Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hitting Hard – IU’s Wilson Is A Football Coach’s Coach

Kevin Wilson didn’t come to Indiana to offer peace on earth and good will towards men. Yes, he’s going to represent the university well, do things the right way, preach integrity and discipline and unity, but that’s not enough to make the Hoosiers a Big Ten football success.

You’ve got to smack somebody, hit somebody, intimidate somebody. You’ve got to be big and bad to sometimes be beautiful in a Ray Lewis, James Harrison kind of way.

If you don’t like it, knit a scarf.

So when Wilson met with his new players for the first time, he delivered a message that could have rung true in ancient Sparta, in Army basic training and at a Rocky fight film festival.

“I had a quick meeting to set a positive attitude, some energy, some excitement, some enthusiasm. We need a brand of toughness, a brand of doing things the right way, a brand of being a man. It’s a man’s game. You have to work and act like a man.”

It almost makes you want to pump some iron instead of reaching for that spiked holiday eggnog, not that we’re admitting we do that.

Anyway, we’ve basically heard this message before from newly introduced Indiana coaches. Then it turns into a bad joke when wins don’t come and defeats multiply, when games come down to making just one more play and it’s the other guys doing it.

Yes, Hoosier players were upset when Bill Lynch was fired, but the No. 1 thing they want is a coach who can get them to a bowl game. Wilson is determined to be that guy, sooner rather than later, and work begins now.

“We’ll make some judgments on what we have, but it’s more about here’s where we’re starting, here’s where we’re going, and let’s get this ball rolling forward so we can put it together,” he said. “We’ve got some seniors who aren’t looking for a three- and four-year process. In fairness to them, we’re going to put as strong of a product as we can as fast as we can.”

It sounds good, but the product is only as good as the materials you put into it and that starts with quality players. One of Wilson’s main priorities is to re-recruit the 20 committed players (he was on the phone right after his Tuesday press conference) and he starts with a strong message.

“They picked a great school in the first place, and they’ve not picked a school that’s also hopefully going in a direction to make it, no disrespect, stronger than it was.

“(As far as committed players changing their minds), that’s their right and commitments are no different than getting engaged. We can all bail out when you want to until you walk down that aisle.”

It looks like Lawrence Central do-everything-quarterback Tre Roberson isn’t bailing. Neither, apparently, is four-star recruit Raymon Taylor from Detroit, and defensive end CJ Robbins from Illinois.

“I think they’ll be excited about what we’re putting on the field, the kind of offense we’re going to play, the competitiveness,” Wilson said. “I mean, we’re going to max it out. We’re going to max those kids out. We’re going to play some great football.”

Achieve greatness means out-working the other guy, or at least trying to. It means consistency and competitiveness and tenacity. It’s a message basketball coach Tom Crean preaches every day. Wilson appears built from a similar mold.

“I understand the Big Ten. I’ve been around the league and recruited it on a daily basis, competed against it. I understand the region, the environment and what it takes to build a successful program. We’re ready to build something special.

“It’s a daily process. It’s a winning process. You don’t win some of the time. We’re not winning next year if we’re not winning today. One of our themes will be, ‘Win Today.’ It is attack. It is competitive. We’re going to learn how to win on a daily basis.”

And if that means going all Ray Lewis on somebody, go for it.

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