Dontre Wilson’s feet have been moving fast all along. It’s just that now they seem to be carrying him places.
Yet, the freshman still is looking for that breakout play that will let everyone know why No. 4 Ohio State made it a priority to sign him out of DeSoto, Texas, in February after he backed out of a commitment to Oregon.
“I haven’t gotten it yet,” Wilson said. “You’ll know when I get it. When I break like a 60- or 70-yarder, you’ll know.”
It could come Saturday at Purdue (1-6) against a program in the early stages of rebuilding under coach Darrell Hazell. The Boilermakers are 69th in total defense among Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Although Wilson isn’t making any promises, he has a sense his chances only are going to increase.
“As I progress at practice, I get more (playing time),” Wilson said.
That was the promise coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman made to him.
“He’s a great practice player; on Friday walkthroughs he’s going full speed,” Meyer said.
But the coaches wanted to see more attention given to things such as blocking and plays when he doesn’t have the ball. Listed as a running back, Wilson is more of a wingback who can run inside or out and be part of the passing game.
“I’m going harder and harder at practice every week,” Wilson said. “Coach (Meyer) wanted me to be a good receiver, so that’s what I’m doing, and I’m getting a lot more opportunities to show everybody what I can do.”
Wilson was on the field often last week during a 63-14 victory over Penn State. He only had one run, for 12 yards, and two catches, for 35 yards, but that included a touchdown on a 26-yard reception. He also threw blocks and made his presence felt as a decoy in the passing game.
“He’s getting a lot of confidence,” said Ed Warinner, the co-offensive coordinator and line coach. “And the more confidence he gets, the faster he plays, the more decisive his cuts are, and the more apt we are to try to scheme up some plays for him. The whole thing is building together.”
Although Meyer and his staff held back Wilson over the first half of the season, a check of the statistics shows why big things could be coming.
Wilson has averaged 8.9 yards on each run, but he has had only 19 carries. He has averaged 10.6 yards on each catch, but he has had only 14. And he has averaged 28.1 yards on his 10 kickoff returns (including a long of 51), but teams usually have kicked away from him or into the end zone.
Meyer and Herman wanted Wilson to become more of an all-around player, but they know what makes him most dangerous.
“He’s pretty lethal with the ball in his hand,” Meyer said of Wilson, who is 5 feet 10 and 180 pounds. “Wait till you see him next year. We’ll get him big and strong. He has gained 15 pounds since he’s been here.”