Ohio State Football Notebook: Wilson Working on Becoming a Complete Player

By Kyle Rowland on October 15, 2013 at 5:00p
Getting up to speed.

When Philly Brown arrived at Ohio State, he was coming off an All-American high school career in suburban Philadelphia that included over 3,000 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns. Brown also sprinkled in 1,500 receiving yards and ran the 200-meter dash in 21.4 seconds.

He was Dontre Wilson before Dontre Wilson. Brown was a running back with a burst of speed that attracted recruiters from near and far. And like Wilson, Brown had growing pains early in his career.

Year 1 resulted in 132 total yards and a touchdown. He was named the Ohio State’s most outstanding freshman offensive player, but his stats left much to be desired.

“Dontre is in the same position I was,” Brown said. “He was a running back in high school just like I was so, he has to learn. If he just works on his routes and gets in the weight room, he’ll be a good player.”

Those are two objectives the coaching staff has for Wilson. Follow them and he could become the dynamic player Brown has evolved into.

Through the first three games, Wilson’s stats improved steadily, from 29 total yards to 57 all the way up to 107 at Cal. In back-to-back games against San Diego State and Cal, Wilson touched the ball 16 times. But in the three games since, Wilson has gained a whopping 54 yards from scrimmage. He didn’t even play an offensive snap at Northwestern and has received six touches in the past three games.

Meyer, Tom Herman and Stan Drayton have each stressed that Wilson has several areas to work on before he becomes the force many expected.

“Dontre is a valuable guy,” Meyer said Monday. “Problem is he’s a novelty right now as opposed to a full-time player. Full-time players have to go block Sam linebackers and those kind of things, and we are not quite ready. But we are working at it. There’s other ways that we can be creative in getting him involved.”

Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said it’s difficult to use him as a decoy because of his size and when he’s in the game, the offense generally knows what’s coming.

“The biggest thing is he’s got to be able to go in the game and play different positions and it not be a red flag that this guy is either getting the ball or getting faked the ball,” Herman said. “He’s got to just be a regular guy, whether it be as a slot receiver or in the backfield. He’s got to be trustworthy enough to put on the field and say he’s just a guy running a route.”

Wilson isn’t shy at admitting the college game is more difficult than expected. Everyone’s big and fast in Division I football.

Percy Harvin is the guy most often linked to Wilson’s skill set, and for good reason. In a Meyer-coached offense, both unlock a key to success. They spread defenses thin and have the ability to reach the end zone every time they catch the ball. Even with Wilson’s shortcomings, Meyer wants him on the field. But he pointed out that Harvin did more than make defenders miss.

“[Wilson] deserves to play. He works hard,” Meyer said. “You know, this time next year, he’s going to be a rocked up, 350-pound benching guy – we hope. Percy was a 400-pound benching guy that when he blocked you, he blocked you. So that’s where we have to get with [Wilson].”

The diminished role has coincided with the return of Carlos Hyde, but Meyer indicated a Thunder and Lightning duo would be a welcome development.

“I think if you have a Dontre Wilson and a Carlos Hyde as a tag team back there, I think that’s exactly kind of what you’re looking for,” he said.

Meyer expanded on that line of thinking a week before Hyde even returned. Following the best game of his career, Wilson was deemed a “breakaway talent” by his head coach. Meyer said Braxton Miller was the only game-breaker the Buckeyes had in 2012.

“Now there’s some other guys that have a bit of a breakaway,” Meyer said after the win at Cal. “Dontre is a guy, to have a horizontal threat in this offense, other than your quarterback, that’s a must.”

Most would agree, and some aren’t all that concerned about Wilson’s progression. They know it’s inevitable. Establishing yourself is a process every player goes through. Brown has lived it and sees a future for Wilson that’s limitless. 

“Dontre is going to be a ridiculous player here at Ohio State,” he said. “Obviously, he has a lot of stuff to clean up and that’s why he doesn’t play as much as he should. But I feel like as he matures, he can potentially be one of the best players to ever play here.”

The Horseshoe equals frustration for opponents. Kirk Ferentz is winless at Ohio Stadium.

House of Horrors

Ohio Stadium is one of America’s grand sporting cathedrals. Visiting coaches, players and fans often relish the opportunity to make the trip to Columbus. The same is true for Iowa, even though the Hawkeyes have a poor history in the Horseshoe.

Iowa last won in Ohio Stadium in November of 1991. Since then, Ohio State has won all six games played at home and 12 of 13 in the series. The average margin of victory in Columbus is on target with the point spread – 17.

A Hawkeye victory on Saturday would not only be the biggest upset of the season, it would represent Iowa’s biggest win in the Kirk Ferentz era. The Hawkeyes have pulled off similar stunners in recent years, knocking off a top-five opponent three straight seasons, from 2008-2010.

Those pesky Buckeyes have proved elusive, though. The last Iowa win was of the blowout variety, 30-7, in 2004 at Kinnick Stadium. It was the third consecutive loss of the season for Ohio State, a team that was battling through youth and quarterback woes. The teams did play a winner-take-all classic in 2009, with the Buckeyes prevailing in overtime and clinching a Rose Bowl berth.

But all that’s happened in the past is irrelevant this week. The teams are different and only a handful of players from the 2009 game remain. Simply put, 4-2 Iowa enters the game confident after a bye week.

“We’re just going in optimistic,” defensive lineman Carl Davis said. “We’re going to keep building. We’re going to keep chipping away. As a competitor, I want to be able to play the best teams. They’re going to compete, and we’re going to compete. That’s football.”

After an off week and wins over ranked opponents in back-to-back weeks, Ohio State could be getting comfortable. Meyer and his assistants scoff at the idea of complacency. Those scarlet-and-gray-clad fans filling the seats on Saturday might be sitting on their hands, though. Popular opinion points to the Buckeyes winning the next five games with little resistance.

Iowa is one of those teams that could be the “everything went wrong game.” Top-five teams seem to play one every season. The Buckeyes know it all too well, nearly stumbling against Purdue a year ago. The Hawkeyes’ losses are to Northern Illinois and Michigan State, two quality teams.

Catch Ohio State napping on Saturday and the college football world could be turned upside down.

“Every team is tough in the Big Ten,” Davis said. “We don’t look at it as a tough schedule. We look at it as an opportunity to make plays, an opportunity to get more wins.”

Shazier the Scout

In a volleyball gymnasium on the campus of East Tennessee State University, one spectator sat intently watching the action. Between spikes and digs, Urban Meyer was glancing at his iPad. Penn State and Michigan were playing, and the head coach didn’t want to miss a snap.

The game proved to be a classic, with the Nittany Lions prevailing in four overtimes. It sent State College into a frenzy and made Ryan Shazier one happy Buckeye. He was watching the game at Joel Hale’s house in Indiana, but opted not to see the ending.

“I already knew who I wanted to lose, so that’s all that matters,” Shazier said. When he was asked to explain which team that was, Shazier smiled and responded: “They lost.”

Brown and Hale said when they watch games live, it’s as a fan. They aren’t breaking down the offenses and defenses and they don’t compare how Ohio State might stack up. Shazier is different, though. He watches games with a coach’s eye.

“You start wondering where you stack up,” Meyer said, “Then I tried to click right back into, ‘Don’t worry about that. Just take care of your own business.’”

But that didn’t stop Meyer from doing some minor politicking, saying the Buckeyes are right there when talking about the elite teams.

Shazier saw much of the top five play and from his vantage point, they weren’t much better than the Buckeyes, if at all.

“I saw a lot of good teams play and I feel like we can play with any of them,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens. When the time comes, we’ll play who we have to play.”


Comments Show All Comments

unholy bucknut's picture

Hopefully Dontre can make that transition from novelty guy to well rounded guy.

SweetBabyJames's picture

isn't dontre averaging 9.2 yards per carry, and 9.2 per catch???
if i was a reporter, thats what i would have asked urban....
urban says the whole defense knows he's going to get the ball???and yet he still is averaging those numbers...
another thing with wilson...i thought i read somewhere that he has more all purpose yards through this many games in his career than many buckeyes....ginn, wells, ect...
so sounds to me, compared to past ohio state players and his current yards per touch averages...i dont know where this rookie wall talk is coming from?
...ormaybe its not all about yards...*2 fumbles, and not being able to bench 350...
but you cant complain about his numbers

dwcbuckeye's picture

Those are exactly my thoughts.  Just because you think you know who is going to get the ball, doesn't mean you can stop it, particularly with Dontre running behind Hyde's blocks.  Just give him the ball  at the TB position and see what happens.  No tricks, just hit the hole fast and see if they can catch you. 

ArizonaBuckeye's picture

I agree with both of what you're saying. However, Dontre needs to get stronger so he can pass protect and block LBs as Meyer said. ALSO, Dontre needs to work on holding on to the football. I don't care if he's averaging 9 yards a touch. If he's a liability in holding on the to the ball he shouldn't get the touches.

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you." -Woody Hayes-

Chief B1G Dump's picture

Darnell Jefferson had the same problem and he turned out to be a stud.  They made him carry a ball everywhere he went and if anyone anywhere anytime could strip it from him, then there was going to be trouble.  It worked.

Dontre is a true frosh.  He'll get some meat on him and handle blocks, hang on to the rock and be strong enough to break those last pesky shoelace tackles!

CCatanzaro's picture

Great reference. +1

Dairy-fed intellect and pure, unhinged sass.


Toilrt Paper's picture

You would rather have Dontre Wilson on the field instead of Philly Brown??

sharks's picture

I know my pulse quickens when I see #1 run into the offensive huddle.
I'm not worried about him at all- if he can hang on to the ball, he's going to make jaws drop for 4 years in Columbus.
Memo to Jalin Marshall- pay attention to the criticisms being leveled at Wilson- get in the weight room and work on your blocking.

A man got to have a code...

ArizonaBuckeye's picture

Agreed. The kid is electric and has the potential to be one of OSUs elite of all time. He just needs to hold onto the football.

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you." -Woody Hayes-

unholy bucknut's picture

Eddie George had these same issues and look how he turned out. Im excited about this kid but the coaches have their reasons for limiting his touches whatever it may be. I just can't wait to see what this kid becomes.

ArizonaBuckeye's picture


"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you." -Woody Hayes-

Buckeye06's picture

I don't think Marshall needs to "get in the weight room" like Wilson does.  Kid is pretty big already from pictures before fall camp started

zebiraross's picture

did anyone notice in the northwestern game, when dontre was returning kickoff that Zeke made him stop 3 separate times when dontre wanted to run? Dontre was pissed lol. Honestly, let him take it even 5 yards deep. He might get stopped at the 15 a couple times, but I guarantee he'll take one to the house more times then they stop him. Not happy to see Hall taking Dontres spot on return.

In the offense you have to keep feeding him until a team proves they can stop him. No one has done that yet. All players have deficiencys, if his is blocking then don't have him block for now considering he is working on it. Imo I think the main worry for the coaches is turn overs. He turned one over already, and has had it pop out a few times as well.


InHartWeTrust's picture

Hall took his spot on returns?!  I haven't read, just some some Tweets, but I thought it was saying Hall was just remaining the #2 returner and taking over PR.  I like Hall on punt returns (Philly scares me), but a huge what the fuck on Hall bumping Dontre from returning kicks.

extemporary08's picture

Returning a kickoff from 5-10 yards deep in the endzone is just a terrible idea

InHartWeTrust's picture

More Dontre!!!!
But seriously, I really hope he continues working hard (Urban always say he works his ass off) to improve on what he needs to, and they reward him with the ball more often in the second half of the season.  Getting him in the game against these weaker opponents will be great for his development and to further evaluate where he stands.  I understand to an extent limiting his touches against his first big opponents, in close games, especially once he let the ball slip away against Wisc on his first touch (although I wasn't happy about it).  I do remember them saying going into the Wisc game they had 16 packaged plays for Wilson to get the ball...so it seemed like they wanted him to get the ball, then something changed.  It also seemed like that is when Herman filled into an ultra conservative play called.
As the guys above said, they knows it's coming when he is in, but they can't stop him...he still averages 9.5 a touch...so get him the pill.

Deadly Nuts's picture

We need to run more play action with Dontre in the game. He does not get the ball so he will not fumble, and everyone on the defense goes after him just to have Smith wide open in the endzone....


Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Ryan DAMN Shazier - my kinda football player!!!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Wanderer59's picture

Give It to # 21.

John W. McDaniel

Dougger's picture

RDS - so many reasons to love this guy:

“I already knew who I wanted to lose, so that’s all that matters,” Shazier said. When he was asked to explain which team that was, Shazier smiled and responded: “They lost.”

Not too many things also get me more jacked up than watching a wide receiver get some good blocking in. Philly Brown is really good at it I think.

I like football