Whatever the perception, Wilson confident in OSU offense

Bill Rabinowitz
Kevin Wilson acknowledged both success and disappointment for the Buckeyes' offense last season, saying "We had some significant wins, but also came up short. ... We didn’t score enough to be as great as we wanted to be." [Adam Cairns]

A year ago, Kevin Wilson might have been the most talked-about person in the Ohio State football program.

Fired under murky circumstances as Indiana’s head coach, he was a big-splash hire as the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator. Given his track record as the maestro of offenses at a powerhouse program (Oklahoma) as well as less-heralded ones (Miami University, Northwestern, Indiana), fans were practically salivating at what wizardry Wilson might concoct at Ohio State.

Now, as a new season approaches, what discussion there is of Wilson, at least outside the program, is about what role he will have in 2018. He remains offensive coordinator. But he now shares that title with Ryan Day, who was given a promotion and a hefty pay raise after he turned down an offer from the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

Considering that Day also is the quarterbacks coach — tight ends are Wilson’s position group — some have speculated that the balance of power in the offense coaches’ room has shifted.

In fact, when Day’s promotion was announced, Wilson got a phone call from his concerned daughter.

“My daughter called and thought I got fired,” Wilson said in March. “She had a panic attack. I go, ‘We’re good.’”

It’s not as if the Buckeyes offense floundered last season. It finished seventh in the nation in total offense (506.0 yards per game) and sixth in scoring (41.1 points).

But the offense faltered in Ohio State’s losses to Oklahoma and Iowa.

“You can always point fingers about this or this or this,” Wilson said during the spring. “But last year we were first in the conference in basically every stat. That’s the third Big Ten offense I’ve been a part of that has led the conference in offense. The 2015 Indiana team did. The 2000 Northwestern team did.

“To me, it was a very, very good offense. We got a Big Ten championship. Don’t minimize that. We (won) the Cotton Bowl. We had some significant wins, but also came up short. At the end of the day, as good as we were — and there are a lot of good stats — we didn’t score enough to be as great as we wanted to be.”

Wilson said he is more comfortable now with a year of experience in Columbus.

“A lot more comfort level just with expectation of drills and knowing what’s going on,” he said. “Knowing the players and what they can and cannot do. Knowing the coaches and the strengths and weaknesses. Last year, you’re kind of jogging and feeling things out.”

The same offensive coaches return for this season, so the dynamics and working relationships probably won’t change much. Wilson said he tends to consult more with offensive-line coach Greg Studrawa while working on the run game, and Day is more involved with receivers coach Zach Smith and the passing game. Coach Urban Meyer oversees everything, of course.

Still, Wilson acknowledged that perceptions can matter, even if the reality is different than outsiders believe it to be. Asked whether his ego was bruised by the perception that he’s not as in charge of the offense as a year ago, Wilson hemmed if not hawed.

He knows the standards at Ohio State are so high that anything short of perfection is ripe for criticism. But he also doesn’t want the success his teams have had to be forgotten.

“As coaches, we’re always growing and getting better,” Wilson said. “My ego is such that I don’t want perception to taint a family and a coach that has put a whole lot into a career and tried to help a lot of teams and a lot of kids.”


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