Reports of Dontre Wilson’s immense speed have been well documented in his first week with the Ohio State football program.
It turns out running isn’t the only thing the 5-10, 174-pound freshman does fast.
Along with linebacker Mike Mitchell, Wilson became the second OSU freshman Saturday to have the black stripe removed from his helmet – a ritual created by head coach Urban Meyer to signify when a freshman officially becomes a Buckeye.
“It is about relentless effort,” OSU receivers coach Zach Smith said Saturday. “This kid goes really hard every time he’s on the field, whether it is in ‘Flex’ or in stretches or individual drills or team vs. defense, he goes really hard.
“That’s what we’re looking for. The black stripe represents becoming a Buckeye, and he proved that he was one of us just with effort. It’s not necessarily ‘I know the plays’ or ‘I’m a great player who makes a lot of plays.’ It is now having that level of effort that we expect from our team, so you have become one of us.”
Wilson’s quick adaptation is good news for Meyer, who predicted Wilson would have an instant impact on Ohio State’s offense early in his career. Through the eight practices of fall camp, Wilson’s speed has been a welcomed addition to an offense Meyer said lacked that type of spark a year ago.
Though Wilson came to Ohio State as a running back, he has spent most of his time in the Buckeyes’ wide receivers room. Regardless of how he’s used – which will all but certainly be in a variety of ways – it’s clear the Buckeyes’ staff wants the ball in his hands.
“Dontre is a very talented guy,” Smith said. “He’s a running back, really, so that’s kind of what he’s built for and how we’re going to utilize him. Getting to work with him in the throw game also is very beneficial for the team and you always enjoy a great talent.
“He has had a number of plays. In high school, his stats were astounding. He doesn’t know left or right sometimes or whether to go I0 yards or 20 yards, but you know what – when the ball moves, he’s just going. That’s the most evident. You watch plays where he is really insignificant to the play, but just the speed in which he goes and the effort he gives makes you kind of sit there and go, ‘Wow, look at that – that’s a beautiful play.’ ”
Wilson’s potential was put on public display during an opening practice last week, particularly on a play where he ran a wheel route out of the backfield and caught a pass behind the defense for a touchdown.
On multiple other plays Wilson beat defensive backs that hand angles on the tackle to the end zone, sporting the type of big-play ability that Meyer salivated over while recruiting the former four-star prospect from DeSoto, Texas.
A former Oregon commit that flipped to OSU once coach Chip Kelly left to the Ducks to coach the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, Wilson has drawn comparisons to Oregon speedster and Heisman Trophy candidate De’Anthony Thomas.
“I’ll tell you – that little joker right there is quick,” wide receiver Evan Spencer said. “You guys will see. He is so explosive. You never know which way he is going to go or what move he’s going to make. He can really move.”
If Ohio State’s offense lacked that last year, there’s no telling where Wilson could take it. Without a speedster of Wilson’s caliber a year ago, the Buckeyes still averaged 37.2 points per game, the highest total in the Big Ten.
But a weapon like Wilson could help Meyer run his complete offense, one that would resemble the units he put together at Florida on his way to two national championships.
“We were not a big-play team last year at all,” Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. “Our fast guy was our quarterback. You need speed (at the skill positions.) To be truly a great offense, you have to have game-breakers. You either develop them or go recruit them and I'm hoping we did both.”
Follow Ari Wasserman on Twitter and find us on Facebook.