On Urban Meyer’s favorite Dontre Wilson-related play from Ohio State’s 63-14 win over Penn State, the freshman running back wasn’t taking a swing pass to the house or breaking a kick return past the 50-yard line. Rather, the 5-10, 174-pounder was doing the one thing that kept him from being the major factor in the Buckeyes’ offense that many anticipated he would be in the first half of his freshman season.
“I see a guy on one of our big plays, he was blocking,” Meyer said of Wilson. “That means he's learning to be a full-time member.”
It was just a week earlier that the second-year Ohio State coach referred to the one-time four-star prospect as a “novelty.” Sure, Wilson could run really fast, but for the better part of the Buckeyes’ first seven games, that’s all he could do -- and opposing teams knew it.
As a result, defenses were on alert any time No. 1 on the OSU offense subbed into the game. Through the Buckeyes’ first seven contests of 2013, Wilson compiled 158 yards rushing the ball, 114 receiving, and just one touchdown -- meager numbers for a player who was touted before the season as the defining difference in an Ohio State offense that was supposed to reach new heights in its second season under Meyer.
It may have taken longer than many expected it would, but in the days leading up to the Buckeyes’ beat down of the Nittany Lions, Wilson finally showed his head coach that he was capable of being more than just a one-trick pony.
“I’m going harder and harder in practice every week,” the DeSoto, Texas native proclaimed. “Coach wants me to be a complete receiver and that’s what I’m doing. I’m getting a lot more opportunities to show everybody what I can do.”
Against Penn State, that meant taking one rush for 12 yards, and turning two receptions into 35 yards -- 26 of which came on a swing pass that went for a touchdown. Factor in a 49-yard kick return and Wilson totaled 96 yards against the Nittany Lions, something which Meyer saw as a byproduct of his star freshman's evolving skill set.
“It's not just, ‘Dontre's in the game,’” Meyer said. “So he'll be more and more involved.”
That’s just fine with Wilson, who has been patiently waiting for his opportunity to be a bigger part of the Ohio State game plan. The reigning Dallas-area Offensive Player of the Year knows that the number of touches he receives is directly correlated to the growth he shows in practice, which is why he found himself on the field more often during the Buckeyes’ latest victory.
“I always went hard in practice, but lately, I’ve been blocking a lot better,” Wilson said. “As I progress in practice, I get more P.T. and more touches, and lately I’ve been doing pretty good.”
While some have already been impressed by what Wilson’s shown in his short college career, Meyer knows that his best days are ahead of him. Perceived by some to be Meyer’s Columbus version of former Florida star Percy Harvin, Wilson is already in the process of adding the necessary bulk to his body that he needs to become a consistent threat in both the Buckeyes’ run and pass games.
“He's pretty lethal with the ball in his hands,” Meyer said. “Wait until you see him next year. We'll get him big and strong. He's gained 15 pounds since he's been here.”
But according to Wilson, his potential might not be as far away as it may seem. Every touch that the 18-year-old receives is already met by gasps thanks to his obvious speed, but Wilson is still waiting to make the big play that meets the lofty expectations that he brought with himself to Columbus.
And when he does, it will be apparent to everyone.
“I haven’t gotten it yet,” Wilson insisted. “You’ll know when I get it, when I break a 60 or 70-yarder.