Indiana Football: Why Kevin Wilson is the right guy for the job

When schools are being associated with sports, people usually label them into categories. For example, Duke University is typically termed a basketball school because their hoops program is historically successful whereas their football program is not. If the opposite applies for a school such as Penn State University, they would be known as a football school. Indiana University is largely thought of as primarily a basketball school.

IU’s legendary former head coach Bob Knight built the basketball program into what it is today, a prestigious program with rich tradition and a large, loyal fan base. Although they have slipped somewhat since Knight’s infamous departure, they were a traditional powerhouse under him. In order to sustain a consistently successful college football program, it needs to be built into one to begin with. The first step towards this was made by the Indiana football team in December of 2010 when they hired Oklahoma University’s (OU) offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.

Indiana football

Kevin Wilson

From 2002 to 2005, Wilson served as OU’s co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He then took over as the lone offensive coordinator in 2006, as well as coaching the fullbacks and tight ends instead of the line. During these nine seasons, Wilson helped OU produce many All-Americans, NFL players, and two Heisman Trophy winners in quarterbacks Jason White and Sam Bradford. He is thought of by many as an innovator, with many coaches imitating his offensive schemes.

Under Wilson’s coordinating, OU always had a successful offense regardless of his personnel’s talent. Some seasons the Sooners were completely dominating offensively, which helped them to play in three national championship games, though they did not win any of them.

What I love about Wilson is how he’s able to adapt and tweak his offensive scheme so his personnel can be as successful as possible. When he had White and Bradford, OU had an up-tempo offense that could pass the ball on anybody. When he had lesser talent at the quarterback position, he made superstar running backs DeMarco Murray and Adrian Peterson the focal point of the offense.

Another characteristic of Wilson that I admire is his no-nonsense mentality. Wilson enforced that in his first season at IU when some of the upper classmen lacked the work ethic and leadership that he expected from them. Although he was under pressure in his first season as a head coach, Wilson was not hesitant in dismissing key players if they did not meet his standards. He got rid of multi-year starters such as All-Big Ten Conference honoree wide receiver Demarlo Belcher, and was forced to play many underclassmen who may or may not have been fully ready to play. Even though the Hoosiers ended with a 1-11 record in 2011, Wilson changed the mindset in the locker room for the better.

In Wilson’s three seasons as head coach for IU, the offense has set 22 school records including total yards (6,102), passing yards (3,680) and passing touchdowns (36) in 2013 alone. Last season’s offense was also one of six schools in the NCAA to rank in the top 30 in scoring, total yards, passing yards and rushing yards. Wilson has also made significant strides in recruiting. His last two recruiting classes ranked in the top 40, which is the highest it has ever been. The only bad part of Wilson’s tenure thus far has been the horrible play by the defense under defensive coordinator Doug Mallory, but Wilson replaced him this offseason with former Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brian Knorr.

IU has improved in every aspect but defense under Wilson, and maybe that will change with the addition of Knorr. With Wilson’s great offense and no-nonsense mentality, along with a hopeful improvement on defense, IU should become bowl eligible in 2014. This would be a big stride toward building a consistently successful football program and making Indiana University into a football and basketball school.