I remember sitting down with Kevin Wilson when he was first hired at Indiana in 2010. Here he was, this offensive guru from Oklahoma, speaking a million words a minute about anything from his hatred of Boise State’s statue of Liberty play — he was on the losing side — to his distrust of any media.

I shrugged off the pre-determined dislike he felt towards people in my position and shifted my focus to Sam Bradford. That was the three-star quarterback who Wilson helped turn into a Heisman Trophy winner. I couldn’t shake the notion that because of that, Wilson was a quarterbacks guy who was going to bring a pass-heavy, Big 12 offense to the B1G.

Young and naive, I was.

I should’ve been thinking about Oklahoma running backs like Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray. I should’ve been thinking about Oklahoma offensive linemen like Trent Williams, Duke Robinson, Jammal Brown and Vince Carter (different one). Those were the All-Americans that Wilson coached at Oklahoma, all of whom thrived in the ground game.

That’s the culture Wilson is beginning to establish at IU. The Hoosiers may be a high-scoring, shootout offense, but that’s thanks in large part to the dominant running game. Surprisingly enough, Wilson’s attack has produced more like run-it-down-your-throat Wisconsin than a Bradford-led Oklahoma offense.

RELATED: #B1GCoachRank: No. 8 Kevin Wilson

What if I told you that IU ran for only 22 less yards per game than the Badgers over the last three years? Or what if I told you that IU averaged 0.7 yards per carry less than Wisconsin during that stretch?

Nobody would make a 30 for 30 about it, but it would certainly surprise some people.

Before Wilson arrived, IU was the program that hadn’t had a running back reach 1,000 yards since 2001. The Hoosiers had two in 2015 alone, and was one of two schools (Baylor) to accomplish that feat.

Benjarvus Green-Ellis ran for 938 yards on 225 carries (4.2 YPC) in 2003. After that, here’s what IU’s bell-cow back looked like until Wilson arrived:

2004 82 329
2005 156 740
2006 98 387
2007 138 568
2008 94 631
2009 123 607
2010 104 352

IU’s lead backs averaged 113.6 carries and 515 yards per season (less than 10 carries per game). As a result, the Hoosiers didn’t have a running back finish in the top eight in the B1G in rushing.

Now here’s how the lead back produced after Wilson got to Bloomington:

2011 151 802
2012 161 749
2013 131 958
2014 270 2,036
2015 196 1,213

For what it’s worth, Coleman inevitably would’ve exceeded 200 carries and 1,000 yards in 2013 had he not went down with a season-ending ankle injury and missed the final three games. And that table doesn’t show the 1,000-yard season Devine Redding had as a backup and part-time Jordan Howard replacement last year (that was the first time that happened in program history, by the way).

Still, the differences between the two eras are night and day. Wilson’s lead backs rushed for 182 carries and 1,152 yards per season. That’s over double the yardage IU’s feature backs averaged per season from 2004-2010. That’s because all of Wilson’s lead backs have rushed for at least 4.65 yards per carry, which only happened once in the seven years that preceded him.


Wilson’s up-tempo, spread-it-out attack obviously caters more to the ground game than any pistol-style offense that was run before him. A guy like Marcus Thigpen would’ve been fun to watch in Wilson’s system, as would a few other 2004-10 IU backs.

And while Coleman and Howard were as talented as any rushers the Hoosiers had since Anthony Thompson, the biggest difference in the Wilson era is up front.

Last year, IU had two offensive linemen (Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney) earn first-team All-American honors for the first time in school history. Before that, IU hadn’t had a first-team All-American offensive lineman since 1967.

Both Feeney and Spriggs were members of Wilson’s first full recruiting class in 2012. Those two have been dominant anchors for one of the nation’s top ground attacks over the last couple years.

So what’s the reason that IU is suddenly producing All-American linemen and 1,000-yard rushers?

“It’s almost like we have two offensive line coaches,” Feeney said of Kevin Wilson and OL coach Greg Frey. “Having that mentality constantly pounded into you…they just want you to become great.”

RELATED: B1G stars make ESPN’s countdown of top 100 players in college football

Feeney will likely be a consensus preseason All-American. He was voted ESPN’s No. 37 player in all of college football entering 2016, which was the fifth-highest of any offensive lineman.

Feeney is one of three fifth-year seniors that will start on the offensive line in 2016. He turned down the NFL to come back with a veteran group that again figures to be one of the B1G’s best. If IU can replace Spriggs at left tackle — Brandon Knight is expected to fill that role if he’s healthy — the Hoosiers have plenty of reason to believe the line will pave the way for another 1,000-yard rusher.

“You guys talk about our O-line core being deep,” IU right tackle Dimitric Camiel said. “Our running back core is deep.”

How deep will IU be? Wilson suggested that “eight or nine” guys will be in the mix to get snaps in 2016. Wilson is already comparing one freshman to Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne. The Hoosiers won’t feature eight or nine tailbacks, but that tells you all you need to know about how confident Wilson is in IU’s backfield depth.

The bell-cow will be Redding. The junior emerged in a big way when Howard went down at the end of last season. In the final three games, Redding racked up 501 yards on 81 carries, including a Pinstripe Bowl-record 227 yards.

He has the combination of size and speed that’s become customary for a lead back in Wilson’s system:

The assumption is that Redding will carry the torch passed down by Coleman and Howard. Both of them earned All-B1G honors and left early for the NFL.

Can Redding follow suit?

“Tevin and Jordan were were athletes. They’re amazing at what they do,” Feeney said. “(Redding)’s a tough runner. He gets to top speed really quick, which is awesome for inside zones and stuff like that so he can get to the second level. I think he’s going to be a really solid running back for us.”

Wilson doesn’t shed a tear over tailbacks leaving early or replacing All-American offensive linemen. He always drops the “next-man-up” cliché, but when it comes to offensive linemen and tailbacks, that’s proven to be true.

With his new contract extension, Wilson have a chance to establish something that IU’s been lacking throughout the post-Antwaan Randle El era — an offensive identity.