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Tuesday Take: New 2017 OSU offense under Kevin Wilson could lead to possibly revitalized passing offense

Former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson calls in plays from the sideline against Northwestern on Oct. 22, 2016. Credit: Courtesy of IU Athletics

Four days removed from Clemson’s demolition of Ohio State in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Playstation Fiesta Bowl, a new headline dominated OSU football news.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports said that former Indiana Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson is expected to be named the new offensive coordinator at OSU. That same day, Ryan Day, former NFL assistant, was named the new quarterbacks coach, replacing Tim Beck who has left for Texas.

OSU’s offense will likely be under new direction in 2017. And for good reason.

OSU’s offense struggled for much of the 2015 and 2016 seasons, most visibly in the passing game. Redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett had just 127 passing yards and the offense totaled 215 yards in the Fiesta Bowl, showing Meyer that a change had to happen on offense if he is to capture that second national championship in his tenure in Columbus.

Following OSU’s last two games against Clemson and coach Dabo Swinney, Meyer has retooled both sides of the ball — the defense in 2014 after the Orange Bowl and the offense after the 2016 Fiesta Bowl.

Meyer was adamant that Buckeye Nation would not see another loss like it had just witnessed, 31-0. With the expected hiring of Wilson and the addition of Day, not only has he sent a clear message that he’s gunning for a national title in 2017, but he also better hope he got it right this time.

“Ohio State is not used to this,” Meyer said. “I’m not used to this, and we will not get used to this. That’s not going to happen again.”

Under his watch at Indiana, Wilson had his team consistently in the upper echelon of the country in passing offense. Since 2011, his first season at Indiana, Wilson’s Hoosiers ranked first in the Big Ten three times in passing yards per game. They averaged 13.5 yards per completion in 2016, compared to OSU’s 10.9, which ranked 113th out of 128 teams.

Since the turn of the century, offenses under Wilson’s direction have performed at a high rate. Wilson made stops as offensive coordinator at Northwestern from 1999 to 2001 and Oklahoma from 2002 to 2010 before he was hired at Indiana. Over those years, his offense finished nine times in the top 20 of offensive yards per game. Three times his offense averaged more than 500 yards per game and six times more than 450 yards.

But, given Wilson is officially hired as expected for the 2017 season, he will not have the services of junior H-back Curtis Samuel and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Noah Brown, two of the more reliable targets in the passing game.

However, Wilson does get one of his favorite players in college football. A player Wilson believed to be a Heisman candidate in early October when OSU beat Indiana 38-17.

“I think J.T. Barrett is an awesome football player,” Wilson said after the game.

Barrett ended the year with the same criticism he rode throughout the year, which is one of many reasons he decided to come back for his final season at OSU and not test his luck in the NFL draft. The Wichita Falls, Texas, native will likely leave OSU with nearly every record imaginable for quarterbacks, and Wilson and Day can help him get there.

Barrett thrived under the direction of Texas coach Tom Herman when he was the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. With the passing mind of Wilson and the track record of Day, who has worked with NFL quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Colin Kaepernick, it seems possible that Barrett could see the same success he did in 2014 when he won Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

In order to do that, Barrett will enter 2017 with the same challenges of an inexperienced receiving corps that he had entering the 2016 season. With Brown and Samuel leaving early, OSU returns just 61 of 198 total receptions at wide receiver. The departures of Brown and Samuel hurt tremendously when factoring in an already young group of receivers. OSU adds five-stars Tyjon Lindsey and Trevon Grimes to the unit in 2017, but they are unproven at the college level.

Despite the youth, Meyer once again promised a better passing offense in the coming season, just like he did in 2016. With Wilson as offensive coordinator, he has a fighting chance.

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