Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting It Done -- Wilson Building A Football Staff For Success

Are you like us? Are you yearning for happy thoughts?

Do not -- repeat, do not! -- look at Indiana’s Big Ten basketball schedule. It’s too scary. Besides, it’s still the holiday season and there’s no sense obsessing over gloom and doom.

We’ll do that for you.

Instead, consider the defensive staff new football coach Kevin Wilson is assembling. In case you’ve forgotten, it’s Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler as co-defensive coordinators, Mark Hagen as the defensive tackles and special teams coach, Corey Raymond as the cornerback coach.

Mallory comes from New Mexico, Ekeler from Nebraska, Hagen from Purdue and Raymond from Utah State. Mallory has an extensive coaching background and plenty of success as a defensive coordinator. Plus, he’s the son of Bill Mallory, the winningest football coach in school history.

Ekeler will probably be the most passionate coach IU has had since Steve Addazio left for Florida and, now, Temple. He will pat you on the back, kick you in the tail and drive you to play with the controlled fire necessary for elite success.

One concern when Wilson was hired was the fact he didn’t have a staff to bring with him. The reason -- he didn’t have one. He was Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator. A head coach would likely bring much of his staff with him. For instance, it was among the reasons why Joe Tiller was able to have instant success at Purdue. He brought most of his staff with him from Wyoming.

Wilson offset that by hiring guys who had worked together before. Mallory, Ekeler and Raymond were all on the LSU staff before going their separate ways. Hagan worked with Mallory at IU and played for Doug’s father, Bill, as a standout Hoosier linebacker.

There also was a strong connection to the aggressive, attacking defenses used by Oklahoma and Nebraska, which rate among the nation’s best.

That’s an Xs and Os thing, but perhaps the No. 1 key is staff chemistry. The better that is, the better IU’s chances are of building a defense that can make a difference.

And if you’ve followed the Hoosiers, you know how much of a difference that can be.

“We need an environment where guys are good together,” Wilson says. “You don’t want a staff where guys are fragmented. A cohesive core will be stronger together than as an individual. That can’t happen if there’s a lack of chemistry.

“It will start with guys I’m comfortable with. If I’m comfortable with them, hopefully they blend in within themselves. Until you put the group together, you don’t know. Chemistry is always a big part of success, whether it’s coaching or playing.”

Wilson has one more defensive coach to hire -- someone to handle the defensive ends. There’s no rush for that position.

There’s nothing official as far as offensive assistant coaches, but reports are Boise State receivers coach Brent Pease might be a candidate. He helped with an offense that ranked third nationally in total offense and second in points thanks in part to standout receivers Austin Pettis, Titus Young and Jeremy Childs. He previously was the offensive coordinator at Baylor and Kentucky.

An article in the Wall Street Journal used information from Winthrop Intelligence to determine the nation's two best offensive coordinators not already locked into head coaching jobs as Boise State's Bryan Harsin and Stanford's David Shaw. Athletic directors use Winthrop Intelligence, a firm out of North Carolina, for background information when making hires.

Wilson, by the way, ranked second on that list of best offensive coordinators. Harsin was third and Shaw was fourth. Who was No. 1? It's Oklahoma State's Dana Holgorsen, who is moving to West Virginia as head coach in waiting.

Wilson has said he doesn’t want to be the offensive coordinator, but he will be a part of the offense, “Just not necessarily the guy in charge.”

Will anybody from Bill Lynch’s staff be retained? Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mark Canada already has accepted the position of offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois. Running backs coach Dennis Springer and receivers coach Billy Lynch have the best shots at staying, but nothing is etched in stone.

No matter how the staff ends up, the goal is to build a championship program. Yes, we’ve heard that before. But maybe this time, Wilson can make it happen.

“We’re at a place with a bunch of untapped resources and energy to build something strong,” he said. “I’ve watched a lot of people in this region do it. I don’t see any reason why we can’t. I’m excited for the opportunity. There might be some issues, but whatever issues there are, it’s a great opportunity to get it done.”

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