The Myth of Dontre Wilson

Many of us remember the commitment of the next “Percy Harvin”. We remember the hype and the build-up for this true freshman at the time, and his name was and is Dontre Wilson.

 

Let’s start with his recruitment. Dontre was an elite offensive athlete in the 2013 recruiting class from Desoto, Texas. According to the 247composite, Dontre was the 71st ranked player in the class of 2013, and the 6th ranked All-Purpose Back. Obviously, being from Texas, there was a slight draw to become a longhorn, but another school greatly drew his initial attention. With his elite speed, that is apparent whenever he touches the ball, nearly all of the major schools in the country were attracted, but there was one specific school he liked.

In the spring of his junior season, Dontre Wilson verbally committed to Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks. At first look, this would be the perfect fit for him. The flashy uniforms, the elite offenses with some NFL success, and certain success for people with similar builds as Dontre, such as De’Anthony Thomas and LaMichael James. Dontre was the star and excitement of Oregon’s 2013 recruiting class.

 

In late 2012, after some fear of punishment for fear of recruiting violations, there were persisting rumors that Chip Kelly would leave. Then, on January 16, 2013, Chip Kelly was announced as the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The rumors were true, Chip had left. Dontre and other Oregon commits were in a tough position. For the moment, though, Dontre decided to stay committed to Oregon to see how things would pan out.

On January 25, 2013, a few days before signing day, Dontre Wilson took a visit to Ohio State. He got to meet with the staff, and the players and see the spectacular facilities the Buckeyes have in Columbus. J.T. Barrett even conducted his famous speech to try and persuade him to become a Buckeye during this visit. With the lack of play-makers on the team at the time, Dontre were a near necessity for the team. The coaches showed him how he would play the H-Back position, and made it clear that he would certainly be an immediate contributor.

Then on February 4, 2013, the elite play-maker from Desoto, Texas decided to commit to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

 

Obviously, since he committed in February, Dontre was not an early-enrollee. He came on campus in the summer of that 2013 year along with the majority of that star-studded recruiting class.

Soon after that, the Dontre Wilson Hype-Train began. “I feel like he better be starting this year,” Braxton Miller said at B1G Media Days in 2013. “He can run any route, he can come in the backfield and take a handoff. … He can catch the ball and he bolts like a little fish running from the sharks or something. He’s fast man. I’m glad to have him on my team.” “Dontre looks to be a special player,” former starting safety, Christian Bryant, added before the start of his own final season. “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.”

Many players and fans alike had incredibly high expectations for Dontre Wilson. Many expected him to put up the same numbers as the player who made the “H” position famous, Percy Harvin. Unlike many of us fans, Urban was more realistic with Dontre.

“We’ve got to slow down on Dontre,” Meyer said with a smile at B1G Media Days in 2013. “We’ve gotta slow down.”

 

Soon enough his freshman campaign began. Dontre was expected to be a vital play-maker that everybody was craving, and with Carlos Hyde suspended for the first several games of the 2013 season, many hoped to have Dontre carry part of that missing load.

The first game of the season was against Buffalo, and now star NFL player Khalil Mack. Dontre certainly showed some glimpses of a bright future which added even more hype into his name. He ended with 3 rushes for 11 yards, 1 reception for 18 yards, and he had a kick return for 51 yards.

 

Throughout the season, and the lack of big plays, the hype dramatically died for Dontre. Some even began to call him a “bust”. He finished the season with 22 receptions for 210 yards and 2 TDs, along with 31 rushes for 250 yards and 1 TD. He also added 523 kick-return yards to his all purpose stats that added up to 983 yards that was ranked 4th on the team.

Although Dontre ended up being 2nd-team freshmen All-American, and had those stats as a true freshman, most people, including Dontre were frustrated with that season. “I feel like I could have helped the team more,” Dontre admitted after the Orange Bowl loss in 2013. “I did what I could with the reps they gave me, but I think next year with more reps I will help the team more.” “I always joked around with my teammates and said, ‘I’m the Decoy of the Year,’ ” he said. “Every time I do a fake or something, we scored.”

A reporter then asked if that season as a decoy was fulfilling, Dontre said “Not really, man. I wish I could get the ball 30 plays a game, but it’s all good.”

Soon after the Orange Bowl, heading into Dontre’s true sophomore season, the hype started to build again, and perhaps in a more dramatic fashion than before. “Wait until you see him next year” was a popular phrase by Urban. It definitely showed that the coach had a plan, and believed in the potential of Dontre Wilson in his offense.

The off-season before his sophomore season was when Dontre really started to evolve into a wide receiver. “He couldn’t play receiver last year, he didn’t know what the hell he was doing. Didn’t know how to do it,” Former Offensive Coordinator, Tom Herman said during that off-season. “He was 175 pounds or whatever the heck he was. So him and his ability limited us, and ability doesn’t just include running fast and making guys miss. There’s a lot that goes into ability and usability in the offense. {He} has had a great off-season and really took to the position and is still learning.” At one point during the off-season, Zach Smith mentioned Dontre Wilson as one of the only players in that unit that was game-ready at the time.

Now, the 2014 season came along with some more huge expectations for Dontre.

This time, his team was very inexperienced in every area of the game. Nobody was really certain how the team would turn out to be. Dontre and the Buckeyes played a difficult team in Navy with their triple-option offense, and a fairly unique defense. Like the previous season’s first game, Dontre had a very good game. Without the speed and agility of Dontre, I think the team would have had a much more difficult time trying to get the win. He ended the game with 6 rushes for 43 yards, and 2 catches for 46 yards, along with several nice punt returns.

Like the one before, as the previous season progressed, the “hate” on Dontre increased. One of his main critiques is that he is always so close to making a big play, but he never does. That seemed to be a pretty decent evaluation as he had some struggles with the new WR role.

Nov. 8th in East Lansing was one of the worst public nights for Dontre Wilson as a Buckeye. He had several embarrassing drops that would’ve led to some big gains, and he also had two fumbles on kick returns. Mistakes like that in games like that are very harmful to the team and individual. But, what everybody didn’t understand about this bad game was the circumstances surrounding it.

First, he had just become a father just that week to his son, Neko, and during the game Dontre suffered a fairly harsh broken foot. When all seemed lost for him, he did what play-makers do; Dontre made a big play. He caught a late TD pass from J.T. Barrett to seal that monumental game for the Buckeyes’ season, even while he was in pain with his broken foot.

Dontre’s season was mostly over for the exception of 3 plays against Oregon. The 3 plays were solely for respect of Dontre, because the coaches thought Dontre was a main reason why they got to that National Championship. But they didn’t want to cause any further injury, so they just gave him a few simple snaps.

Dontre Wilson had some complications with his foot after the initial surgery, so they decided he needed another one. Because of the second surgery, Dontre would be extremely limited through spring camp, and even fairly limited during Fall Camp.

Also, Dontre was one of the 4 Ohio State players suspended for the 1st game of the season against Virginia Tech for a violation of athletic department policy. Fellow H-Back, Jalin Marshall, who many fans favorited over Dontre due to his great games in the absence of Dontre was also suspended.

With Dontre and Jalin both suspended, somebody needed to step up, particularly against VA Tech. That player, of course, was QB turned WR Braxton Miller. Not only is Braxton one of Urban and the fan’s favorite players, he is also a prime-time play-maker, as evidenced by the spin move you have probably seen 1,000 times. So, with Braxton’s emergence, it was yet another thing getting in Dontre’s way.

Dontre entered this season with certainly lowered expectations, partially due to the huge spotlight on the QB competition, but also due to the fact that the team is currently stacked with play-makers.  In his first game back against Hawaii, Dontre played very few snaps and had zero touches. Then against NIU, Dontre again played limited snaps, and had a mere 3 receptions. In both of those games, the offense greatly struggled. That brought up the argument of if this team has too many play-makers, and not enough ball to go around.

After two years of failing to live up to hype that was impossible for anybody, it almost seems that Dontre is now more a back-of-the-mind type players. Urban knows that Dontre is definitely a play-maker, and he does deserve to get the ball. “I see a guy that’s dynamic and a guy that does deserve more touches,” Meyer said when asked about Curtis Samuel Wednesday (9-30-15) after practice. “Dontre Wilson deserves more touches. Zeke probably needs a few more. Then that kid Braxton Miller deserves a few more.”

It would definitely be easy for Dontre to “whine and complain” about not getting enough touches. He was a blue-chip recruit out of high-school, and a guy that was talked up to be Percy Harvin, or even Tavon Austin. With Urban’s culture, though, Dontre knows to go out there and do whatever he can to get better and help the team.

So, will Dontre ever step up and be that next level guy? Who knows. Will he do what the coaches tell him? Yes, or he won’t play. Dontre understands that, and he knows that with all the talented players on the team, he needs to take advantage of whatever opportunity is given to him. You wish Dontre could get the 30 touches a game like he said after his freshman year, but that simply isn’t possible. He will just have to trust that Urban and WR Coach Zach Smith will do whatever they can to make him the most successful Dontre Wilson that he can be.

 

Comments

  1. Great read, Wes. I feel like Dontre will be the offensive version of Curtis Grant — huge hype, tons of athletic talent and excitement — but never delivers on the hype.

    Grant was a good Buckeye and a solid performer his last couple of years. Dontre could be in the same boat if he just stays the course. He seems like a good dude (suspension notwithstanding) and hey, he got in a fight as a freshman against Michigan, taking on more than one guy at a time. He’ll always be a great Buckeye in my heart for that act alone.

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