Eric Wolford Returns to UK as Offensive Line Coach
Eric Wolford will return to the University of Kentucky football program as the offensive line coach, head coach Mark Stoops announced on Monday. Wolford, who was Kentucky’s offensive line coach in 2021, spent the last two seasons at Alabama. His hiring is contingent on the satisfaction of the University’s pre-employment screenings and other due diligence.
“We are excited to bring Eric Wolford back to Kentucky,” Stoops said. “Eric had a big impact in the year he spent with us and has only gained more SEC experience after working with Coach Saban and Alabama the last two seasons.
“Eric and I go way back and I’m looking forward to having him return to our program.”
At Alabama in 2023, he guided an offensive line that blocked for the fourth-best scoring offense in the Southeastern Conference and the 23rd best in the nation, recording 34.0 points per game. In a season that featured a 12-2 record, an SEC Championship (ending Georgia’s 29-game winning streak) and an appearance in the College Football Playoff, the Crimson Tide offensive line racked up 172.9 yards per game on the ground, ranking in the top half of the league and top 50 in the nation, with 32 touchdowns rushing. His offensive line also helped protect quarterback Jalen Milroe, who had a 65.8 percent completion percentage (187-284-6) for 2,834 yards and 23 touchdowns passing in 13 games.
Three of his offensive linemen earned post season honors as JC Latham was named to the All-SEC First Team by the AP and conference coaches and was a second-team All-American by several media outlets. Tyler Booker was named to the All-SEC First Team by the AP and was an All-SEC Second Team choice from the conference coaches. Kaydn Procter was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team and was a Freshman All-American by On3.com.
“I am thrilled to be back at Kentucky and have the opportunity to work with Coach Stoops and Liam Coen again,” Wolford said. “Stoops and I have a long history and he’s one of the best coaches I’ve worked for during my career. Liam is one of the brightest minds in football, and I loved my experience with the Big Blue Wall. My family also loves this community and we are excited to get back here.”
In Wolford’s first season in Tuscaloosa in 2022, he led an offensive line that opened holes for an additional 45.5 rushing yards per game and surrendered 20 fewer sacks than the season prior. Senior guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. earned All-SEC First Team recognition, while both Javion Cohen and Tyler Steen garnered second-team accolades. Tyler Booker was named a Freshman All-America honoree from 247Sports, as well as SEC All-Freshman plaudits. The Crimson Tide went 11-2, tied for first in the SEC Western Division, and defeated Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl.
In his lone season at Kentucky in 2021, he rebuilt an offensive front that lost three starters into a unit that was a finalist for the Joe Moore Award, given annually to the nation’s top offensive line. The Wildcats averaged 5.23 yards per carry that season, while 53.1 percent of their rush attempts went for four yards or more to lead the nation. Two of his players from that season earned All-SEC honors, were drafted and still currently play in the NFL – Luke Fortner (starting center for the Jacksonville Jaguars) and Darian Kinnard (Kansas City Chiefs). Kinnard also won the 2021 SEC Jacobs Blocking Trophy, just the second player in school history to win the award.
Before his first stint in Lexington, he had a second stint at South Carolina, spending four seasons as the offensive line coach in Columbia from 2017 to 2020.
At South Carolina in 2020, Wolford’s unit helped pave the way for running back Kevin Harris to lead the conference in rushing and rewrite the Gamecocks’ record book. Harris finished the regular season with 1,138 yards rushing, just the ninth player in school history to rush for 1,000-plus yards in a season. He had five 100-yard games, including two with 200-plus yards, joining George Rogers and Marcus Lattimore as the only players in school history with multiple 200-yard games.
In 2019, the offensive line helped five different running backs rush for more than 100 yards in a game.
In 2018, the Gamecocks went 7-6 and advanced to the Belk Bowl. The team averaged 30.1 points, 152.8 yards rushing, 272.8 yards passing and 425.6 total yards, the best marks since 2014. They had five games of 500 yards or more for the first time in school history, including back-to-back games of 600 yards against Chattanooga and Clemson. In his first season with the Gamecocks, South Carolina finished 9-4 and defeated Michigan in the Outback Bowl, 26-19.
South Carolina’s number of sacks allowed dipped from 41 in 2016, the year prior to Wolford’s arrival, to 29 in 2017 and to 23 in 2018, the fewest since 2013. Even more impressively, in SEC play the sacks allowed number dropped from 31 in 2016, to 18 in 2017, to just 12 in 2018.
Off the field, Wolford was named a top-25 recruiter by Rivals following the 2018 February signing date.
Wolford spent the previous two seasons (2015, 2016) in the NFL as the San Francisco 49ers assistant offensive line coach.
Prior to his time with the 49ers, Wolford logged 19 seasons as a coach at the collegiate level, including five (2010-14) as the head coach at Youngstown State University. After a 3-8 mark in his first season, the Penguins compiled a 28-18 mark over his final four campaigns, were ranked in the top-10 three times, and broke 32 school records during his tenure. Highlights included a 2012 win over Pitt – the first win over a BCS team in school history – and a 2011 win over top-ranked North Dakota State, while overseeing the squad’s highest GPA on record for four consecutive seasons. He finished 31-26 overall at the helm.
Wolford also served as South Carolina’s run game coordinator and offensive line coach in 2009 under head coach Steve Spurrier after a two-year term at Illinois where he held a similar post. Under Wolford’s tutelage, the Illini, who played in the 2008 Rose Bowl game, led the Big Ten in rushing (2007) and passing (2008), while topping the 5,000-yard mark in total offense for just the third and fourth times in school history. Wolford was a Rivals Top-20 National Recruiter in 2008.
Wolford spent three seasons (2004-06) at Arizona as the offensive line coach, where he was on the same staff as Mark Stoops. UA led the league in fewest sacks allowed in 2004 and was second in 2005. He was also an integral part of back-to-back top-25 recruiting classes.
Wolford spent the 2003 season at North Texas, where his offensive line paved the way for tailback Patrick Cobbs, who earned the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Award. Wolford also helped lead UNT to its third-consecutive bid to the New Orleans Bowl.
Before joining North Texas, Wolford enjoyed three-year stints at both Houston and South Florida. While at Houston, he coached a number of positions, spanning offense, defense and special teams. In 2002, Houston enjoyed a dramatic turnaround, going from a winless season to five victories. During that time, Wolford coached five all-conference players.
Wolford had the unique experience of coaching in the first three seasons of the USF football program, helping to lead the Bulls to two winning seasons. In year two, the offense put up over 400 yards per game.
Wolford began his coaching career at his alma mater, Kansas State, where he worked as a graduate assistant with the offensive line under John Latina. He then spent two years as the offensive line and strength coach at Emporia State.
Wolford was a four-year starter as an offensive guard at K-State under Bill Snyder. He went on to start 34 games in his career, including 21 at right guard and 13 at left guard. During his senior year, the Wildcats won the school’s first bowl game in the 1993 Copper Bowl, defeating Wyoming. After college, Wolford signed a free-agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals before returning to Manhattan to embark on his coaching career.
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Wolford, 52, attended Ursuline High School where he was enshrined into the school’s athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.
He received his bachelor’s degree in social sciences with a focus on monetary policy and banking from Kansas State in 1994. He and his wife, Melinda, have two children, Stone and Marlee.
Eric and Melinda started a non-profit organization, inspired by their son, Stone, who was diagnosed with Cardiofaciocutaneous Syndrome (CFC Syndrome) as a baby. Their foundation is called the No Stone Unturned Foundation and is dedicated to embracing, engaging, and empowering children with special needs and their families, with a major focus on any child with any disability. For more information on the No Stone Unturned Foundation, visit the website here: NSUF.org.
Eric Wolford Coaching Career
|Sugar Bowl (2022); Rose Bowl (2023)
|Outback Bowl (2017), Belk Bowl (2018)
|San Francisco 49ers
|Wyndham New Orleans Bowl
|Offensive Line/Strength Coach
|Emporia State (Division II)
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