Kevin Wilson was not on the coaching staff when Ohio State’s offense face-planted in the Fiesta Bowl.
That debacle is a big reason he is the coordinator now.
Though Wilson is absolved of responsibility for Ohio State’s 31-0 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals, he would be affected if that loss still hung like a cloud over his players.
Instead, Wilson believes that they have used what happened as positive motivation, not confidence-sapper.
“I don’t know if it’s a hangover, because I don’t feel a negative vibe,” Wilson said on Thursday. “I felt from the get-go this was a very mature team with a lot of guys coming back, and it was a team that was working unbelievably hard.
“There’s no one sitting on their hands or resting on their laurels. It’s a hungry football team.”
The same applies to Wilson. Fired as Indiana’s head coach last December amid allegations that he was insensitive to injured players, is Wilson embracing his job with the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator. In that role previously, his offenses put up gaudy numbers at Miami University, Northwestern and Oklahoma, before he breathed life into the Hoosiers’ moribund program.
The expectation is that he will invigorate a Buckeyes offense that put up big numbers last year but stagnated at crucial times. Under Wilson, the Buckeyes intend to use a rapid-fire pace that they didn’t always stick to as intended the past couple of years.
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“It’s not like you’re frantic,” Wilson said. “It’s no different than playing up-tempo basketball. What you’re trying to do is get into a rhythm and maybe get defensive guys on their heels and not (allow them to) do as much. But you still have to execute.”
Just like a push-the-ball basketball team needs a deep bench, so will the Buckeyes. Wilson’s past offenses have used as many as 19 players in the regular rotation, he said.
Ohio State is easing into its training camp. The Buckeyes are pointing to Thursday as its real start. But the urgency has already begun.
Positions are up for grabs at right guard and receiver. Wilson said he wants to have eight receivers capable of playing in the rotation. Quarterback J.T. Barrett said that Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill, Johnnie Dixon, Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack are the top six right now.
In addition to settling on a right guard among seven players competing for it, Wilson wants at least three backups who can step in and play at what he described as championship level.
“We need some competition,” he said. “Go ahead and kick some butt and win the dadgum job.”
That goes for even those seemingly assured of starting.
“First of all, we need competition in a lot of spots,” Wilson said. “Even players who you might say have played a lot and been a starter, you still want some competition (for them). You’re not waiting for your time. Your time is now.”