COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pulling back for a long-term look, the upside remains unchanged and the hype is deserved. Dontre Wilson clearly has the speed to change a game on the perimeter, his versatility as a rusher and receiver has been as good as advertised and the freshman is certainly a big part of the future for Ohio State moving forward.
In the short term, compared to the enormous expectations coming out of training camp as the buzz about his skills reached record levels, Wilson’s impact on the offense hasn’t been nearly as instantaneous as might have been anticipated. But for all those positive attributes that remain easy to see when the ball is in his hands, planning for success with Wilson is going to require more of him than simply flashing his athleticism as teams start to key on what he already does well — forcing him to expand his arsenal to remove some of the blinking, neon lights that might tip off a defense when he’s on the field. “He’s a novelty right now as opposed to a fulltime player,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “Fulltime players have to go block strong-side linebackers and those kind of things. We are not quite ready, but we are working at it.
“There are other ways that we can be creative in getting him involved and not necessarily say, ‘By the way, when he’s in we’re handing the ball on a stretch play or running a wheel route.’ That’s kind of what he’s been doing.”
Even with a limited package of plays, Wilson has still proven to be effective at times thanks in large part to his blazing speed and a fearless attitude. And while the freshman has averaged an identical 9.5 yards per touch as both a rusher and a target in the passing game, the Buckeyes have been somewhat cautious incorporating him into the attack and Wilson didn’t have a single rushing attempt or reception against Northwestern prior to the bye week.
Part of the reason was the effectiveness of starting tailback Carlos Hyde, who was able to wear down and overpower the Wildcats up front and left little motivation for the coaching staff to abandon what was working. With Braxton Miller also featured on the ground, that tandem in the backfield didn’t leave many more carries to go around. On a rainy night, perhaps Ohio State was also somewhat hesitant to take the football away from the veterans and give it to a first-year player who has had some ball-security issues at times this season.
But those factors have done nothing to change Wilson’s potential down the road, and they also don’t necessarily mean he won’t be involved as the Buckeyes hit the stretch run with the second half kicking off Saturday against Iowa. Wilson didn’t magically transform his body with the extra week to prepare for the Hawkeyes to become a guy suddenly capable of blowing up linebackers as a blocker, but Ohio State almost surely found a few new ways to get him involved as more than an outside-sweeping runner or wheel-route receiver.
“Can he run inside zone? Sure,” Meyer said. “Is he great at it? …
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