Wilson embracing Bucket week

It’s not easy to impress Kevin Wilson by talking about rivalries.

The Indiana football coach has been a part of some big ones in his day, the most recent being the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas. And he’s always said, even when Oklahoma reporters asked him about that rivalry, that the biggest and nastiest one he’s ever been a part of is the one between Maiden, his high school in North Carolina, and Bandys. Maiden refers to itself as “The Biggest Little Football Town in the World,” and Wilson won a state title as a junior, so as one could imagine, the intensity level is high.

So on that scale, the Indiana-Purdue rivalry only registers so much, but Wilson said he’s still developed an appreciation for it.

“The uniqueness is it’s a state rivalry,” Wilson said. “You’ve got the two institutions of the state, the state institutions. You grow up in the state. For the most part, I’m assuming the majority of the fans are pulling for whoever the family has or their grandfather has. For decades or 100 plus years it’s one school or the other. But again, to me what makes a rivalry great is there’s a natural love. There’s kind of a respect that you have for the school. The families know each other, the communities know each other. That being said, it’s family going against family, that makes for a little heated, bad blood rival. I’ve tried to tell our kids. I don’t think every school has that. I’d say that if you’d look at 120 some schools (in the FBS) there’s probably 70-75 that has some natural true rival. Some others are searching.”

The players at least say they get that. Especially the seniors.

“It’s going to mean a lot,” said senior wide receiver Dre Muhammad, who walked on at Purdue for a year but was let go and then transferred to IU. “I get to play against some of my friends, but at the same time it’s a rivalry, being on both sides, mainly on Indiana’s side, I understand the rivalry and how much hate and how much passion the game is played with. It’s gonna be huge for us to go out and get this victory.”

During the week, the Hoosier coaching staff has given a lot of leeway to defensive tackles coach Mark Hagen to talk. Hagen, a Carmel native, played at Indiana from 1987-91 but coached at Purdue from 2000-2010.

“I’ve had a lot of different experiences,” Hagen said. “The strongest memories certainly are when I played. I had a chance to address the team yesterday and just talked about some of my memories as a player. Those are the ones that stick out. One of my strongest memories was a bad one. In 1989, we had a lot riding on the season. Anthony Thompson was up for the Heisman. We had a chance to to a bowl. We had a solid football team, and lost. It was tough to walk in there and look at those seniors in the eye and give up the Bucket.”

Just as it always is, the focus for this game is on the seniors, Wilson said, especially because with the Hoosiers entering the game at 1-10, they will not be bowl eligible. Five fourth-year juniors — plus the injured Chad Sherer — are graduating and not returning next year and treating this game as senior day, making it a grand total of 20 who are celebrating senior day.

“I think senior week is a big deal,” Wilson said. “… Like I told our seniors yesterday, we’ve been frustrated to some degree and not had a great year and coaches if not more than players. But that being said, one of the best weeks of the season is your culminating weeks. It needs to be one of the most special weeks in the year.”

Other notes from Tuesday’s press conference:

— Wilson said that the move of freshman Nick Stoner from cornerback to wide receiver is likely a permanent one. The Hoosiers kept Stoner on defense longer than expected because of injuries in the secondary, but he played little there. With Lawrence Barnett and Greg Heban still having two years of eligibility remaining after 2011, Michael Hunter and Kenny Mullen in Stoner’s class, and more cornerbacks coming last year, it won’t be easy for him to crack the lineup and he may have a better chance at wideout.

“With his speed — and there’s nothing he wasn’t doing playing as a true freshman — we just thought he could impact us there,” Wilson said. “… Our thought process, not moving guys back and forth. We kind of saw that as a long-term deal. We had started that about a month ago behind the scenes, just throwing balls and working with him a little bit post-practice to make sure we were comfortable and thought he could help us there. We just decided to go that direction. I’m not going to set it in stone, but I think that’s the direction he’s going to be in for us.”

— Wilson said he went to every fourth-year junior — even starters like Will Matte and Larry Black Jr. that he certainly didn’t want to see leave — to ask if they wanted a fifth year. He said none of the players were pushed out the door, but he wanted them to know that if they decided to graduate and move on with their lives, they were still entitled to a Senior Day celebration.

“We didn’t want any of those guys to leave,” Wilson said. “My comment was …  I think initially they were all thinking I didn’t want them to come back. My deal was, ‘You have earned the right that this week can be senior week, senior day, the whole gig. To me, there are things that you’ve earned by sacrificing four years of playing college athletics that you needed to be treated right and have some closure to what I think is a heck of a commitment.”

Wilson said that their departures doesn’t allow this recruiting class to get any bigger. He said the Hoosiers can sign 27, which is two over the NCAA limit for initial counters, because they only signed 23 last year.

— Wilson said Monday that linebacker Jeff Thomas, who separated his shoulder in Saturday’s game, and safety Chris Adkins should both be available this week. Adkins hasn’t played since the Wisconsin game because of an ankle injury.

AUDIO: Kevin Wilson Part 1

AUDIO: Kevin Wilson

AUDIO: Mark Hagen

AUDIO: Dre Muhammad

AUDIO: Andrew McDonald

3 comments

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  2. I love seeing the distorted versiosn of the font people in the “Recent Comments” section at the right of the page…Reminds me of the scene in the movie Alien Resurrection when Ripley discovers the room with the jars of hideously disfigured genetic failures preserved in varying degrees of Ripley and alien combinations..Poor, poor Charlie and Bart Geoff. So sad.

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