August 8, 2013

Wilson continues to wow

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- At Big Ten media days in Chicago two weeks ago, Urban Meyer said that it took all of a minute and a half to see that former Florida star Percy Harvin possessed that rare "quick twitch" that he covets in athletes. It's hard to imagine that it took him much longer than that to see the same in Dontre Wilson.

The freshman running back snagged a majority of the attention and headlines at Ohio State's open practice on Wednesday -- and deservedly so. A day after his head coach stated that Wilson was the one freshman who stood out from all of the others through the first three days of fall camp, the former four-star prospect backed up Meyer's hype, wowing the media in attendance in multiple ways.

Whether it was as a kick returner, running back, or wide receiver, Wilson found himself making the big plays that the Ohio State offense so often lacked last season. Screens, shovel passes, swing passes, wheel routes, handoffs, and even simple taps were used to get the ball into the hands of Wilson, who more times than not, carried it for at least 10 yards -- and then some.

"Dontre, he's a special player," Buckeyes safety Christian Bryant said on Wednesday. "He has a lot of attributes that he can bring to the team and one of those things is just being one of those elusive guys out there."

Meyer was clearly excited when the Buckeyes added Wilson -- a former Oregon commit -- to their 2013 class, but tempered his expectations this summer by reminding the media that he still had to prove himself while wearing pads. Less than a week into fall camp, the 5-foot-10, 174-pounder appears to have done just that.

"He just goes really hard, and that's my first impression of him, unless it changes," Meyer said of Wilson. "He's got something that we didn't have and that's just electric speed and he doesn't care, he just goes hard. So we've got to point him in the right direction now."

On Wednesday, that direction often led Wilson into the end zone, albeit through multiple routes.

The Dallas Morning News' Offensive Player of the Year scored on at least one kickoff return and took multiple catches to the house in scrimmage situations, at one point catching up to a ball that appeared to be severely overthrown by quarterback Braxton Miller.

While Wednesday was the media's first look at Wilson in scarlet and gray, making a lot out of a little has become the norm for the summer star, according to his teammates.

"He says, 'You throw it low, I'm gonna get it. You throw it high, I'm definitely going to get it,'" Miller said of Wilson. "I threw it behind him and that boy turned around, landed on his back and caught it. I was like, 'Wow, boy, you've got something special.' It's nice knowing I've got somebody special on the team that's a playmaker. It feels good."

While Meyer declared Wilson a running back on Tuesday, a majority of his reps on Wednesday started with him lining up in the slot. That's reminiscent of the role that Harvin played for Meyer from 2006-08, when the Gators won two national championships.

The Buckeyes head coach, however, has been reluctant to compare his possible budding star to his past one.

"We've got to slow down on Dontre," Meyer said. "We've gotta slow down."

Doing that, however, has been easier said than done. Even -- or perhaps especially -- on the defensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes have clearly taken notice of Wilson.

"Anytime you've got a guy who runs as fast as he does, it always catches your eye on defense," OSU safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. "He's a fearless runner. If you're that and you can run that fast, you can do a lot of damage."

With the Buckeyes opening the season on Aug. 31 against Buffalo, fans will have to wait nearly three more weeks for their first glimpse at what Wilson can do. But if these past few days have been any indication, it shouldn't take long for them to notice what he's capable of.

So long as they don't blink.


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