Kentucky Football: Stoops fills emotional void hiring offensive line coach Eric Wolford

Kentucky's offensive line opens a hole for Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Kentucky's offensive line opens a hole for Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops continues a week of coaching hires naming Eric Wolford as the new offensive line coach.

It had to be one of the more emotional decisions Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops had to make in filling the void left by the passing of offensive line coach John Schlarman.

It would take a special person to fill those giant shoes, but Stoops believes he has found the person to emulate that spirit in South Carolina offensive line coach Eric Wolford. That follows the hiring of offensive coordinator Liam Coen being introduced on Tuesday.

Wolford brings over 25 years of experience to Lexington and is known for his recruiting talents that should complement associate head coach and recruiting guru Vince Marrow. Especially in Ohio.

We love the pipeline that has produced a lot of talented players from the Buckeye State. Oh and one other interesting tidbit both Stoops (53 years old), Marrow (52), safeties coach Frank Buffano (50), and Wolford (49) all hail from the same hometown of Youngstown Ohio. Marrow, Stoops, and Buffano all attended Cardinal Mooney while Wolford went to Ursuline Academy.

Players and coaches must get used to one of these pulling into Youngstown to evaluate players.

Most recently Youngstown produced the talented Lynn Bowden Jr.

Few players or coaches have ever touched the hearts of the Big Blue Nation like Schlarman did and he continued to do what he loved which was to coach till Nov. 8 after when he succumbed to a two-year battle with cancer.

Players and fans rallied around Schlarman with cheers and prayers throughout his battle as he helped his players create the now-famous Big Blue Wall offensive line.

Stoops and Wolford have known each other a long time and that made the selection a bit easier.

Wolford noted that while he is excited to be taking over the job in Lexington the legacy that Schlarman left won’t be forgotten.

"“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach the ‘Big Blue Wall,”I want to continue the legacy of John Schlarman. He was a wonderful man and watching film and seeing how his line played, it’s not hard to see what a great offensive line coach he was. We are always going to remember Coach Schlarman in our room. Always.”"

While Wolford has watched Kentucky knock off the Gamecocks in all but last year’s matchups he also helped create a line that would allow Kevin Harris to run wild through the SEC this season as the league’s best rusher. He gained 1,138 yards on 185 carries and 15 touchdowns shattering South Carolina records.

Lest we forget that we saw Wolford’s line open holes for Harris to gain 210 yards against us in both team’s regular-season finale less than two weeks ago. Kentucky was one of two games in which he ran for 200 plus yards and five other 100 plus performances.

That should play well in Lexington with the talented Christopher Rodriguez Jr. and Kavosiey Smoke in the backfield who can be as talented as Harris.

Wolford was introduced to the UK Media on Thursday.

But what excites me the most about this hire is that Wolford isn’t the typical position coach. His resume spans 25 years in schools in the FBS and NFL. He has been a head coach for five in the FBS.

Stoops and Wolford coached together at Houston and he worked under brother Mike Stoops at Arizona. He has served under Ron Zook at Illinois where his teams defeated Ohio State and made the Rose Bowl. He then transitioned over to South Carolina for the first time under Steve Spurrier.

When the chance to return home to Youngstown came open Wolford couldn’t say no and assumed the head coach’s role. He guided the Penguins for five years including four straight winning seasons in the Missouri Valley Conference.

He headed back to the NFL as an assistant offensive line coach for the San Francisco 49ers for two seasons before Will Muschamp lured him back to Columbia, SC to run the Gamecock offensive line.

That’s a lot of schemes to coach under and some fine tutelage so clearly, Wolford’s mind must be full of multi-dimension ideas and plenty of in-game scenarios to work with.

With he and Coen recently both working on the West Coast in the NFL, there is reason to be super excited to see what they can bring to Lexington.

By all accounts and observation Stoops has assembled some fine offensive minds to go with the rest of the Youngstown State boys over on the defensive side. I think these are big-time hires with huge upsides all of us Kentucky fans should easily get behind.