Hype keeps building for Dontre Wilson

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- On the day he signed to Ohio State in the spring, coaches were already fighting over who would get the first chance to work with him in their meeting room.

When he reported to campus in the summer, veteran teammates started raving about his physical skills and the impact he was already having in offseason workouts.

And by the time training camp for the fall finally arrived and Urban Meyer got his hands on him, it took all of three practices for the Buckeyes coach to join the chorus singing the praises of freshman Dontre Wilson and his ability to instantly upgrade an offense that was plenty dangerous without him.

While the Buckeyes have occasionally tried to temper the buzz that is building exponentially with seemingly every practice, the problem with tapping the brakes on something that moves as fast as Wilson and the hype around him is that it barely slows them down at all.

“Man, I’m going to tell you, that little joker right there is quick,” junior Evan Spencer said. “You’ll see, he’s so explosive, and you never know where he’s going to go or what kind of move he’s going to make.

“He’s a real guy -- he can move.”

The Buckeyes already knew that based on the blistering times he posted on the track in high school, and more confirmation arrived when he clocked a 4.33-second time in the 40-yard dash shortly after arriving for the offseason program. They had also seen plenty of evidence of what Wilson could do in pads as he racked up more than 4,400 all-purpose yards and 81 touchdowns at DeSoto High School, testing himself against some of the toughest competition in the country in Texas.

But if Ohio State coaches needed to find out first-hand if that natural athleticism and a versatile set of skills that makes him dangerous as both a rusher and receiver was going to transition smoothly enough to contribute to the nation’s second-ranked team, Wilson didn’t make them wait long to decide.

In one 7-on-7 session during the first week of camp, Wilson grabbed three touchdown catches in short succession with each of them showing off a different aspect of his game. There was a double move that highlighted his acceleration and ability to change direction. He used pure speed to get behind the secondary for another, and later turned a simple out route into a score by cutting up field and darting between two oncoming tacklers on the way to the end zone.

The practice performance and the glowing reviews from teammates and coaches alike have only added to the anticipation for Wilson’s debut against Buffalo on Aug. 31. But if it’s increased the pressure on him, he is certainly hiding it well.

“I’m aware of it, but I don’t really pay it any attention,” Wilson said. “I just come here and play football and do what I love.

“I mean, I’m handling it. ... I think I’ve done pretty good, just have to live up to high expectations because of the way I was recruited and all the hype. I think I’m doing pretty good so far.”

It is still early in camp, there’s still plenty of room to grow for any freshman at this stage and Wilson still hasn’t even played a game yet to allow for a true evaluation of how much he might help as the Buckeyes try to make a push for a national title.

There’s also some uncertainty about where exactly Wilson will fit in the lineup and how often as he splits time with the running backs and receivers, learning responsibilities as both a rusher and an option at the H-back position that Percy Harvin made famous under Meyer at Florida.

Comparing Wilson to perhaps the most dangerous hybrid weapon he’s had, though, is at least one area where Meyer is quick to bring the conversation to a complete stop. But short of that, the Buckeyes are full-steam ahead with their new toy.

“He’s got something that we didn’t have, and that’s just electric speed,” Meyer said. “He also has a unique skill set where he’s extremely dynamic and fast, which we all now what that means in the game of football -- especially in an offense where you try to create space.

“He goes hard. We just have to point him in the right direction now.”

Based on the seasons leading up to it, the Buckeyes are clearly setting the course for something big with Wilson for the winter.