As a freshman playing behind Big Ten Running Back of the Year Carlos Hyde, Dontre Wilson still managed to pick up a yearly award during his first season on the Ohio State football team.
It wasn’t quite the honor the first-year player from Texas expected when he arrived at OSU, though.
“I always joke around with my teammates and say I’m the decoy of the year,” he said. “Every time I do a fake or something, we score.”
Wilson had a pretty good point, and to see that, look no further than the team’s Orange Bowl performance vs. Clemson. Faking a jet sweep to Wilson was one of Ohio State’s most effective plays, as the threat the freshman speedster provided on the edge opened up other parts of the field for the OSU offense.
The 33-yard run by Braxton Miller that gave the team a touchdown on the first drive of the game? Miller went left and had a lot of open field after faking a handoff to Wilson, who was going right. The 57-yard touchdown down the seam to Jeff Heuerman, the tight end who was so wide open he could walk into the end zone despite battling a flu virus that sapped him of strength and energy? Also came off of a fake to Wilson.
In all, it was a triumphant return to a more important role in the offense for Wilson, whose responsibility in the OSU offense was lessened near the end of the season in games vs. Michigan and Michigan State.
“It felt great to be out there with the team where I was getting the ball or a fake or anything,” he said. “It felt great to be out there.”
In fact, the Ohio State offense looked more dangerous all season when the DeSoto, Texas, product was on the field, but the punch line sort of was that Wilson had more of an impact without the ball than with it. He had just three rushes and one catch for a total of 19 yards vs. Clemson, finishing a season in which he finished with 31 rushes for 250 yards and a touchdown to go with 22 catches for 210 yards and two scores.
In all, he averaged 3.8 touches on offense per game, a total – like all skill position players – he hopes goes up next year.
“Not really, man,” he said when asked if he liked being the decoy of the year. “I wish I could get the ball 30 plays a game, but it’s all good.”
His bona fides show that he could be that guy next season with Hyde set to graduate. He’ll face competition from senior Rod Smith, fellow freshman Ezekiel Elliott and third-year players Warren Ball and Brionte Dunn – plus the usual influx of talent from OSU’s recruiting class – but Wilson isn’t one to shy from a challenge.
He tore up the field at DeSoto, one of the biggest programs in Texas that plays some of the toughest competition in the state, racking up more than 2,500 yards of offense and 46 touchdowns as a senior on the way to being named a four-star prospect by Scout and the No. 10 running back in the 2013 class.
The speed he used to dominate the high school ranks took a bit of a hit, he said, when he first arrived at Ohio State thanks to the team’s weight training program, but he hopes to be the whole package by the time the 2014 season comes around.
“My body feels way different,” Wilson said. “I kind of slowed down a little bit from high school, but I’m going to use this offseason to get faster and stronger so I can be a player for next season.”
His goal now is to “just to be a constant playmaker for the team,” one the squad can use as it comes off of consecutive losses to end a season for the second time in the past 13 years.
“It’s a lot of motivation because this team is not used to losing,” he said. “It’s bittersweet, but it’s a learning experience, so we just have to use that offseason and the spring and start fall with it as our motivation.”