Most Important Buckeyes: No. 19
By Rob Odgen
Like No. 20 on our list, No. 19 has yet to play in a game for the Buckeyes, but by now, you’ve likely heard that Dontre Wilson was all the talk at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago last week.
The running back/wide receiver out of DeSoto, Texas, is quickly becoming the most hyped freshman at Ohio State since Ted Ginn Jr. back in 2004, and lands at No. 19 on our list of the 20 most important Buckeyes heading into the 2013 season.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 174 pounds, Wilson is poised to become somewhat of an x-factor in coach Urban Meyer’s offense.
Originally an Oregon commit, Wilson pledged his allegiance to the Buckeyes just two days before national signing day in February. During his senior season at DeSoto High School, Wilson combined for 2,645 yards of total offense and 46 touchdowns.
What Makes Him Important
It has become abundantly clear that Meyer’s offense operates at full strength only when it is able to fully utilize the hybrid “No. 3” as Meyer puts it. This specialized position was perfected at Florida, and Meyer has made its implementation a priority in Columbus.
The hybrid position is designed to force defenses to respect the ability of the No. 3 to beat them downfield, and then to use the mismatch to exploit the defense through the running game.
For instance, with the hybrid player lined up in the slot, defenses will line up to defend the pass, but when that player uses a pre-snap motion to move into the backfield, it creates a defensive mismatch and forces the defense to adjust on the fly.
The poster boy for the No 3. is Percy Harvin, who racked up 3,781 yards and 32 touchdowns on 327 touches while flawlessly occupying this position at Florida from 2006 through 2008. During each of Harvin's last two seasons with the Gators, Florida led the Southeastern Conference in scoring and total offense.
The position is now widely referred to as the ‘Percy Harvin position’ but Meyer’s use of the hybrid goes beyond his days at Florida. Utah’s Paris Warren accumulated nearly 2,200 yards and 19 touchdowns as the No. 3 in Meyer’s offense during his two years with the Utes.
In Meyer’s first year with the Buckeyes, Ohio State lacked a player capable of filling the Harvin mold, which Meyer said held the offense back.
His teammates are already raving about his speed, elusiveness and hands. Quarterback Braxton Miller said he was the most exciting freshman on the team and even said Wilson “better be starting” come fall.
Wilson could be the x-factor that takes the Buckeyes’ offense from where it operated last year at around six yards per play to where previous Meyer offenses have operated at more than seven yards per play.
What Can Be Expected Of Him
While Miller and his teammates were doing everything they could to feed the hype machine at Big Ten Media Day, Meyer was pumping the brakes on Wilson, trying to make sure expectations didn't get too high for the freshman.
Meyer made it clear that he hasn’t seen a player like Harvin since Harvin departed Florida after 2008, so to a expect a freshman to live up to that kind of hype is unrealistic, he said. But that didn't slow down Miller, who was clearly giddy about having Wilson at his disposal.
Wilson’s high school film shows how dangerous he can be – explosive through the tackles and elusive in open space.
As for what to expect in 2013, Wilson will likely be worked slowly into Ohio State’s offense, with his touches increasing as the season progresses if all goes as planned. Even if he doesn't immediately excel in the hybrid role, Miller said Wilson can fit in anywhere.
Meyer said he knew he had something special in Harvin before Harvin even suited up for the Gators. “The best looking freshman I’ve ever seen,” Meyer said in Chicago. In his first season at Florida, Harvin touched the ball 75 times for 855 yards and five touchdowns.
Those numbers are likely a bit unrealistic for Wilson his freshman season, but do provide an idea of what Wilson’s ceiling could be this year.
What Would the Buckeyes Do Without Him
Vying for the same position as Wilson will be fifth-year senior Jordan Hall. Hall relinquished the starting running back role after severely cutting his foot last offseason, and saw limited action early on before suffering a season-ending injury.
If Wilson had followed-through with his commitment to Oregon, or if he underperforms, Hall will likely be the guy who tries to fill that role. Given a full season of health, Hall could prove to be up to the task.
In 10 games in 2011, Hall’s most productive season as a Buckeye, he rushed for 405 yards and two touchdowns on 99 carries and caught 12 passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns.
Another guy mentioned by Meyer as someone who could occupy the role is freshman Jalin Marshall.
The Middletown, Ohio, product had 765 yards receiving and 11 touchdown catches along with 1,421 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground as a high school senior.
But neither Hall nor Marshall seem to fit the role as perfectly as Wilson. If he can prove to be that perfect fit, the Buckeyes’ offense should be operating in a different gear in 2013.