COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was asked this week how he thinks he grew the most as a coach during his tenure at Oklahoma.
“Probably as a dad,” Wilson said. “Because I had nine years with my kids going through elementary schools and all that stuff.
“I loved my time there.”
When Mark Mangino left to take over the program at Kansas following the 2002 season, Wilson came to Norman as Bob Stoops’ new offensive line coach. When Chuck Long left to take the reins at San Diego State at the end of the 2005 season, Wilson was elevated to offensive coordinator.
OU was 98-24 in Wilson’s nine seasons, with six Big 12 Conference titles and three appearances in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
“I think at Oklahoma, I grew a lot as a coach because a lot of mistakes that kids made, I always thought was their fault,” Wilson said. “I started realizing I wasn’t coaching ‘em well. Wasn’t connecting with ‘em. Wasn’t putting ‘em in a good situation. Didn’t capture ‘em in the meeting room, didn’t capture ‘em on the field. Didn’t drill it right.
“Because as a young coach, I always thought it was the kids. Then I went to Oklahoma, and I’ve said this several times, it made me a better coach because I realized it was my responsibility to connect. I saw some of the same mistakes by kids that you thought had more talent. So, it was a lot of reflection.”
Wilson won the Frank Broyles Award as college football’s top assistant coach in 2008 as the Sooners broke nearly every offensive record in the book. But he left OU after the 2010 season to take the head coaching job at Indiana. He went 26-47 in six seasons in Bloomington, elevating the Hoosiers from 1-11 his first year to 6-7 and 6-6 his final two seasons.
But he was fired at the end of 2016 amid allegations of player mistreatment.
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer recognized Wilson’s work as a pacey and polished play-caller over the years (Wilson also worked under Randy Walker at Miami-Ohio while Meyer was head coach at Bowling Green, as well as at Northwestern) and hired him this year as the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator.
Unofficially, Wilson might be the first offensive coordinator ever to face his two most recent employers in his first two games at his new school. This week he faces OU. Last week he game-planned for his once-beloved Hoosiers.
“This one’s different,” Wilson said. “I love the place, but I’m not attached (to Oklahoma). Last week, I was attached to people, and that was hard for me.
“Last week was tough, because those were emotional ties to players.”
Let’s face it, it would have been cool for Stoops, a Youngstown kid, to coach a game in Ohio. And it would have been cool to see Stoops match wits with Wilson. Of course, Wilson probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it much.
“It was awesome working for coach Stoops. He’s a great leader,” Wilson said. “But it’s also being here with coach Meyer. Similar setup.
“I loved my time there. Coach Stoops is a special, special person.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.