Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Dontre Wilson was supposed to be the next Percy Harvin.
At least, that was the expectation when the talented all-purpose back committed to Ohio State in February 2013. As a 4-star prospect out of DeSoto, Texas, Wilson possessed a blend of speed and playmaking ability that made the comparison both simple and plausible.
But Wilson, on the brink of his junior season with the Buckeyes, has failed to stuff the stat sheet like Harvin did for the Florida Gators. He’s flashed the ability to hurt opposing defenses, but his numbers fall short when compared to the former Florida great.
And that’s not entirely his fault.
When Wilson first arrived in Columbus as a freshman, it didn’t take long for his teammates to notice his talent. Speaking at Big Ten media days in July 2013, upperclassmen were raving about the young athlete.
“Dontre looks to be a special player,” safety Christian Bryant said, according to Doug Lesmerises of Northeast Media Group. “With the speed and his agility, just when he catches the ball, you can just see how he moves. He’s going to be a special player.”
“I feel like he better be starting this year,” quarterback Braxton Miller added, via Lesmerises. “He’s fast, man. I’m glad to have him on my team.”
Wilson didn’t start in 2013 or make the immediate impact some envisioned. Playing the role of decoy as Miller and Carlos Hyde shattered school rushing records, Wilson registered just 460 yards from scrimmage to complement three total touchdowns.
Dontre Wilson flashed potential during his freshman season, but he didn’t make the instant impact many expected.
“I just didn’t feel like I was that involved,” Wilson said of his freshman season, according to Daniel Rogers of The Lantern. “Basically most of the plays I was pretty much just faking and fly-sweeping and the defense would bite and we would throw it downfield.”
But that was to change in 2014. After losing Hyde and four multiyear starters along the offensive line, the Buckeyes had plans be more of a quick-hitting offense that attacked the perimeter. With a bevy of talent at receiver–headlined by Wilson–it was a strategy that made sense on paper.
And just like the year before, Wilson’s hype train picked up speed before the start of fall camp.
“I think Wilson is going to have a fantastic year for Ohio State and be one of the marquee players in the country at the end of the year statistically out of that position,” college football guru Phil Steele told Eleven Warriors.
Wilson fueled those expectations.
“I’m going back to my roots in high school, running inside. The Percy (Harvin) role,” Wilson said last August, according to Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer.
But when the season rolled around, he failed to produce Harvin-like numbers. With J.T. Barrett at quarterback, the Buckeyes spread the wealth across a deep stable of playmakers. Wilson averaged just 50 total yards per game and scored one touchdown before suffering a season-ending foot injury in Week 11 against Michigan State.
A broken foot suffered against Michigan State derailed Dontre Wilson’s sophomore season.
Now as an upperclassman, Wilson is feeling pressure to produce with other H-Backs such as Jalin Marshall and Curtis Samuel vying for playing time.
Getting healthy, however, is his first priority. The Buckeyes kicked off spring practice three weeks ago, but Wilson has been held out of drills as he continues to rehab his broken foot.
When he’s fully healthy, he’ll be able to reclaim his role as a dangerous weapon in one of college football’s most lethal offenses. But expecting him to produce like Harvin did at Florida will be a reach, mainly because Ohio State doesn’t need him to do that.
In Meyer’s heyday at Florida, the Gators offense was centered around Tim Tebow and Harvin.
The Buckeyes don’t need to rely heavily on a couple of players because they have much more balance with Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas, Marshall and Samuel–along with any of the three elite quarterbacks on the roster–in the fold.
At the end of the day, the Buckeyes don’t need Wilson to be Harvin. They just need him to be healthy.
Recruiting rankings via 247Sports.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.