John Wozniak came home on Valentine’s Day with some news for his wife, Jessica.
It wasn’t roses or a box of chocolates.
The couple was moving once again, so is the life of a college football coach. But they were going back to the place where he had some familiarity, the place where his Division I career started – Stillwater.
“She’s not getting roses this year,” Wozniak said. “She was getting a new paycheck so that worked out good, thankfully. The town is a little bit bigger but to be honest, I lived in the dorm as a grad assistant. I saw the dorm room, I saw Hall of Fame and I saw the stadium. I can see how the campus has changed and obviously the athletic facilities.”
Wozniak enters into a role at Oklahoma State that seems to be constantly revolving. Predecessor Marcus Arroyo was with the Cowboys for two seasons, giving the program what it had been in dire need of for a while – a bell cow tailback in Justice Hill – before taking a job at Oregon this offseason.
The man who was before Arroyo, Jemal Singleton, was in the position for four years before he took a job at Arkansas and is now with the Indianapolis Colts.
Wozniak hopes to stay in Stillwater awhile, he doesn’t know how long, but the town means something to him.
“I love it,” Wozniak said. “Yeah, this is great. I was here in 2004 as a graduate assistant but at that time, I was in a bit more of a different role so now that I’m back here, it’s fun.”
Wozniak was brought onto Les Miles coaching staff more than a decade ago after serving for four years as offensive coordinator at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois – his alma mater. After joining Miles staff, he stuck with the Mad Hatter when he went to LSU and Wozniak was on staff when the Tigers won the national title in 2007.
Wozniak then went on a walkabout with stops at Montana State, Memphis, West Georgia and UAB before he went back to the SEC and Alabama, where he was on another national title staff in 2012 as a special teams analyst.
Four years at Southern Miss as an offensive coordinator later and now Wozniak is back where he started and things have changed considerably in the time he has been gone.
“It’s on a different level now,” Wozniak said. “There’s really no recruit that we can’t touch. It’s a whole different world to be in. You can be a lot more picky in terms of guys you can recruit and how you are perceived nationally so that’s a good spot to be in.”
Wozniak comes in with being gifted a Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in Hill, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound sophomore, but behind Hill is a whole plethora of questions. Mainly, who is the next man up?
Wozniak has had to deal with situations like this before and with his experience in the coaching world, he said he will find a solution.
“I learned there is a lot of different ways to skin a cat,” Wozniak said. “There’s a lot of really good coaches out there and at the same time, I can really be able to appreciate not having to take this too seriously and being able to have a life outside of football too. That’s probably the biggest thing. Every year you’re around, you keep getting exposed to different things, different ways to do it and different schemes. It can only help you.”
With his SEC experience, Wozniak loves working with blocking schemes and the power run game. When he came to OSU, he was surprised to see hybrid position of fullback-tight end called the Cowboy Back. He said it’s the most important position for what kind of run game he wants to implement.
“That is really awesome because it allows us to play fast,” Wozniak said. “That guy has to be versatile because he has to have multiple traits, some fullback stuff, tight end stuff and some receiver skills. He’s the most versatile guy on the football field and the key to what we do and it helps us a lot in the run game.”
While Wozniak was brought in on short notice, he has embraced the position he is in and loves being back in Stillwater. Now that he is here, he’s hoping to get to work and turn OSU back into a tailback factory.
“There can’t be a huge upside and just really a downside the other way,” Wozniak said. “I want to put someone on the field that I know what I’m getting out of them. You know what to expect and you know what they are going to do when you are out there.”