Ohio State Football: Why Dontre Wilson Will Be Buckeyes' X-Factor in 2014

David Regimbal@davidreg412Featured ColumnistJune 30, 2014

Sep 28, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Dontre Wilson (1) returns a kick off return during the fourth quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State Buckeyes defeated Wisconsin Badgers 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State's offense has operated at a record-breaking pace under Urban Meyer, but with Dontre Wilson in a featured role, the Buckeyes could be even more explosive in 2014.

The 5'10", 185-pound blazer out of DeSoto, Texas, is primed for a breakout year after a quiet freshman season.

Meyer recruited Wilson to bring speed and playmaking ability to a group of skill-position players that desperately needed it. The former 4-star all-purpose back piled up 2,645 yards of total offense and 46 touchdowns as a high school senior—showcasing the versatility the Buckeyes coveted.

Dontre Wilson was one of the most highly recruited players in the country.
Dontre Wilson was one of the most highly recruited players in the country.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Wilson committed to Ohio State in February 2013 and flashed his potential during fall camp, but when the season kicked off, his opportunities were limited.

Meyer had one of the best pairs in college football with Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde. With that pair sharing a backfield, Wilson was used mainly as a decoy to distract the defense away from the real action.

“I just didn’t feel like I was that involved,” Wilson said, according to Daniel Rogers of The Lantern, Ohio State's student newspaper. “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."

He still found ways to produce.

Wilson rushed for 250 yards and hauled in 22 receptions for 210 yards to complement three total touchdowns. On most occasions, Ohio State would move him around pre-snap to take a defender out of the box. A few times a game, however, Miller found him in space.

The Buckeyes will need much more from him this year.

Ohio State must replace its leading rusher in Hyde, who ran for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns in just 11 games. The Buckeyes also need someone to step up in place of Corey Brown, who graduated after leading the team in receiving yards in each of the last two seasons.

Replacing that production can't be put on the shoulders of one player, but the coaching staff is turning its attention to Wilson in order to reshape the team's offensive identity.

Last year, the Buckeyes leaned on Hyde and four senior starters along the offensive line to grind things out on the ground. This year, the Buckeyes are strongest on the perimeter, where speed abounds.

With that speed, Meyer is implementing new wrinkles to the offense, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors.

As bad as we want an offensive line like we had last year, it’s going to take a while to develop that. I think at some point because we recruited well and our line coach that it’ll happen. But we’re going to have to lean on some perimeter ways of getting first downs, where last year when you rush for 300-plus yards a game it’s because that offensive line was so good. We have other weapons, but it will have a different taste to it than last year.

Wilson, who won the starting H-back position during spring practice, is ready to become Ohio State's most lethal weapon. Wide receivers coach Zach Smith feels that he's ready for that role.

"That's what our offense does - gets the ball to great players," Smith said, via Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer. "Dontre will hopefully fit that mold because he has the ability to be a great player and he is taking strides toward that."


All stats via NCAA.com. All recruiting information per 247Sports.com.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412