Dontre Wilson first made a verbal commitment to Oregon while sifting through numerous scholarship offers and knows all about the team’s new $68-million, six-story football headquarters funded by Nike money.
The facility includes floor-to-ceiling flat-screen TVs in the lobby, two movie theaters and a player lounge furnished with leather recliners — all designed to leave top recruits in awe. But Wilson, a speedy all-purpose back from Texas, wasn’t a typical recruit.
“Facilities don’t win you championships. Facilities don’t win you games,” he said when asked about the amenities offered by the Ducks. “I couldn’t care less. (What matters) is coaching, players, other things.”
Wilson found all he needed at Ohio State and flipped his commitment when Oregon coach Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles. It wasn’t a hard decision after getting to know coach Urban Meyer.
“Who wouldn’t want to be coached by him?” Wilson said. “I didn’t think Oregon would be the same without Chip Kelly. He was a big part of their success. When he left, I took my visit here. I enjoyed it, so I committed.
“Urban Meyer is a great coach. He puts a lot of players in the NFL. I’m glad I chose the right place.”
The Buckeyes are equally thrilled to have landed Wilson, who has created more preseason buzz than any freshman at OSU perhaps since Maurice Clarett in 2002.
He competed at an elite level in track in Texas with times of 10.5 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 20.9 in the 200. In his first OSU workout, he was clocked at 4.33 in the 40.
But the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Wilson is more than just a blazer. He’s also shown football skills.
He tallied 49 touchdowns as a senior, including 37 as a runner and nine as a receiver, which is why the Buckeyes believe they can play him all over the field.
“His stats in high school are just outstanding,” OSU receivers coach Zach Smith said. “He doesn’t know left from right, doesn’t know whether it’s 10 yards or 20 yards (on a route), but when the ball moves, he’s just going.
“That’s the most impressive thing. You watch a play, and he may be insignificant to the play, but you watch the speed at which he goes and just say, ‘Wow. That is a beautiful thing.’ ”
Asked about his never-idling engine, Wilson said: “Coach Meyer always said if you don’t know what assignment you have on a play, just go hard. He sees that in me. It’s probably why I get the praise I get, because I go all the time.”
Players are in a cocoon during preseason camp — no cellphones (egad!) — but Wilson certainly may have gotten a sense of the stir he’s creating after going through media day Sunday. A herd of reporters flocked to him when he became available, forming a circle five people deep.
“I don’t really pay it any attention. I just come out here and play football and do what I love,” he said. “But I see myself, when the offense needs a spark or a big play, I can come in and change the game.”
Junior receiver Evan Spencer sees the same thing.
“Man, that little joker right there is quick,” he said. “He’s so explosive. You never know where he’s going to go, what kind of move he’s going to make. He’s real.”
“He kind of reminds me of De’Anthony Thomas,” receiver Devin Smith said of the Oregon all-purpose back, who’s considered perhaps the fastest player in college football. “When he catches the ball, he just runs.”
Although defenders have trouble keeping up with Wilson, that doesn’t mean he’s been able to avoid every tackle.
“Mike Mitchell hit me one time,” Wilson said of the freshman linebacker from Texas. “It was on a tunnel screen. I wasn’t looking and he leveled me.
“I asked him why he hit me like that, and he said he had to get that black stripe off.”
All freshmen have a black piece of electrical tape on their helmets at the start of camp. They have it removed in a ceremony before the rest of the team when they’ve done enough to be considered true Buckeyes.
Wilson and Mitchell were the first scholarship freshmen to have their tape ripped off.
Asked about that crunching tackle, Mitchell said: “It was a little screen pass I recognized. The ball just got in his hands, and I laid a big hit on him. It was fun. We’re good buddies. We joked about it.”
But Mitchell knows he won’t likely get many more clean shots at Wilson.
“He’s definitely fast — but not just fast. Laterally, he’s quick,” he said. “If he’s going one way and you (don’t) tackle him, he can be gone in a second.”