By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS — A year ago, Braxton Miller called then-freshman wide receiver Dontre Wilson “that lightning bolt.”
“He’s something special, man,” Miller said.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was enthusiastic, too. So was offensive coordinator Tom Herman. Fans expected big things.
And then lightning didn’t strike.
Wilson, who chose Ohio State over Oregon after the Ducks coach Chip Kelly took the Philadelphia Eagles job, was a 5-star recruit with 5-star expectations.
Just in case the expectations weren’t high enough, some people called him the next Percy Harvin, a player of similar size who played for Meyer at Florida before going to the NFL.
As a 5-foot, 10-inch, 174-pound freshman, Wilson produced decent numbers, catching 22 passes and rushing for 250 yards, almost exclusively on jet sweeps on the outside. But the explosiveness that was highly anticipated was absent.
He scored three touchdowns – two on passes and one rushing. Excluding kick returns, his longest play went for 32 yards.
This season could be different, though.
He has gained around 20 pounds without losing any speed and says he will be able to run the ball inside as well as on the outside.
“I’m going back to my roots in high school, running inside. The Percy Harvin role,” he said.
He says he also has spent considerable time working on his receiving skills. “I’m becoming a better, more pure receiver. I can’t go to the NFL, obviously, to play running back. Look at my size.”
Meyer said, “He’s an impact guy. Last year he was a hybrid guy that really wasn’t great at anything. He was not quite strong enough to run inside like you need that hybrid guy to do. He was simply an outside running guy.
“He has gained the weight. He’s much stronger. He’s much more prepared for this level of football. He has always had the talent and always had the effort.”
Wilson admitted college was a bit of a shock after dominating in high school football with his speed.
“I was always used to scoring and breaking all those tackles. This year I’m confident I’ll be able to do all those things I did in high school,” he said.
One thing that might have been overlooked in Wilson’s transition to the college game was that he spent most of his time in high school running the ball, not catching it. He rushed for 1,895 yards and 37 touchdowns his senior season at DeSoto (Texas) High School on a state champion team.