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Kevin Wilson: Threat or Menace?

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Indiana Matt Kryger-USA TODAY Sports

Unless you’ve been living under a Rock or Something™ you’re well aware that Kevin Wilson’s star burned bright, if not all that fast. He worked his way up through the coaching ranks from assistant to coordinator to head coach, where he landed at the perpetually moribund Indiana in 2011. He inherited a team that hadn't been to a bowl game since Jesus was a corporal and proceeded to turn them into a solid 1-win team in his first season. He followed that effort with a 4-win campaign, and in successive seasons worked the Hoosiers up to a 6-win venture and a bowl game loss to Duke in 2015 (the kick was good, dammit).

The unsurpassed level of success he brought to the modern era of Indiana football (his coaching resulted in nearly 20% of Indiana’s bowl appearances) netted Wilson a $15.3 million contract extension through 2021—a deal he inked shortly after the Pinstripe bowl loss to Duke. Then it all came crashing down. Allegations of player mistreatment—namely that he pressured injured players to compete—abruptly ended his tenure as the head man of the Hoosiers. Odd, considering that IU employed Bobby Knight for so long with a smug smile on their faces, but that’s another article entirely.

Also not lost on the average Big Ten fan is that Wilson managed to land on his feet, so to speak, in becoming the offensive coordinator at Ohio State after Tim Beck and Ed Warinner vacated the spaces beneath their well-earned dunce caps. Much has been made of his offensive prowess, and the expectation is that he will weaponize an Ohio State offense that severely underachieved relative to its talent level over the last two seasons. From this writer’s perspective, if Wilson manages to remember that he actually has playmakers available for all four quarters, he’ll be a huge improvement (Messrs. Hyde, Elliott, and Samuel agree).

By The Numbers

How lofty should the expectations for Wilson be? To get some sense, let’s look at his offensive achievements thus far...

Indiana.csv

Year Team S&P+ Overall S&P+ Passing
Year Team S&P+ Overall S&P+ Passing
2006 Oklahoma 26th 18th
2007 Oklahoma 15th 13th
2008 Oklahoma 4th 1st
2009 Oklahoma 60th 37th
2010 Oklahoma 6th 8th
2011 Indiana 85th 107th
2012 Indiana 54th 40th
2013 Indiana 16th 21st
2014 Indiana 63rd 116th
2015 Indiana 15th 11th
2016 Indiana 67th 23rd

Suffice it to say, when Kevin Wilson gets hands on the right personnel he’s a genius. In the case of his head coaching tenure, he took one of the worst passing offenses in the country into one of the most proficient. At the same time, he managed to produce one of the best rushers in recent Big Ten history in Tevin Coleman.

The Big Question

What remains is the dilemma of a coach with baggage—especially baggage that has left other coaches like Tim Beckman in utter disgrace. Do we forgive a winner more readily? Or do we assume that his purported misdeeds pose no risk from the coordinator’s seat. The answer to that lies somewhere in the mix of how you feel about Urban Meyer and second chances.

Nevertheless, one thing seems certain: Kevin Wilson is the most likely antidote to Ohio State's offensive malaise, and as a former QB coach and the mentor of Nate Sudfeld (IU’s best passer ever), he might just resurrect the J.T. Barrett of old. The only issue now is at what cost.