The University of Kentucky officially announced that Eric Wolford will become the Wildcat’s new offensive line coach on Thursday. Wolford is a seasoned coaching veteran and is yet another Youngstown, Ohio product on Mark Stoops’ staff.
Stoops commented on Wolford via the university’s press release, “I’m honored to have Eric Wolford join our staff,” Stoops said. “I’ve known Eric and worked with Eric for a long time. I knew it would take a special person to fill this role and we found the best candidate. I know what we are getting with Eric Wolford and he will continue to build on the legacy that John Schlarman started. He’s intense, he’s detailed but he also has the unique ability to connect with people.”
Wolford checks all the boxes required with this hire. First, he’s a proven evaluator and recruiter. Wolford was named a Top-25 recruiter by Rivals in 2018. Vince Marrow successfully inked seven Kentuckians in the 2021 class. The commonwealth has five plus blue chip prospects going into its 2022 class. This group includes QB Gavin Wimsatt. The Owensboro junior is Kentucky’s most important recruit since Tim Couch. Johnson Central offensive tackle Grant Bingham is the state’s top offensive line prospect. He will be Wolford’s most pressing in-state priority. Bingham is as talented at his position as Wimsatt is to his.
COVID-19 restrictions limited Marrow’s ability to get into Ohio late in the 2021 recruiting cycle. The Buckeye State has proven to be fertile grounds for the Big Dog. Wolford can provide immediate impact going into his home state that has produced several Wildcats during the Stoops era.
Second, Wolford has worked as run-game coordinator at both South Carolina and Illinois. His expertise in the ground game fits current UK personnel and personality. That experience will significantly benefit new offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Having a veteran coach to provide systemic input will be instrumental. His last offensive line at South Carolina opened holes for the SEC’s top rusher. Kevin Harris ran for 1138 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in 2020. He did so in just 10 games.
The new leader of the Big Blue Wall will be tasked with replacing founding members of the frequently commended unit. Landon Young, Drake Jackson, Luke Fortner and potentially Darian Kinnard could be moving on to the NFL. A new group of big fellas will need to be developed in order to maintain the standard that was established by John Schlarman.
Third, Wolford spent two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. His experience in the professional ranks can only add credibility within the Cat’s new offensive scheme. Plus, prospects dream of the NFL. Having an offensive coordinator and offensive line coach with professional experience will resonate in the Cat’s recruiting pitch.
NOBODY can or will replace John Schlarman. Impossible. However, Wolford has the tall task of being the next offensive line coach. Trust needs to be established within the Big Blue Wall’s meeting room. Stoops had to go with an experienced and proven entity with this hire. Selflessness and self-awareness in the face of a difficult situation were required. Wolford checks all the boxes.