New Number, New Role For Wilson

New Number, New Role For Wilson

At the end of last season, Ohio State running back Dontre Wilson labeled himself the "Decoy of the Year." But after a freshman season that didn't match his expectations, Wilson hopes to wow while playing wide receiver -- and while wearing a new number across his chest.

Before you notice the 15 pounds of muscle he's added and before you even notice that he's playing a new position, the first thing that catches your eye about Dontre Wilson when you see him at Ohio State's spring practice is the sophomore-to-be's new jersey number.

"It was my old high school number," Wilson says, looking down at the No. 2 displayed across his scarlet jersey. "I just felt like I needed to get back to me. It feels like me again, so I had to get back to No. 2."

Partly because the curves of his new number are less slimming than the lone vertical stripe that was his old number and mostly because of three dedicated months in the weight room, Wilson is noticeably bulkier than he was when he last took the field for the Buckeyes. Up to 190 pounds from the 174 he was listed at as a freshman, the 5-10 DeSoto, Texas native looks more fit for the role of college running back.

Except that's not the position that he'll be lining up at.

After a season in which Wilson saw sporadic playing time at an unspecified position, the former four-star prospect now not only has a defined role in the Buckeyes offense, but a prominent one. Through the first three weeks of spring practice, Wilson has been lining up as OSU's ‘H' wide receiver, the hybrid slot position that was formerly occupied by Corey "Philly" Brown.

And while Brown led the Buckeyes with 63 catches a season go, Wilson actually better fits what Urban Meyer and his staff would like to do at the ‘H.' Given his inherent speed and newfound strength, Wilson possesses the ability to both catch the ball downfield like a receiver and carry it out of the backfield like a running back -- just as Percy Harvin did for Meyer at Florida.

"We ‘re learning a lot of next level stuff," Wilson said of his second season in Meyer's spread offense. "Just becoming an all-out receiver is helping me with the position change. I consider myself a slot receiver, but once I get the ball, I consider myself a running back."

The emphasis that the OSU coaches have placed on using Wilson has been apparent in spring practice, where the new wide receiver has had the ball placed in his hands in a variety of ways. That's a stark contrast from Wilson's freshman season, which ended with him referring to himself as the "Decoy of the Year."

Fifty-five touches, 460 yards and three touchdowns from the line of scrimmage alone is far from a terrible freshman season, but it also didn't match the hype that Wilson brought with himself from the Lone Star State. After wowing coaches, teammates and media alike with his speed throughout his freshman fall camp, Wilson found himself as somewhat of an odd man out in an offense that relied heavily on Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde.

That's not to say that Wilson's freshman struggles weren't the result of some faults of his own. As Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman explained, Wilson struggled to pick up the position that many anticipated that he'd play in Columbus.

"He couldn't play receiver. He didn't know what the hell he was doing," Herman said of Wilson. "He didn't know how to do it. He was 175 pounds or whatever the heck he was. So him and his ability limited us, and the ability doesn't just include running fast and making guys miss. There's a lot that goes into ability and usability in the offense."

"I pretty much thought I was going to come in and be the Percy Harvin role that Coach Meyer wanted me to be," Wilson admitted. "I wasn't as comfortable as I was. But now I feel more comfortable and I feel like me again with the number switch and all that. I'm getting a lot more opportunities."

If Wilson can also play like his old self, the rest of the Big Ten should beware.

Playing at arguably the highest level of high school ball in the country, Wilson racked up 1,895 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns and caught 37 passes for 750 yards and nine scores en route to being named the Dallas-area Offensive Player of the Year in 2012. Whether such gaudy statistics will be possible to attain in the upcoming season remains to be seen, but with his old number in tow, Wilson appears to be excelling in his new role.

"I just gotta perform," Wilson said when asked what he needs to do to have the "Percy Harvin position" renamed. "I gotta stand up to the hype and live up to the hype. As long as I perform, that'll pretty much be dead and everyone will say it's my role."

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