One was playing at another school and another was pledged to a different program. The two football players have gone through their test and trials, but one thing is in common for senior wide receiver Corey Smith and senior H-back Dontre Wilson — this is their last go-round in Columbus.
Once a highly touted recruit from DeSoto, Texas, Wilson initially had plans to play his college football in Eugene, Oregon, under then-head coach Chip Kelly. Once Kelly left for greener pastures in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, Wilson changed his post-high school plans.
He committed to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes on Feb. 4, 2013, where he would see playing time as a freshman. Meyer raved about Wilson’s speed, often using him in jet sweeps where he would run across the line of scrimmage from one side of the field, receive the handoff, then run to the opposite sideline hoping to find open space to turn on the jets.
Listed at 5-foot-10, 181 pounds by 247Sports entering into his freshman season, Wilson clearly wasn’t built for the physical play of the Big Ten. Now listed at 195 pounds, Wilson says he has evolved into a complete player, instead of one that can just run by you.
“Everything that I’m doing right now, I feel like I haven’t done over the past couple years,” Wilson said. “But this year I feel like I’m going to bring everything to the table and put it all out on the field.”
Wilson was fourth on the team in all-purpose yards with 983 in 2013, which put him behind only three players now in the NFL: Carlos Hyde, Corey “Philly” Brown and Braxton Miller.
In his sophomore campaign, he saw improvement in his game from the year before, but that train came to a halt against Michigan State when he broke his foot, ending his regular season, excluding three plays in the national championship game. Wilson would miss extensive time in 2015 as well, still dealing with the foot injury from the year before.
Now it’s 2016, his senior year. Since his arrival on campus, Wilson has carried a hype with him that he has yet to reach. Meyer believes that potential is still there.
“The hardest part of our profession is when players get hurt,” Meyer said. “One of the great things about our profession is when they get to join the team again.”
But Wilson isn’t the only Buckeye returning from an injury-plagued 2015 season. Senior Corey Smith was granted another year of eligibility after suffering a season-ending leg injury against Indiana on Oct. 3. It’s his final year in the Scarlet and Gray.
“I don’t take nothing for granted anymore,” Smith said. “It’s really just a blessing to be out there with my brothers and being coached by some of the best coaches in the world.”
Smith committed to OSU on Jan. 29, 2013, after a season playing under coach Buddy Stephens at East Mississippi Community College. After redshirting his first year in Columbus, Smith played in all 14 games for OSU, catching 20 passes for 255 yards, including a 47-yard reception in the national title game against Oregon. In total, he has registered 25 receptions and 317 yards as a Buckeye.
To think there were a lack of expectations for Smith coming from JUCO ball would be ludicrous. Smith — originally from Akron Buchtel High School in northeast Ohio— had 51 receptions, 733 yards and nine touchdowns at EMCC and was ranked as the ninth-best overall junior college recruit. Smith was the first junior college commit to OSU since Larry Grant in 2006.
Wilson and Smith have taken different paths to get to 2016, but neither of them feel like they have left a substantial mark on the program yet. With a younger receiving core, the two seniors will be asked to take the leap forward that was expected of them since their initiation into the program.
“The legacy I want to leave is that kid that came from nothing and grinded to the top,” Smith said.
Smith will see a healthy amount of time at receiver with Wilson getting touches at H-back, punt and kick return and running back.
“A healthy me is a great me,” Wilson said. “I’m going to stay humble about it but you guys really haven’t seen what I can really do. This year I’m going to show it. I feel like if I can do everything that I’m ready to do this year, it’ll be great for my legacy. The sky’s the limit.”