Less Style, More Substance: Dontre Wilson Poised for Breakout Season

By Patrick Maks on July 15, 2014 at 8:30a
51 Comments

On a fast and loud hype train, Dontre Wilson came to Columbus as the crown jewel of a mighty recruiting class. He swelled with the potential of being Ohio State’s next big thing.

Remember this time last year?

Remember the way coach Urban Meyer salivated over the DeSoto, Texas, speedster?

Remember the glowing first impressions his teammates offered when asked to describe the then-freshman running back?

Remember the inevitable comparisons to former Florida and NFL star Percy Harvin?

It’s because Wilson is the poster child of the kind of players Meyer — whose penchant for blazing fast, explosive and twitchy athletes is well documented — wants at Ohio State.

“He’s got something that we didn’t have and that’s just electric speed,” Meyer said last August. “He’s got jets.”

In a national championship or bust kind of season, Wilson was supposed to be the X factor, the secret weapon.

But by last October, Meyer’s affinity for a player born to play in his style of offense had ebbed. In its absence came blunt and brutal criticism for one of the nation’s finest recruits.

Just months after gushing about Wilson, Meyer — a man calculated and stingy with compliments — called Wilson a “hood ornament.”

“He's got to become a football player,” he said after the team’s primetime win against Northwestern, a game where Wilson saw limited playing time. “Right now he's a novelty.”

In the shadows of Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde and Corey “Philly” Brown, Wilson still touched the ball, but less than before. He did less. He meant less.

“My head wasn’t getting big over the hype, I just wanted to come in and play,” Wilson said. “The year didn’t turn out how I wanted it to.”

Or as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman put it in March: “He didn’t know what the hell he was doing and didn’t know how to do it.”

While Wilson finished the season with 465 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, he fell short of massive, and probably unrealistic, expectations heaped on him during the preseason. 

No, Dontre Wilson didn’t live up to the hype last year, but that doesn’t mean he’s unworthy of it.

“I think Dontre Wilson could be the most dynamic offensive player on the team along with Braxton Miller this year.”– Phil Steele

“I think Dontre Wilson could be the most dynamic offensive player on the team along with Braxton Miller this year,” Phil Steele, college football guru and author of the famed/annual Phil Steele’s College Football Preview, told Eleven Warriors. 

“Keep in mind, he was a running back, they switched him to a slot. He was still sort of learning the position last year but now he knows the position inside and out. He was probably the best playmaker in the spring, understands the position.

“I think he’s going to be Braxton Miller’s security blanket. If you want to keep Braxton Miller healthy, he’s going to get that ball out of there quickly. Well, what better way to get the ball out of there quickly than hitting your slot receiver.

“I think Wilson is going to have a fantastic year for Ohio State and be one of the marquee players in the country at the end of the year statistically out of that position.”

It’s high praise, but it makes sense. Wilson has world-class speed. Put those wheels in open space and you have the Urban Meyer offensive machine operating at a high level of efficiency. Simple, right?

It only works if Wilson can do more.

“I think 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 'Hey, this guy's either getting the ball or getting faked the ball,’” Herman said. “He's got to be able to be trustworthy enough to put on the field and say, ‘He's just a guy running a route’ he's not 'Hey, red flag, bells and whistles, look here.'"

That’s the difference between a novelty and a football player.

“I just didn’t feel like I was that involved,” Wilson said. “I pretty much felt like a decoy.

“But now, things have changed.”

But the expectations? The hype?

Those stay the same.

51 Comments

Comments

Orangeslash's picture

He has showed flashed of brilliance and speed. I think he was just overshadowed by Hyde, and would have gotten more touches if Hyde wasn't just a massive stallion last year. We'll need him much more this year, and I really think he'll be a key player in our offense.

+9 HS
ChimdiCheckyaselfbeforeyawreckyaself's picture

Agreed - and, let's keep in mind, it was HIS FIRST YEAR! Not often do freshman come in and just take over, nothing wrong with that

A little is better than nada, sometimes you want the whole enchilada

+11 HS
robobuck's picture

I get what Herman is trying to say but don't we want other teams to have to key in on players? If they know he's either getting the ball or getting faked the ball, then they essentially know nothing, right?

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  1 Corinthians 9:24

+6 HS
CGroverL's picture

Well....they STILL KNOW that "lightning in a bottle" has come onto the field. This means the defense is going to give Wilson no breathing room, and possibly put other players in place to make sure that Wilson's speed doesn't just take over a drive with a one play strike that may come from even getting Wilson a quick pass behind the line. You say that the opponents knew nothing but just knowing how explosive he is tells them to not let that kid beat you just because he probably has better wheels than any player on the defense. It causes defenses to change their sets and make it to where Wilson doesn't turn 5 yard pass plays into 70 yard TD's. Just knowing the speed is there makes the defense make adjustments no matter what they know exactly. And it just so happens that the hype told them enough to let them know to not let Wilson beat them with big plays. That, along with Wilson not knowing the position and how to correctly run the plays is most probably why Wilson was used more of an unused threat...that way the defense has to change what they were going to do without Wilson in the game as Wilson was used more to just make the defense to commit to the fact that he was on the field more than anything.

If Wilson is ready as a slot/H-back this season, he should get the ball more instead of being a decoy as he was last season. Obviously, with speed like his, the more times he gets the ball, the more often he will take it to the house. Like people have said though, he was just a freshman last year and historically freshmen rarely see the field at all...and Wilson just wasn't ready to play a new position last season. Last but not least, I've heard from people that I trust that there is no possible way that Wilson is close to 190 pounds yet. He may get there, if more size is what he needs, but I think he just needs to learn the position and playbook and we will be thinking of him as a Ted Ginn Jr. type gamebreaker...just as we all expect him to be, even if he weighs just 175 pounds.

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

+1 HS
Mean Mr Mustard's picture

I think there is a pretty simple explanation why Samuels is spending most of his time w/ the RB's and Wilson is spending most of his time working w/ the receivers.  Those two will be spending the majority of their times at those positions.  I don't think either will be 50/50 hybrids.

There is no reason to try to "bulk up" Wilson.  Gain as much lean muscle as possible w/o losing a step....yes.  Bulk up..no.  Urban recruited Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey at Florida, so he wants speed.  Tasvon Austin is a slot/H that weighs about 10lbs less than Wilson.

Furious George 27's picture

Wilson is now 190, which I believe is 15LBs more than when he showed up.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

GVerrilli92's picture

This, but a step further.
Hyde and the power read was our identity last year. The lack of multiplicity and variation made it impossible for Dontre to walk on the field without the opposing MLB screaming his head off

How many cheeseburgers are you gunna drive into that dirty old cheeseburger locker Brady Hoke?

+1 HS
BuckeyeinSavannah's picture

I was at my neighbors (UF fan) watching the Cal game and he didn't know who Dontre was and he said out loud....Holy shit that kid is fast.  He didn't believe me that Dontre was a freshman and that Kenny was our backup.     

+6 HS
CGroverL's picture

I live in the land of UF fans...it is 100% unreal how they can make all of their great "SEC is so great" statements along with their lovely "anti-Ohio State" comments without even knowing that Braxton Miller is not leading the offense and that Ohio State has ALWAYS been fast. Fans of SEC teams can be more ridiculous than we Buckeye fans VERY easily. At least we know the players on the teams we may talk garbage about. To them, it is just SEC, SEC...SEC, SEC and SEC and blah, blah, blah. Living in Florida makes you hate SEC fans almost as much as you can't stand to talk to fans from TTUN. I do not hate any SEC teams...but I have enough hate for their ridiculous fans to fill a couple landfills and "The Big House" with garbage leftover for a white-out night in Beaver Stadium.

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

+1 HS
IH8UOFM's picture

After reading this comment last night I spent the rest of the night watching his highlights. +1

+1 HS
osu407's picture

It may sound crazy but I hope we have a guy like Dontre's last season every year. A good distraction is generally under rated and a great way to get a freshman's feet wet rather than have a redshirt. The key is just to have guys around him that are like how we hope this year's Dontre will be. Imagine how much of an advantage it would be to get the ball in Dontre's hands while the defense is looking at somebody else. The key is just to have playmakers at every position, which is why Urban has recruited the way he has. As for candidates for this year, the first one that comes to mind is Samuel, but since he is supposed to be more of a running back than h back, it may be someone like Cambell if he doesn't redshirt due to his young age. 

+4 HS
apack614's picture

The guy's a great player we have all seen that (at least those that have seen the highlight films) if you havent I would encourage you to go watch them and recognize how good he can be. I hope like hell he worked hard this offseason because when someone as great as Urban Meyer recruits you that hard you better be ready to work your a** off and get the job done.

"If we worked half as hard as our band, we'd be champions." - Woody Hayes

+1 HS
BroJim's picture

Let's hope his blocking has improved. 

I season my simple food with hunger

+6 HS
lsjSnail's picture

Elliott sure hopes so.

+2 HS
avail31678's picture

Word is he gained 15 lbs.  I'm guessing his blocking will improve, which should equal more touches.

AlwayzABuckeye614's picture

^^Well he wasnt big enough to block anybody last year. He's put on almost 20 lbs so it could be possible he will be able to sustain blocks better. 

+5 HS
BroJim's picture

yes, size is one thing but you also have to learn how to block. Wilson was probably not asked to do a lot of blocking in high school given his assets. 

I season my simple food with hunger

+5 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

I wasn't that high on the kidII didn't have unreal expectations of Dontre. I knew he was a freshman and not many freshmen blow up that much. almost 500 yards as a freshman is not that bad, especially when you take into the fact that he had 75% of those yards and 2 of his 3 touchdowns in the first 8 games. His usage rate went down a lot and YES he did become a decoy. Just another thing to worry about for the defenses.

I again don't expect him to become the sole stud on this team this year either. There are too many good players on this team. I expect him to have a year like Deanthony Thomas would have. Electric plays that will blow you away, but he won't be the focal point of this offense. If he ends up with more than 800 yards combined, I will consider that amazing!

and I love how many are shying away from Elliott being able to do what the offense is designed to do, run zone read and beat down the opponent 3-5 yards at a time. Not us of course, but many out there are thinking this whole offense will change because there is no more Hyde. I don't see it changing that much.

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

+7 HS
AndyVance's picture

...and I love how many are shying away from Elliott being able to do what the offense is designed to do, run zone read and beat down the opponent 3-5 yards at a time. Not us of course, but many out there are thinking this whole offense will change because there is no more Hyde. I don't see it changing that much.

As the kids say these days, "So much this." EZE may not get 20 carries per game in this backfield (I think El Guapo averaged something like 19 carries in his 11 games last season - it was 11, right?), but he's going to be the heavy hitter, knock-someone-on-their-ass ball carrier on this squad. I'm excited to see his development, and how he and Dontre contrast as two of the three or four non-Braxton weapons in this offense come October/November.

-1 HS
clogan1032's picture

I agree with this especially in regards to Elliot.  Hyde has very big shoes to fill but I don't think the offence has to change that much to be uber successful with Elliot as the feature back.  Should make for an exciting year,

Barnsey69's picture

I pretty much felt like a decoy.

Yep, but those days are over.  

Holy shit that kid is fast. 

Now all of the Buckeyes opponents get to use this quote too.

Gonna be a good year, I can feel it. 

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes!

+3 HS
Citrus's picture

In the early part of the season I was excited to see Wilson on the field. I wanted to see that explosive speed I'd been hearing about. His first few touches, you could see it. As the play developed he was just a shoe string tackle away from breaking a TD. As the season progressed I was no longer excited when he entered the game. It seemed that even the slightest touch would result in a tackle. I am excited to see that he has gained muscle. This should help him break some of those would be shoe string tackles. 

Favorite Dontre moment: (Kid didn't back down) 

 

+12 HS
808buckeye's picture

I love you DONTRE!!!!

seize the carpe

+1 HS
Killer nuts's picture

I think we'll see a lot of this next year

+9 HS
Barnsey69's picture

Holy shit that kid is fast.

Great example, shrugs off the arm tackle too. 

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes!

BuckeyeJ's picture

Very good highlight. There was several times he almost was going to take to the house but got ankle tackled. This year with more fast twitch muscle on him he should be different. Not to mention u have Eze and others in the back field! And I caint wait to see Marshal and Samuel!!

+3 HS
GVerrilli92's picture

Fast twitch (high impulse - low torque) vs Slow twitch (low impulse - high static torque and endurance) composition is determined genetically. Doesn't change over ones life, only size of tissue (hypertrophy), neurological efficiency, and max VO2 levels can be manipulated. #ExerciseSportScienceMajor

How many cheeseburgers are you gunna drive into that dirty old cheeseburger locker Brady Hoke?

thatlillefty's picture

I don't think last season was a disappointment at all. Kid came in as a true frosh and made plays. We just had a lot of weapons and options for spreading the ball around. In lieu of Hyde this year, I think he gets a lot more touches and becomes a household name by the end of the season. He's just so electric.

+5 HS
whobdis's picture

I rewatched a few games during the offseason..as a few have mentioned it's amazing how many runs were just a half step away from breaking it. Maybe he needs to learn that little high step kick that Braxton uses from time to time. And I don't think it was Urban who started the hype as much as other players..I even think Urban said the talk need to be toned down a bit. I think someone had the stats and he still had more yards as a FR than Wiley..who many think had a spectacular FR year (most due to his first game.)

+1 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

Last year, Dontre wasn't on the field enough to be considered a "regular".  When he came in, everyone knew he would get the ball, or be a decoy.  When he lines up as the starter, and gets to play every down, the defense will HAVE TO ACCOUNT for him on every play.  This will lead to the defense getting lazy and not accounting for him on occassion.  And we all know that a quick-hitter to him with just a little separation can lead to a BIG, BIG PLAY.

Also, I cannot wait to see all the speed we will have to line up out in space.  Our receivers are QUICK, and I expect bigger and better this year.

It's going to be another fun season!!

Marc Pocock (a.k.a NuttyBuckeye)

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

+2 HS
Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Forgive me for not joining in the hype machine, but I'm in wait and see mode.  Every guy that comes into OSU brings some hype, some more than others.  Some eventually get it, others don't.  I'm always hoping they all get it and become superstars, but the reality is they all don't.  

Read my entire screen name....

+2 HS
irishfury's picture

lol please change your user name.

Second almost 500 yards for a true freshman?  Not to shabby if you ask me. About 80 yards less then Percy Harvins freshman year.

+1 HS
Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Did you read my entire name?

I don't doubt his talent.  I doubt the fact that he will no longer be tackled by a stiff breeze and the fact that he has been able to completely understand all of his responsibilities in the system.  I hope I'm wrong though.

Read my entire screen name....

Furious George 27's picture

His numbers were pretty good as a freshman in a new position, especially considering you pretty much knew he was touching the ball when he came in. You add in more threats on the outside and the D cannot key on him like they did last season.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

ibuck's picture

Nice [football] story, Patrick. I think you'll fit in well around here. 

We love numbers and stats here, and it would be great if we knew Dontre's weight and height now, after a year of being Marotti'd.  That info might not be available right now, but would you please see if you can add it in your future stories (like Dave Bell's height & weight)?  Thanks, and keep writing.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+3 HS
avail31678's picture

Just as an FYI, he supposedly gained 15-20 lbs.  If he maintains his speed- and I'm sure he will....look out!

buckeyedude's picture

My guess is that the lightbulb on top of Dontre's head will turn on this year.

No hype...i just expect him to have a MUCH better year than last. Most progress is from freshman to sophomore year. Watch out!

 

 

CC's picture

I don't think last year was a disappointment.  We had a freshman come in and contribute to a good degree.  He was surrounded by one of the best QB's and one of the best RB's in college football yet he still got a bumch of touches.  I expect more this year but I don't feel like he let anyone down last year.

+1 HS
BuckeyesALLDAY1's picture

DONTRE will have a great season..Samuel will surprise a lot of ppl this yr he will be moved all around the field jet sweeps screens and out of the backfield..This offense can be better than last Year in my eyes 

+1 HS
BuckeyesALLDAY1's picture

The speed is ridiculous on this team and the perimeter players will have a great season because braxton is always going to be #1 on defenses scouting reports to stop 

ibuck's picture

Speed is good, but it's not everything. Meyer is always harping on making guys miss—in other words, not going down easily.

I recall Woody calling a Champ Henson run, where there were quite a few missed tackles, a string of pearls. Champ sometimes ran right through guys.

If a ball carrier goes down on first contact, foot-speed can be fairly well negated. 

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+1 HS
zebiraross's picture

I don't feel like he got enough touches, or saw the field enough last year. Yes, He's not perfect but neither was Philly B. He was to explosive not to touch the ball more than he did last year despite his flaws.

Zeb

+2 HS
BuckeyesALLDAY1's picture

I agree he didn't touch the ball enough and urban fell in love with brax and Carlos getting all the carries..This team should be unstoppable if the ball I spread around.

+1 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

I'll take substance over form any day.

Knarcisi's picture

Ala Roy Scheider, "We're gonna need a lot more footballs."  

ronbizi's picture

Still confused how 465 total yards and 3 touchdowns as a true freshman at The Ohio State University isn't a good year.  Those numbers as a senior, then I'll say 'meh'

+3 HS
512buckeye's picture

This is the world we live in. I'm pretty sure Dontre was disappointed that he didn't produce more. He just needs more touches.

Let's party, Columbus.

ToetotheFace's picture

Reality is, if you compare it to elite dual threat/slot guys like Austin, Harvin, etc., it becomes obvious that he is very much in that league as a freshman. People need to be a little patient, he has all the talent to produce prolifically.

avail31678's picture

So everyone keeps talking about decoys etc...we are near the point where every skill player IS a decoy/weapon!  Samuel, Elliot, Braxton, Dontre, Devin Smith, Dixon, Clark, Marshall etc etc etc

+1 HS
ScarletNGrey01's picture

DWill definitely showed "flashes of brilliance" last season and did well for a freshman.  Coming in this season with experience under his belt, a year older and weighing in at a few more pounds ... could be some exciting times ahead.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Larryp713's picture

I am excited to see what he can do. I think he put a lot of pressure on himself last year and probably pressed a little too much. He will be more relaxed this year.

Respectfully,

Larryp713