OSU Freshman Dontre Wilson Has Teammates Buzzing
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Big Ten Media Days represent the first chance for players and coaches to provide updates on how the summer went for the team and whether or not any particular players are making a move.
All indications this week have been that it's not just "a move" being made by freshman Dontre Wilson, but several. In fact, some of them are actually anatomically impossible.
"That boy, when he catches the ball he's like a fish running from a shark or something," quarterback Braxton Miller said of the freshman.
Wilson was recruited by Urban Meyer to play the hybrid spot that is absolutely crucial to making his offense work at full speed. Without it, the offense is a bit hamstrung as they try to work around an integral part of Meyer's system.
Running backs coach Stan Drayton said that the offense worked at about 60% last season without a true hybrid performer who could both run the ball and catch it. Now, with senior Jordan Hall, and the likes of the freshmen Wilson, Jalin Marshall and Ezekiel Elliott, everyone is expecting an uptick.
"You're going to see the offense work in its full function now," Drayton said this spring.
"We're going to displace defenders, get those linebackers out of the box. It's going to be significantly different. It should make life easier for the whole operation of the offense, no doubt about it. It's definitely going to be beneficial to the run game."
Enter the youngster from DeSoto, Texas. Last season, Wilson rushed for 1,892 yards and had 752 yards receiving. This summer, his Buckeye teammates have seen the ability that led to those numbers. Interestingly, it has been his pass catching which has caught his quarterback's eye.
"Throwing with him is a different type of feeling," Miller said. "He says 'throw it anywhere and I'll go get it.' I threw it behind him and he turned around, landed on his back and caught it. He's got something special."
Some of that "something special" comes naturally, but the rest of it took root a few years ago according to his high school coach Claude Mathis.
"Going into his junior year track season we had a talk on the way home one night," Mathis explained to the-Ozone. "It was his sophomore year. We were coming in from track and he asked me what it would take for him to be good. What would it take for him to be successful?
"That was a day that was a changing moment for him. It started everything, it fueled his maturity. It just dawned on him, what is it going to take for him to be good, how could he become good, what could he do, what did he need to work on, and I told him. And from there, he ran with it."
Wilson was quite the recruiting victory for Meyer, as he was originally committed to Oregon, and even spurned his home-state Longhorns and A&M Aggies in order to sign with the Buckeyes.
"I think that says a lot about his character because he thinks he's a mature enough kid that he can leave home and be successful," Mathis said. "Leaving the house, especially without having any family around where he's going to be. The only family that he's going to have is the family with the football team and the coaches. I think that speaks highly of character.
"Dontre's always been very strong-minded, very strong-willed. He never let anybody influence him. He makes his own decisions. That's really the kind of leader that I always thought he would be. He's definitely matured over the years that I've had him."
There were several reasons why Meyer fought so hard for Wilson's services, and now that the Buckeyes are beginning to rave about him, the head coach actually has to rein things in a bit.
"We've got to slow down on Dontre," Meyer said Thursday regarding the buzz that Wilson has created. "We've got to slow down."
Perhaps he should talk to his quarterback then.
"You need to watch out for him this year," Miller said, unconcerned about his coach's wishes to slow anything down when it comes to Wilson.
"I feel like he better be starting. He'll fit in anywhere. He can run any route or come in the backfield and take hand offs.
"He goes out there all the time with me, so he works hard with me. I'll call him up and say, 'Be ready'. He works hard, and hopefully he can show it out on the field."
Not only is Miller not "slowing down" when it comes to Wilson, but he's actually been talking about him for a while now.
"Braxton has been raving about him since he got on campus," left tackle Jack Mewhort said.
"Not only to you guys [the media], but even around the Woody he's been talking about him. In Braxton's words, he runs great routes. He's a speed guy, and we need that to go along with our weapons that we've had in the past."
But don't just take Miller's word for it, how about a description from a defender that has to match up with Wilson.
"Dontre looks to be a special player," safety Christian Bryant said. "His speed, his agility... When he catches the ball and you see how he moves, you know he's gonna be a special player."
The irony here is that Meyer wants to slow things down for a player that he signed specifically so that he could speed things up.
Expectations for a true freshman can certainly run high, but rarely are those expectations met. It's unusual for a true freshman to contribute in a statistically impactful way, but the early returns are quite promising in Wilson's case.
If those returns continue coming once the pads go on, the Buckeyes could have something pretty special on their hands.
Claude Mathis, however, has seen everything that he needs to see when it comes to his former player.
"He is good, man," he said matter-of-factly.
"He's explosive. They are getting a homerun hitter with Dontre Wilson."
And they're also getting the considerable buzz that comes with him, whether Meyer likes it or not.