football: Kevin Wilson influencing running game with quicker pace of play

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Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson demanding excellence from the running backs in first season in Columbus. Credit: Jacob Myers | Assistant Sports Editor

The Ohio State football team’s bread and butter has always been the running game. Adding coach Urban Meyer just made the ground attack that much more dynamic.

Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott were the latest members of a dominant fraternity of running backs to come from OSU. 1955 Heisman Trophy winner Howard “Hopalong” Cassidy, 1995 Heisman winner Eddie George and two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin highlight a litany of ball carriers that have become some of the best to play college football.

While Meyer has reshaped OSU’s running game into one that dominates with speed rather than power, co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson comes to Columbus with an equally impressive track record of developing running backs that he’ll look to apply in his first year with the Buckeyes.

“He’s been putting in a few plays that I’ve been asking for last year that he brought in to the table,” Weber said. “He runs the ball more and finds different schemes to run the ball ’cause he’s more of a grit guy. He’s coached a lot of grit backs in the past, and that’s something, as running backs, we appreciate.”

Wilson, a 27-year coaching veteran, has spent his entire collegiate career as an offensive-minded coach. He never worked specifically with the running backs, but as head coach at Indiana from 2011-16 and offensive coordinator at Oklahoma from 2002-10, Wilson can be at least partially credited with the development of NFL running backs Tevin Coleman, Jordan Howard, Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray.

Wilson said he’s not planning on changing anything to the offense currently in place, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t already began to implement his style to each position group. Running backs coach Tony Alford said the only change is the tempo of play.

“I mean if we play faster, there’s going to be more plays,” Alford said. “If there’s more plays, there’s more opportunities. If you look at it in that vein, I guess it would change, because you got more opportunities, you got more plays going on.”

Since 2004, only once has a Wilson-led offense averaged less than 70 plays per game, and last season his Indiana team was 11th in the country averaging 82 plays per game. In seven of the past 14 seasons, Wilson’s rushing attack has been ranked in the top 35 in rushing yards per game.

Weber is the reigning Thompson-Randle El Big Ten Freshman of the Year and likely the second-best back in the conference behind Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. After eclipsing 1,000 yards and scoring nine touchdowns in his first season playing for the Buckeyes, Weber’s production and overall game could see an added boost with Wilson at the helm.

“Our thing is to, one: Take what’s been the best offense in college football … and see how we do things,” Wilson said after the second spring practice. “They said to me from start, this is the Ohio State offense and how can we make it better, and we don’t make it better with change. Change is change. It’s the ability to again, me as the leader of the coaches, to get those guys on the same page, take it to the players, get those guys on the same page.”

One comment

  1. I assume people think Wilson will bounce for an HC position once his name is run through the Meyer car wash, but I don’t know…

    He’s really good at Offense. I understand wanting to challenge yourself as a head coach, but being able to focus on offense and ignore all the stuff he probably doesn’t care about that an HC has to deal with will probably be a nice change. Plus the OSU OC is a fairly rock star position and he’ll be compensated well. Unless Meyer’s relentlessness wears on him, he could carve out a nice future doing what he does as well anyone in the country.

    After all, would it be wise to make your best sales guy the sales manager? Of course not, because he’s sitting at a desk and not selling anything. Likewise, why would an Offensive mastermind want to spread his focus over an entire program?

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