Even Devin Smith?
It’s Dontre Wilson. The speedy sophomore from Texas leads the team with 118.2 yards per game thanks to his job as the starting hybrid “H,” a kick return man and a punt returner. He has at least 100 yards on the season rushing, receiving in kick returns and on punt returns.
And now Ohio State will have to operate without him. Head coach Urban Meyer said that Wilson suffered a broken foot in the Buckeyes’ statement win vs. No. 8 Michigan State on Saturday and is out indefinitely. With only a month to play in the regular season, it seems possible Wilson is out for the season.
“He's out for a few weeks,” Meyer said. “I don't know the extent; I can get you that probably by Wednesday. They might have to put a pin in it.”
Wilson even caught a touchdown pass on the broken foot, a 7-yard grab thrown into picture-perfect window by J.T. Barrett that pushed Ohio State’s lead to 18 points in the fourth quarter. It capped what had been a tough game for Wilson, who twice fumbled kickoffs – with OSU losing one and recovering the other – and also dropping a touchdown pass.
“He actually caught a touchdown pass with a broken foot, “Meyer said. “Tells you what a tough guy he is, but he didn't have a good game, put a couple of balls on the ground.”
Wilson won’t be impossible to replace in the offense as he has 39 touches so far – 18 rushes for 112 yards and 21 grabs, third on the team, for 300 yards and three scores – while splitting time with fellow “H” Jalin Marshall. Marshall should elevate to the No. 1 spot, and the redshirt freshman from Middletown has rushed 17 times for 107 yards and a score while catching 14 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
A high school quarterback, Marshall is also a solid option to take direct snaps in the “wildcat,” and Meyer noted the staff even has a package in which he can throw the ball downfield rather than only run it.
“I think the added element that Jalin gives you is that Jalin can play that wildcat position,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. “Not that Dontre is not, but there’s a lot more teaching. Jalin is just a natural dude back there in terms of calling a cadence, catching a gun snap, getting guys lined up in the right direction. He has been a pleasant surprise in his development over the last few weeks. He has earned more playing time, more touches, that kind of stuff.”
Meyer also mentioned true freshman Noah Brown, the third-string “H” who adds a different dimension at 240 pounds, as well as reserve wideout Corey Smith, wideout Evan Spencer and tight end Nick Vannett as players who could see increased playing time as well as the Buckeyes look over their options at the skill positions.
“Noah Brown gets in the mix and Corey Smith gets in the mix,” the head coach said. “Evan Spencer is a multiple guy that can do a lot of things. Nick Vannett is a guy, so the good thing there's some personnel. It's not exactly like Dontre, but our 240 pound H-back Noah Brown brings a little something to the table, too. He's earned some right to play.”
Still, the “H” is an important spot, the one Percy Harvin made famous and the one that elevates the offense to a different level when there’s a capable player in there who can make life miserable for opposing linebackers based on his ability to get up the field or attack the edge.
So it bears watching exactly how OSU goes about devising a game plan without Wilson, but with Meyer raving about the depth the team has at wide receiver right now, the Buckeyes don’t expect to miss a beat.
"We just have to step up," Mike Thomas said. "Coach always says when one person goes down, for instance Braxton, the next person has to pick up the rifle, so we just have to step up.”