After developing a reputation as one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches in nine years at Oklahoma State, Joe Wickline decided the timing was finally right to make the big move.
He had the opportunity before, after the 2010 season, when Mack Brown approached him about the offensive line job. Wickline decided to stay put. But teaming up with Charlie Strong, a coach he has known for 30 years since their days as graduate assistants at Florida, was too tempting to turn down.
Earlier this month, the new Texas offensive coordinator discussed his decision to leave Oklahoma State and his growing relationship with UT assistant head coach Shawn Watson.
What did it feel like to make that switch from Oklahoma State to Texas?
Wickline: Well, it’s been an interesting ride. The big thing, more than anything, is you’re at one place for nine years. When you’re there, you’re kind of just riding and rolling, and it was a good ride. But then, boom, things transition and you move here and it’s new faces, new people, new players, a new system. The biggest thing is just learning new people and new faces.
Is it a weird feeling when you might build up animosity toward a program like this one, and then you make that move?
Wickline: It may be for a lot of people, maybe I should say it is. But I would probably like to say it’s part of the game. We’re all doing the same thing, whether it’s Baylor University or whether it’s Oklahoma State or Texas Tech. It’s another game.
Why was this the right time to come to Texas?
Wickline: Well, the first thing is that Coach Strong and me go way back, and I believe in Charlie Strong. We started this thing together in ’83 together at the University of Florida, we’ve been against each other on different sidelines, we’ve been back on the same staff together 10 or so years ago, back and separated again. Back together again. Just the relationship with Charlie and our relationship and how long we’ve been together and what we stand for is probably the first thing.
And the next thing is it’s the University of Texas. You can say whether you want, there’s not a better school in the United States for football and for academics, the environment and what it can do for the student-athlete and the places we can go at Texas.
Was it at all a difficult decision to take this job?
Wickline: No, it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love Stillwater and I love the people of Oklahoma and I gained a lot from being there and I’m very fortunate to have to have gone there. I tell you what, they did a nice job. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it hadn’t been for the people there, [athletic director] Mike Holder and [head coach] Mike Gundy and the staff members there. But my son was graduating in June and he actually signed a scholarship with Texas-San Antonio. And my daughter loves horses and my wife loves horses, and there are places to ride around here. As long as they’re happy, we’ll be all right.
How would you describe the dynamic you have with Shawn Watson in running this offense?
Wickline: It’s been special. You don’t really know where it’s at until you go through a battle, until you’ve been through a year and you’ve had a bunch of bad things happen and some good things, and there’s ideas and views and opinions. But as far as the relationship, the good thing is we all come from excellent backgrounds. I can tell you right now that every guy in that room -- Bruce Chambers, Tommie Robinson, Shawn Watson, Les Koenning myself -- are unbelievably qualified not only at their positions but as offensive coaches.
It’s been a lot of fun, actually, because you’re hearing new ideas, seeing how people did things. When you get with one area for a long time and you hear the same thing, it’s refreshing to get back and hear other ideas and concepts as a group.
How is your relationship with Watson coming along so far?
Wickline: The best thing about Shawn is he’s an unbelievably intelligent guy, he knows what he wants to do, he’s organized. I mean, he’s got a good feel for where he’s at with the quarterback play, offensive football. It’s a good situation for us. And secondly, it’s good to work with a guy who doesn’t have a giant ego and doesn’t need to prove to anybody ‘I’m this’ or ‘I’m that.’ He understands where we’re all at and this is my job and this is your job. It’s been a blast and I love it.