CHICAGO — After Ohio State’s 31–0 blowout loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer knew changes needed to be made. His once high-powered offense suddenly lost its mojo; Ohio State needed to find it in order to get back to the level it wants.
So, Meyer hired Kevin Wilson to be the Buckeyes’ new offensive coordinator. Wilson, the former head coach at Indiana, is widely regarded as one of the best offensive minds in the game. His wealth of knowledge coupled with Ohio State’s stable of offensive talent seems like it could be a match made in heaven.
And if the Buckeyes are going to get back to College Football Playoff — and ultimately contend for another national championship — they’re going to need everything to click on offense under Wilson from the get-go.
That offense, of course, will be run by fifth-year senior quarterback J.T. Barrett.
After exploding onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2014, the last two years have been a little up-and-down for Barrett. He failed to win the starting job coming out of fall camp in 2015 and last season was filled with inconsistencies from both Barrett himself and the Ohio State offense as a whole.
“He puts you in a position to succeed. He likes to score a lot of points and he’s a great offensive mind. You’re going to be on your toes at all times with him because he’s always going to be thinking of new things, giving you this idea or that idea. He’s a great coach.”– Indiana QB Richard Lagow on Kevin Wilson
“If you talk about our offensive goals, things got better, absolutely,” Barrett said following the spring game. “We talk about competitive excellence, so just keep pushing that so when it comes to game time we have everybody on the same page. I think we're on the right path. Are we game ready? Not yet but we don't have to be. We have time. I think I'm comfortable saying that we definitely got better in those areas.”
Barrett is not at Big Ten Media Days this year — Ohio State sent other fifth-year seniors Tyquan Lewis, Billy Price and Chris Worley — so he was unable to provide an update on how things progressed with Wilson over the summer. Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow was in Chicago, however, and provided some insight on what it’s like to be a signal caller in a Wilson-led offense. Lagow was the Hoosiers' starter last season — Wilson's final one in Bloomington.
“It’s fun to play for Coach Wilson,” Lagow said. “He puts you in a position to succeed. He likes to score a lot of points and he’s a great offensive mind. You’re going to be on your toes at all times with him because he’s always going to be thinking of new things, giving you this idea or that idea. He’s a great coach.”
Barrett has been described by his peers as a cerebral football player, someone who thinks the game and tries to remain one step ahead of the opposition. Wilson has a brilliant mind, too, according to Lagow.
“Genius,” Lagow said. “He doesn’t miss anything.”
Barrett attests to be somewhat of a perfectionist himself, as well, so the pairing seems like a good fit — at least on paper. But that doesn't necessarily work for Ohio State; it needs the Barrett–Wilson combo to work on the field, too.
But with the track records of each, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which it doesn't. Wilson is an offensive mastermind; Barrett is as experienced and intelligent as any quarterback in college football.
There's a chance this could be a really good match.
Wilson is the third offensive coordinator of Barrett's collegiate career. That's not exactly an ideal situation, but it's the one Ohio State is currently in. There's a lot to learn for Barrett, but if things click, it could be a big year for the Buckeyes' signal caller.
“A quarterback needs to just be on top of your stuff, really. Be really detailed,” Lagow said. “[Wilson is] one of the best minds that I’ve been around. His recall is pretty incredible as far as remembering certain situations from games. He’s a really fun person to be around. He’s a great coach and I think he’s going to do well.”