BSB Notebook: Wilson Returns To Columbus

Did you know Russell Wilson visited Ohio State as a high schooler? He talked about it this week. Our weekly premium notebook looks at that, why Johnathan Hankins' move away from nose guard was made with the Badgers in mind and more.

What if Russell Wilson were wearing a different shade of red Saturday night in the Horseshoe? The idea is not as far-fetched as it might first seem.

Wilson is enjoying a stellar senior season as Wisconsin's quarterback, but Ohio State had interest in him two different times before he settled in Madison.

The first time was during his high school career at Richmond (Va.) Collegiate School, where he was rated the No. 67 quarterback in the country for the class of 2007.

Ohio State never officially offered him a scholarship, but Wilson visited Columbus and liked what he saw.

"I definitely had high interest in Ohio State coming out of high school," he said earlier this week. "Obviously it is one of the better schools in the country in terms of academically and just in terms of football, but in terms of what I had in my plans and my future with football and baseball, I figured that I had to go somewhere else, so it's just worked out."

Wilson ultimately chose N.C. State prior his senior season over offers from Duke and Ohio University. He was a four-year starter for the Wolfpack before leaving this past spring after a dispute with head coach Tom O'Brien.

"I was blessed to go to North Carolina State and now I'm blessed to be here," Wilson said. "It's going to be a great opportunity for me (to play at OSU). I'm excited to play there, and it should be a great game."

Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman recalled recruiting Wilson and seeing a player with potential.

"He was an explosive guy in high school. I don't you know if you could project the kind of guy that he is now, that's for sure," Bollman on Wednesday night. "Obviously he's had a great career."

Bollman nearly got another chance to coach Wilson, but it proved fleeting. The quarterback was looking for a school in early summer when Ohio State signal caller Terrelle Pryor announced he was leaving school early to enter the NFL's supplemental draft. That led Bollman to reach out to Wilson, but the two never actually spoke.

By that time, Wilson was already nearing a decision between a final two that turned out to be Wisconsin and Auburn, but he still took an opportunity to needle future coach Bret Bielema.

He emailed the Badgers' head coach to mention hearing from Ohio State and neglected to mention anything else.

"He said, 'I got a call from Ohio State today' dot-dot-dot, one of those things, like leaving it hanging out there and didn't respond back to me for two or three hours, had my wheels spinning a little bit," Bielema said. "It was kind of his way (of indicating) he had kind of settled in with us and Auburn at that point. He had gone in that direction."

Badger Bagger?
Johnathan Hankins is enjoying a breakout sophomore season on the defensive line for Ohio State, and this could be the game he plays his most important role.

The 335-pounder said in August part of the motivation for his learning to play more than just nose guard was to beef up the Buckeye line for power teams such as Wisconsin, and he has gone on to prove it was a wise move.

He is second on the team with 36 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and a pair of sacks, while playing 3-technique, 5-technique and some nose guard.

"At first I thought playing end it would be kind of shaky, but I'm getting used to it and see the good things I can get from playing end and playing nose," he said. "It's a good position and right now I'm getting good and feeling pretty comfortable at it. Wherever coach wants to play me, I"m going to play." 

He modestly acknowledged he is having a good year when asked about it by reporters during the Buckeyes' off week.

"I'm just trying to do whatever I can do to help my defense out as a team, just trying to be a leader of the defense," he said. "I kind of lead by example, doing my job on the field making plays and just helping out my team whenever I get the chance." 

The coaching staff is impressed with how Hankins has handled a much heavier workload than he received as a freshman when he averaged around 15 plays per game. Now that number is closer to 60.

"I don't think i'm just like a big body who takes up space," he said. "I think I do a lot of things like pass rush, stop the run. All the things build up into one and I'm just working hard to achieve things." 

Honoring Eddie
Among many special activities planned for the weekend is a recognition of Eddie George, the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner, for his impending induction to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell was a teammate of the tailback for four years and spoke highly of him on Tuesday.

"Eddie George is probably to me one of the best stories that I've ever been around here at Ohio State," said Fickell. "Things didn't go his way to start with. For the next three years, he was the hardest-working guy on the team. I've told guys that story several times."

George endured a nightmarish two-fumble game against Illinois as a true freshman in 1992 then found himself banished to the bench for most of the rest of that season and the following campaign. He emerged as the starter in 1994 and ran for more than 1,400 yards. He followed that up by setting the school's single-season rushing record with 1,927 yards and 24 touchdowns.

"People see the Heisman Trophy, figure he was a big thoroughbred guy that was a big running back from the get-go," Fickell said. "Yes, he might have been a big running back from the get-go, but things don't always go your way. I don't know in my time here that there was anybody that outworked him. That's why he is where he is today. That's why he's going into the hall of fame. That's why he has a Heisman Trophy. It's not just on the ability. It's on the person, the character, the work ethic that he had to get better."

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