Wide-eyed Wilson ready for Rebels’ final exam

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 28, 2000

[12/28/00] NASHVILLE, Tenn. Class begins at 6:30 every morning for Dwike Wilson. Sometimes the learning continues well into the night.

But he’s wide-eyed and ready for Thursday’s final exam the Music City Bowl.

Wilson, a former Vicksburg High standout, is a volunteer student coach at Ole Miss (7-4).

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He assists Tom Lavigne with the Rebels’ defensive backs, whose assignment will be shutting down West Virginia receiver Khori Ivy.

He has caught a pass in 39 straight games for the Mountaineers (6-5).

Wilson knows all about him. After all, he spends his mornings and many nights breaking down film on opponents for Lavigne, defensive coordinator Art Kaufman and head coach David Cutcliffe.

“He’s good, but we see better every week in the SEC,” said Wilson, in his first year with the Rebels after spending two seasons on the sidelines and film rooms at Hinds Community College. “We’ll be ready for him.”

Like so many coaches, Wilson got interested in coaching after he was injured.

He was recruited to Hinds as a linebacker after making All-County as a senior at VHS, where he was “a coach on the field” for defensive coordinator Robert Erves and head coach James Knox. But he lasted only one season at Hinds, which won the state championship his freshman year.

“I just messed up my ankles so bad, I had to quit,” he said.

But he wanted to stay around the game.

Wilson was offered a scholarship at Alabama A&M as a long-snapper despite his ankle problems. But after a year videotaping games, then helping out Hinds assistants, he was hooked on coaching.

He worked side-by-side with HCC running backs coach Taylor Morton, who is now a player personnel assistant with the Atlanta Falcons. The next year, he coached outside linebackers under Jeff Terrill, one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the junior college ranks.

Now, Wilson is working next to another top coach in Lavigne, whose secondary is No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference and ninth in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Led by projected first-round draft choice Ken Lucas, Ole Miss defensive backs have held quarterbacks to an SEC-best 47.1 completion percentage.

And as usual, Wilson has soaked up all the knowledge he can while learning a new position.

“Coach Cutcliffe makes me take a pen and paper on the field,” Wilson said from his hotel room in Nashville during a break. “It’s just like a class.”

That’s what it is to Lavigne. And Wilson has proved to be an “A” student.

“He has done a tremendous job for us,” Lavigne said on Tuesday. “You can tell him to do something and he really listens. We like for him to learn as a student and we’re blessed to have someone like him who wants to learn.

“A lot of guys come in here like they know everything already, but now Dwike. He’s a real student of the game.”

Lavigne, in his second season at Ole Miss, said the difference in his secondary this year isn’t anything he’s done differently.

“We just never did have everyone healthy at the same time,” he said. “Everybody got frustrated.”

Working with Lavigne and quality players throughout the spring and summer helped Wilson learn more about the secondary.

“It was all new to him at first, but he really studied hard and he’s worked out for us,” Lavigne said.

Wilson now occasionally signals in schemes and draws up formations and plays on the board for the players during games.

At practice, he puts the younger defensive backs through the same drills Lavigne puts the more experienced ones through.

“We’re on the same page,” Lavigne said.

Wilson hopes to stay at Ole Miss as a graduate assistant next year.

He also said that Morton has told him he could possibly get an internship with the Falcons.

Though Wilson insists he doesn’t recruit, his addition could help open a pipeline to Ole Miss from talent hotbed Hinds, which has sent a number of standouts to Mississippi State over the past few years. Star defensive back Chris Knight signed with the Rebels this month.

Even as a coach, Wilson knows what it’s like to be recruited. He was offered “apprenticeships” by several Division I coaches who were recruiting Hinds.

And now, when discussing his future, he still sounds like a prized recruit.

“I’m leaving my options open,” he said. “But I definitely want to stay in coaching.”