In three of the last five seasons, Indiana ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the Big Ten in total offense. The Hoosiers were inside the top-five the other two years.
The common thread: Kevin Wilson was calling the shots.
One of the more respected offensive minds in all of college football, Wilson turned Indiana into a program no Big Ten team wanted to see on Saturdays. The Hoosiers could score and they could score on anybody.
“We didn’t want to play them every year,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said of Wilson and Indiana. “I know that.”
It’s precisely why Meyer targeted Wilson this past offseason after he resigned from his post as the Hoosiers’ head coach amidst allegations related to player mistreatment. The Buckeyes had an opening after both Ed Warinner and Tim Beck moved on and Meyer knew who he wanted to come in and enhance Ohio State’s offense.
What Wilson did at Indiana was no doubt impressive. But while the Hoosiers had their fair share of talent — running backs Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard are both successful in the NFL already — the options are more plentiful in Columbus.
The possibilities seem endless with all of the toys now at Wilson’s disposal even if Wilson was quick to defend the talent he had during his tenure at Indiana.
“We’ve got talent here but the talent we had over there was really good too because we recruited and developed it with what we did in the weight room, what we did on the field in practice,” Wilson said last week. “You talk about talent but it’s also getting guys to play it.”
“... Talent doesn't win, it's the ability to play together.”
While that may be true, it’s hard to ignore the significant talent upgrade Wilson now has in the palm of his hand. There are NFL-level athletes at nearly every position and a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in J.T. Barrett.
Still, Ohio State’s offense — specifically the passing game — struggled at times over the last two seasons. The Buckeyes’ flaws were exposed against Michigan State during the 2015 campaign and they reached a breaking point in the 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl this past season.
Warinner and Beck moved on at the end of the season — Beck to Texas; Warinner to Minnesota — and Meyer brought in Wilson to make the necessary fixes to Ohio State’s offense.
“The term we use around here is we’re not changing, we’re enhancing what we do,” Meyer said. “If it was broken then we’d have to change it. If we wake up one day fifth, sixth in the Big Ten in offense or something then you’re going to see one of those overhauls.
“There’s just things we have to work on and he’s the perfect guy, him and [new quarterbacks coach] Ryan Day and our offensive staff to get them fixed.”
Over the last six years, Ohio State fans grew accustomed to seeing Indiana’s offenses — often times with significantly less talent — shred Buckeyes’ defenses and rack up a ton of yards and points. Now, with Wilson at the controls in Columbus, Ohio State hopes to do the same to all of its oppositions.
And with Barrett, running back Mike Weber and some young, talented wide receivers on the outside, Wilson now has more weapons at his disposal than ever before.
“I’m kind of used to change,” Wilson said. “I have core values in offensive football that parallel almost exactly word for word verbatim to what Coach Meyer believes so the first adjustment is not an adjustment because we’re on the same page as far as how you want to run the offense.”
“Maybe the language is different, maybe you emphasize,” he continued. “And as I continue to learn and grow that, in time maybe we enhance. But now we’re kind of running our stuff and getting to run it with some great players.”