State of the Hogs: Wilson First

Tyler Wilson

Tyler Wilson said it was no coincidence that he is first off the bus at the intramural fields each day at practice. The senior quarterback wants to lead the Hogs onto the field and to a national title.

Tyler Wilson is the first on the field every day at practice. It's been like that for quite some time. He was first in the spring. And he's in the first seat on the first bus that goes from the Broyles Center to the intramural fields each day of fall camp.

I watched it Friday night. Wilson charged off the bus and was in a fast jog that got faster as he covered the 180 yards across one field to the middle of the second where offensive coordinator Paul Petrino waited with a football in hand.

Their eyes were hooked onto each other immediately. Petrino flipped the ball around as Wilson got closer. Then he dropped it and started clapping vigorously as Wilson closed.

"That's how Tyler has taken the field every day this spring," Petrino said. "Our goal that we talk about in our meetings is to have preparation, attitude and effort. Show up and be the best you can be for practice. Know your assignments, be detailed and have the passion to be great.

"It all starts with Tyler and that's what he's shown me with the way he's taken the field and come to practice. He's doing all of that."

Wilson said being first off the bus and first to Petrino is "important" and it's no happenstance.

"I think being first sets the tone," Wilson said. "I think being first to Paul is very important. I find him as soon as I step off the bus and get to him."

The bond between the two has grown and is an important part of the decision Wilson made in January to return for his senior season. He checked out the relationship Petrino had at Illinois with the quarterbacks. Petrino said he didn't know anything about the calls Wilson made last winter before turning away from the NFL draft.

"I didn't know he did that, but I am not surprised," Petrino said. "I have tried to have a special relationship with Tyler. I am going to be honest. When the player's great, it's easier to want to have that relationship."

Petrino was grinning as he said that. He's been smiling a lot with Wilson around. It's clear the coordinator likes what he's seen with the way the quarterback has played the position in the spring and in camp.

It's common after a play for Petrino to walk up to him smiling, offer his hand open and up at the hip and Wilson to pound it in a little celebration.

"I didn't even know I was doing that," Petrino said. "I think most of those are for a great throw. He makes some GREAT throws. I love to watch him throw. I could never throw like that so I like to see it.

"But I think a lot are also for great reads, checks and when I see him go through all of the progressions. He's gotten better and better. He was really good in the spring, much better than in our bowl workouts.

"Without question the game has slowed down for him. He's gotten better with all of the study he's done in the summer. I love what I'm seeing so that's why I stick out my hand like that for him."

Wilson said he doesn't miss a chance to give his coach "skin" back.

"I think I'm emotional and he is, too. I know we are doing that. I haven't thought about it. He puts out his hand, I'm going to give a little bit back.

"I like when he gets excited like that. I'm emotional and I think he is, too. I think he is showing me that he respects what I'm doing and has trust in me. I have it for him, too. I think he was an emotional player in the way he played. I think I am, too."

Petrino laughed when he was told Wilson thinks they are a lot alike in the way they played the game.

"Maybe a little," Petrino said. "But I couldn't throw. I was a runner. But I did try to play with my emotions. We are alike that way. Man, I could never throw it the way he does. But I do like the way he fights and will run it. I think he is a good runner."

Wilson talks a lot about trust. He thinks that's the key to the season, both with the coaches and the players.

"I think there has to be trust in the room every day," he said. "I trust these guys."

That's one of the reasons that Wilson listed national championship at number one on his end of the summer goal sheet.

"There were six guys who put be the best in the country at their positions," Wilson said. "Best in the nation. I was one of them. That's why I also put national championship on my sheet. Absolutely, I wrote that down.

"The guys in our room that want to be the best in the nation at their position, that's why I know without a doubt that we can win a national championship. There is that kind of trust in our room. We have tremendous athletes on this team."

There is trust in John L. Smith as head coach. Wilson would have picked Smith to take over as coach if it were up to him. He told athletic director Jeff Long just that.

"John L. Smith brings light to the room," Wilson said. "When darkness is close, you can't help but smile with him. He makes you guys (in the media) laugh.

"We know we have to grind. He talks about that all of the time. We know that. But you have to smile sometimes, too."

Smith smiles most when someone asks him about Wilson. Early in the media day questions, Smith was asked when he thinks when he sees Wilson.

"Tyler exudes confidence," Smith said. "He knows our system. He knows where to go with the ball. When he makes a mistake, a light goes on and he understands what he did. It doesn't take long to fix something.

"I think he's like a rose, a pretty little flower, starting to blossom.

"I see him leading us onto the field first, that's what I see. Every program has a bell cow. He's first and everyone else is trying to catch him. But it's not just Tyler. We have more leaders, not all of them are captains.

"We have guys trying to take ownership and hold the rest accountable. Our leaders are good. They are going to have to be good."

Good might not be big enough for Tyler Wilson, but saying he's first onto the field is a great start.

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