Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson revels in Buckeyes' talent

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, left, believes the 2020 Buckeyes may be the most talented offense he has ever coached, and that's saying something. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Kevin Wilson has coached some extraordinary offenses in his 36 years in college football.

The Ohio State offensive coordinator believes his current Buckeyes might have as much talent as any of them.

Wilson was coordinator of Oklahoma teams featuring Adrian Peterson and Sam Bradford that set NCAA records. In his three years at Ohio State, the Buckeyes have averaged 523.8 yards per game, third-best in the country. Ohio State has thrown more touchdown passes (138) than any other team, and last year J.K. Dobbins became the school’s first 2,000-yard rusher.

Wilson believes the 2020 Buckeyes can be just as productive, if not more.

“We have a chance to maybe be as individually talented as we've been,” Wilson said.

On paper, it’s hard to argue. Quarterback Justin Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist in his first year on campus last year. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson figure to be as good as any receiving duo in the country, with promising younger players ready for their chance and supplemented by a deep tight end group.

And, assuming they’re recovered from their injuries, Master Teague III and Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon should form a strong combination at running back.

The foundation for all of it is a powerful offensive line bolstered by the return of right guard Wyatt Davis. The All-American changed his mind about leaving after the Big Ten reinstated the fall football season.

Now comes the challenge of meshing the parts, something complicated by the limits imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Buckeyes had to cancel almost all of their spring practice. They can’t practice in pads until Wednesday.

“You really have to go back and restart, especially without having a true spring practice and without really having those summer workouts where you get some of your timing in the passing game or some of your young-guy development in toughness," Wilson said.

The NCAA did allow teams to have more summer workouts than its rules otherwise allow, and Wilson said some players got more reps than they would have in a normal preseason.

Still, players were away from campus for months, and Wilson knows that last year’s success guarantees nothing.

“The old saying in football is once you think you got it, you're getting ready to get it,” Wilson said. “You've never got it (mastered).”

But Wilson, like head coach Ryan Day, believes the Buckeyes’ maturity and leadership will stave off any complacence. The continual prodding by OSU players and coaches to keep hopes for a season alive after the Big Ten canceled fall sports on Aug. 11 is a sign of that determination.

Fields led the charge in that regard, and coaches and teammates have repeatedly praised his leadership on and off the field. Wilson said that Fields has also changed his physique, switching to a vegan diet to become leaner.

“We have all the weapons we need to be putting up crazy numbers and winning games by as much as we want to,” fifth-year tight end Jake Hausmann said. “We have all the receivers. We have all the tight ends, the running backs, quarterbacks, the O-line. We have everyone on offense to do it.

“And it's not just the talent. It's the character of all these guys. You see the guys that opted out in the beginning and came back. It's a brotherhood, and everyone wants to be at the top of their game. It's been awesome to see everyone kind of come together.”

Wilson said that coaches show players video clips of unselfish plays they’ve made in practice as motivation to maintain that selfless attitude.

“Collectively, you can always get more than you will individually,” Wilson said. “It's easier said than done, especially in this day and age with all the dynamics and social media and players getting pulled with families and friends and ‘Give me my touches.’ But if we can keep our egos in check and continue to buy into the brotherhood of what we've got, I think we have a chance to be another very, very, very strong football team.”