Wilson MIA at Northwestern; Meyer, Herman Explain Why
By John Porentas
In the space of one weekend the Dontre Wilson hype turned into the Dontre Wilson APB.
Photo by Dan Harker
For those of you who have never watched a movie or television show involving the police, an APB is an All Points Bulletin that is issued often when trying to find missing persons.
Just in case the title has you stumped as well, MIA is missing in action. Most of you knew that, but for the few that didn't, there it is.
Wilson was all the talk this fall, but against Northwestern he was almost non-existent and was certainly a non-factor. Turns out that wasn't because of some oversight by the OSU coaching staff.
"I think the Northwestern game we had kind of progressed him at the level we had expected," said OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"Then by his own admission he didn't have a great week of practice and that coupled with the fact that the defensive cover structure that Northwestern was predominantly in the whole night, which was a cover three with the corners out, really protecting the alleys, really not giving a whole lot of options in the perimeter run game, it just didn't work itself out in a way that we had hoped."
In other words, Northwestern's defensive scheme was taking Wilson out of the game.
There was also the issue of another Buckeye having a huge night.
"Carlos got hot and so every time Dontre touches the ball Carlos doesn't," continued Herman.
The preseason hype surrounding Wilson was that he is a playmaker extrodinaire that will strike fear into defenses. Ironically, that may be exactly why he didn't see the field much last Saturday. Defenses are aware of him, really aware of him, and take special steps to make sure he doesn't hurt them with his speed to the outside when he is in the game.
"I think the biggest thing is that 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," said Herman.
"He's got to go out and be a regular guy whether it be a slot receiver or whether it be 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, he's not 'Hey red flag, bells and whistles, look at here,' because it started getting to the point in the second, third, fourth week of the season where he ran on the field and the entire defense was pointing and saying 'There's number one, there's number one, watch number one.'
"You saw the defenses change and all that stuff, so we've to make sure that doesn't happen."
To do that though, Wilson has to be able to do more than just run fast, that according to OSU Head Coach Urban Meyer.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"He's got to become a football player," said Meyer.
"Right now he's a novelty.
"He goes out there, we run the swing pass and throw it to him.
"He's got to go out there and block, he can't just every time he's in the game (get the football).
"That's why he didn't play much Saturday, so we're working really hard over the bye-week to make him a football player, not just a hood ornament that shows up out there all the time."
A week isn't much time to make that kind of change. Senior wide receiver Corey Brown had to make that sort of transition himself when he arrive at OSU as a speed merchant but not a very good receiver. Brown has a good idea of what it's going to take for Wilson to be the kind of player the OSU coaching staff is looking for.
"I think when this season is over he has to come out with Evan (Spencer) and Devin (Smith) and work on everything, his routes, his blocking, hit the weight room real hard so he can get stronger so there's not a play where the coaches have to take him off the field because he has to run block or because he has to run a certain route.
"If he gets out here and works on everything in the off-season and hits the weight room real hard the coaches have no choice but to put him on the field. You've got to be able to do everything."
Until then, the options are to use him in a limited role, or to hope he makes a lot of progress with his game. Using him in a limited role, however, is contrary to the overall philosophy of the OSU up-tempo offense.
"This offense we have is a real up tempo offense," said Brown.
"They like to get running backs out in space and wideouts have to be able to block up field. That's how those little seven and eight yard plays become big plays, when you have wide outs that can block downfield."
If Wilson can't do that, and if subbing him in telegraphs what's coming from the OSU offense, his playing time the rest of the season may be limited.