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Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Kevin Wilson needs to get defensive at IU

By Adam Rittenberg

Kevin Wilson is a great offensive mind.

I first saw this in 2000 as a student reporter at Northwestern, where Wilson transformed the Wildcats' attack, trading in a going-nowhere, traditional scheme for the spread system. Under Wilson's leadership, Northwestern ranked third nationally in total offense, eighth in rushing and ninth in scoring en route to a co-Big Ten championship in 2000.

Wilson moved on to Oklahoma, where he has coordinated offenses that ranked in the top 25 nationally in six out of the last eight seasons. Wilson's offense in 2008 led the nation in scoring (51.1 ppg) and ranked third in passing and 20th in rushing. He can run the spread with the best of them and twice was a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, given to the nation's top assistant, winning it in 2008.

Kevin Wilson
New head coach Kevin Wilson knows how important having the right defensive coordinator will be.
It's clear that Wilson is ready to be a head coach, and Indiana has provided him with the opportunity. I think he's a good hire, and I have no doubt Wilson will help the Hoosiers score a lot of points in the coming years.

Here's my concern: Can Wilson fix Indiana's chronic problems on defense?

If he can't, he'll meet the same fate as Bill Lynch, Gerry DiNardo and Cam Cameron, offensive-minded coaches who were fired because they couldn't make Indiana's defense respectable. Cameron had star quarterback Antwaan Randle El for four years and still couldn't make a bowl.

Indiana fans are tired of seeing these numbers, but they bear repeating. There isn't a unit in the Big Ten that has struggled as much for as long as Indiana's defense.

Here's where Indiana's defense has ranked nationally in the 11 years:

2010: 89th (410.2 ypg)
2009: 88th (401 ypg)
2008: 107th (432.2 ypg)
2007: 71st (403.4 ypg)
2006: 109th (402.3 ypg)
2005: 93rd (417.7 ypg)
2004: 110th (453.2 ypg)
2003: 94th (429.7 ypg)
2002: 101st (428.4 ypg)
2001: 72nd (393.8 ypg)
2000: 112th (457.3 ypg)

Again, I'm not hating on the Wilson hire at all. I've known Wilson for a long time. He's a straight shooter who Indiana fans will really like, if they don't already after the coach's strong performance at Tuesday's introductory news conference.

He has a very strong résumé and Indiana landed him for a fair price ($1.2 million a year).

Wilson also will have time to fix the program, receiving a seven-year contract.

"Indiana needs to give continuity a try in its football program," athletic director Fred Glass said.

But for Wilson to last in Bloomington, he has to get the defense on track. The good news is Wilson knows firsthand that you can't win in a major conference without a defensive focus.

"I'm an offensive guy, but nine years going against coach [Bob] Stoops every day [in practice], you learn how to play great defense," Wilson said. "We're going to play some great defense here."

Wilson isn't sure if he'll continue to call the offensive plays from the field or hire a playcaller to IU. It's an important decision, and I think Wilson would be better served to be a CEO-type and leave the play calling to someone he can trust.

The bigger hire, and arguably the biggest hire he'll make at Indiana, is defensive coordinator. Indiana lacks the talent on defense to consistently stop Big Ten offenses, and it really needs someone who can provide a schematic advantage.

"I'm going to take some time because I do have time and I need to get it right," Wilson said. "I need to get the right guy. It's a huge hire.

"We're going to get someone good."

Indiana got someone good in Wilson.

While he lacks head-coaching experience, he's no stranger to the big stage after nine years at Oklahoma and has several indirect ties to the Indiana program and to the region. He'll bring energy to a program that has been unable to get over the hump in Big Ten play.

If this offensive guy can fix Indiana's defense, the Hoosiers will finally get over that hump.