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What Dontre Wilson brings to Ohio State's H-back/Percy Harvin position

Taking a deep dive into Dontre Wilson's 2013 season and his future role in the offense

Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Spor

Throughout the season, I charted every offensive skill position player and where they lined up on every play. In 2013, the Buckeyes ran 996 offensive plays (not counting kneel downs) and Wilson was on the field for 193 of those plays. Wilson finished the season with 250 yards and one touchdown on 31 rushing attempts. Mostly catching the ball out of the backfield, Wilson had 22 receptions for 210 yards and two touchdowns.

When looking at the game by game participation report (below) it is interesting to see how up and down Wilson's season was last year. Not counting the Michigan game where he was ejected, the one snap against Northwestern and the three snaps against Michigan State were alarming. Meyer was asked about Wilson's role a couple of times last season and eluded to his lack of pass blocking and his effort in practice for reasons as to why he was not a major part of the offense.

Personally, I believe that the coaching staff did not know where to put the speedy freshman in last year's offense with Carlos Hyde getting the majority of the carries at tailback and Philly Brown playing in the slot/ pivot position. When Wilson entered a game, the opposing defense would key on him and early in the season they knew he was only coming into the game to get the ball. When looking at his game splits, Wilson had 20 touches in his first three games, an average of 6.66 touches per game. As the season went on, Wilson became more of a decoy and he only touched the ball 51 times in the following 11 games, an average of 4.64 per game.

He was being used as more of a decoy as the season progressed, something he also talked about during spring practice. He was lining up in the slot and being used in jet or orbit motion, forcing the linebackers to pause or flow to Wilson, creating more opportunities for Braxton Miller and Hyde which often resulted in big plays for the offense.

This season, Wilson will be replacing Philly Brown in the slot/ pivot role, aka the famous "Percy Harvin role." When breaking down his games, I look at the Purdue game as a preview for next season. Out of his 30 snaps against the Boilermakers, he lined up in the slot on 24 of those snaps, motioned or started next to Braxton Miller at running back on five of those snaps and lined up out wide on one.

The DeSoto, Texas star is now a receiver and will no longer meet with the running backs. This will allow Wilson to get the ball in space, with fewer defenders to account for him; rather than lining up at running back with the majority of the defenders keying on him. Unlike last season, he will start in the slot and play the majority of the snaps which will make him a threat on every play, rather than just a couple of plays per game.

Dontre Wilson's 2013 participation report:

(snaps played/ total offensive snaps)

Buffalo SDSU Cal FAMU Wisc. NW Iowa PSU Purdue Ill. IU UM MSU Clemson
7/69 20/71 22/89 13/81 14/68 1/72 12/75 17/76 30/74 9/73 20/54 2/60 3/61

Pistol HB L/R Slot Out wide Total
10 82 95 6 193/996

The Percy Harvin effect

When watching the 2008 Florida Gators offense, Harvin played the majority of his snaps out of the slot and out wide. He ran basic routes from those two positions: quick outs, drag routes, screens and slants. Meyer wanted the ball in his hands quickly so that he could make a play in-space after the catch. The times that Harvin lined up next to quarterback Tim Tebow, he typically motioned in from the slot, something that Wilson was doing towards the end of the season. He would either be involved in the read option or take a swing pass to get into space. Harvin would also run jet or orbit motion as a decoy which would make the entire linebacker core bite on the motion.

Here are some examples as to how Harvin and Wilson have been used in Meyer's system:

1. Running back next to Tebow:


Here is Wilson lined up at running back next to Miller:



2. Harvin lined up out wide, something that Wilson did only six times in 2013



3. Harvin lined up in the slot, running orbit motion and being used as a decoy:




Wilson lined up in the slot, running jet motion and being used as a decoy:




Ever since Wilson committed to Ohio State, the "Percy Harvin role" has been beaten to death so much that it has almost become a joke to this point. With the departure of Brown, the slot/ pivot role is now open and the hype will soon become a reality as Meyer finally has a player with similar attributes to Harvin.