Dontre Wilson looked like one of Ohio State’s premier playmakers Saturday, but he didn’t do anything particularly spectacular. That’s because he didn’t need to.
In a 34-17 win against Navy, Wilson had 166 all-purpose yards (43 rushing, 46 receiving and 77 on punt/kick returns) and glided across the field with a certain combination of speed and power that he didn’t possess his freshman season.
Yeah, we get it: Wilson is really fast. But now he’s apparently added 15-20 pounds of muscle to a once skinny frame. He can hurt you outside on a jet sweep, or up the middle on an inside zone.
That’s the difference between Dontre Wilson, the sophomore, and Dontre Wilson, the frail kid whom head coach Urban Meyer called a “novelty” and a “hood ornament” last year.
"He was a hybrid guy that really wasn't great at anything. He had potential, but couldn't block at the level we expected him to (and) was not quite strong enough to run inside like you need that hybrid guy to do,” Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days in July.
“(He) was simply an outside running player. He's gained the weight. He's much stronger.”
That coupled with world-class speed, is why it’s obvious Wilson has the potential to be a special player for Meyer’s Buckeyes. He's also an increasingly-critical part of an offense that lost senior quarterback Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder injury two weeks ago.
The supporting cast surrounding J.T. Barrett, the redshirt freshman charged with replacing Miller's star power, matters now more than ever. Wilson plays a leading role.
“Thats exactly what I did in high school. I’m prepared for it, I’m ready for it," he said Saturday in Baltimore.
At DeSoto High School in suburban Dallas, Wilson — who initially committed to play for Oregon before switching to the Buckeyes — was more talented than most of his competition. He was a start. The expectation is that he’ll be one in Columbus, too.
But for Wilson to be spectacular, he simply needs to be effective. And by that, he doesn’t need to be synonymous with big plays — which seems to be a trap players of his caliber fall into.
If Wilson can rip off 50-plus yards every time he touches the football, good for him. But what Barrett and Ohio State really need are consistent and reliable weapons. Wilson was one of them against the Midshipmen.
He didn’t hit a home run. He didn’t need to. He’s talented enough to turn simple plays into great ones.
“He's much more prepared for this level of football,” Meyer said. “He's always had the talent and he's always had the effort. He's an impact guy for us in a lot of ways.”
So don't make it harder than it has to be.