“I feel like I needed to show people that I haven’t gone anywhere. They’ve got me here; I’m still going to bring something to the table every game, and that it’s finally time.”
Expectations were high when Dontre Wilson came to Ohio State from Texas as a four-star recruit in 2013. Now entering his senior season in Columbus, the hype hasn’t quite materialized for Wilson, but the hybrid back still has one season left to prove himself for the Buckeyes. When he first committed to Ohio State, many saw Wilson in the mold of Percy Harvin, who head coach Urban Meyer coached at Florida. Not only have injuries slowed Wilson in his first three years at Ohio State, but also there have been other offensive options who have emerged during that time. Last season Braxton Miller got a lot of the snaps at H-back after he switched to the position from quarterback before the season.
Now with Miller, as well as a number of other starters from last year’s Ohio State offense now gone, Wilson will try and make the most of his senior season. The key for Wilson will be if he is able to stay healthy throughout the season. In 2014 Wilson only appeared in 10 games, and last year he was only healthy for nine games. Not only does the coaching staff know that Wilson still has plenty to offer on the field with his explosiveness, but Wilson feels the same way. During this offseason Wilson has posted a number of videos to Twitter, showcasing him getting ready for the season, and reminding everyone else of what he brings to the table. Throughout his college career, many Buckeye fans have been waiting for Wilson to break a big play with his speed, and if he is able to stay healthy fans might get to see that a few times during his final year with the Buckeyes.
“Coming in I was pretty decent at pass blocking. I was better than most running backs coming in at the high school level. I’m getting better. I’m going against Raekwon McMillan, Dante Booker, guys that are gonna get me better at pass protection. We go at it every day and it’s really making me better.”
Not only does Mike Weber have big shoes to fill when it comes to what Ezekiel Elliott did with the football in his hands, but he is also tasked with trying to measure up to Elliott when it comes to pass protection. One of the most overlooked parts of Elliott’s game the past couple years was how well he was able to block in the backfield and give his quarterback extra time to make reads. Pro Football Focus found that Elliott was used 108 times last year as a pass blocker and of those times Elliott only allowed one quarterback pressure. While it might be hard to imagine Weber excelling as much as Elliott did in pass protection, Ohio State is still going to need a strong effort from him if they have any designs on winning the Big Ten and making the College Football Playoff.
Early returns on Weber’s blocking have been good, as head coach Urban Meyer says that Weber and Curtis Samuel are the two best blocking backs in the program, but they aren’t quite at Elliott’s level yet. Weber knows that he’ll have to continue his early success, and if he doesn’t Meyer wasn’t shy about saying that he won’t play if he can’t block. Since Weber isn’t as good of a blocker yet as Elliott was, it may force the coaching staff to tweak their game plan, putting a little more pressure on the tight ends and offensive line. A big bonus for Weber is he gets to practice against talented linebackers like McMillan and Booker, which should help him improve his blocking even more as the year moves on.
“My teammates really helped me push through it. I’m looking forward to this year. It’s a new year, I’m healthy and I’m ready to go out there with my guys again.”
Much like at running back, Ohio State lost some key contributors at wide receiver from last year’s team, and will be hoping some new faces can help pick up the slack after Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall left for the NFL. One of those faces is Noah Brown, who likely would have seen significant playing time last season had he not missed the season due to a leg injury. So far the returns on Brown heading into this year have been glowing, and he is likely going to play a big role in a young Buckeye offense.
After missing all of last season, Brown is hungry to get back out onto the field and contribute. The biggest difference that Brown’s teammates have noticed heading into this season are with his hands, which quarterback J.T. Barrett likened to “suction cups”. With over 80% of last year’s receptions being made by players who aren’t on the team anymore, if Brown’s strong training camp work can carry over into the regular season, he’ll likely
“We don’t feel any pressure. Preparations (have) been year-round, and we are ready to meet any challenge we experience this year and put in a lot of work.”
Heading into this season, there are plenty of questions about how Ohio State’s defense will respond after losing so many starters from last year’s team. The biggest hole the Buckeyes need to fill will be the one left at defensive end by Joey Bosa. Luckily for Ohio State they have two very talented ends that saw some success last year in putting pressure on the quarterback. Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis combined for 14.5 sacks last season, but some of that was due to the extra attention that Bosa was given by the opposition. The duo already got a little taste what life without Bosa was like last season, when Bosa was suspended was not only suspended for the season opener against Virginia Tech, but also when he was ejected early in the Fiesta Bowl to close out the year.
Big things are expected from Lewis and Hubbard this year, and they should be able to live up to those expectations after getting to work even more with strength coach Mickey Marotti and defensive line coach Larry Johnson in the offseason. Now that it has been announced that defensive lineman Darius Slade will be out for the season, even more pressure will be placed on the two defensive ends to continue to create the pass rush that was seen from the Buckeyes last season. Even more than their play on the field, both are also expected to be leaders for some of the younger Ohio State defensive linemen coming in, one of which is Joey Bosa’s younger brother Nick. The two are happy to take on their leadership roles and if last year’s performance from the duo is any indiction, Ohio State’s defensive line should be able to create pressure in the backfield and allow the rest of their defense to make plays.
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