Commentary: Urban Meyer, Ohio State football might have its next Percy Harvin
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 14:02
Even after an undefeated season, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer concedes that his team was missing something last year. Meyer said the 2012 Buckeyes lacked speed, particularly on the perimeter of his spread offense.
Granted, the Buckeyes weren’t completely deficient at wide receiver. If they were, then OSU likely wouldn’t have finished the season at 12-0. Rather, the Buckeyes lacked dynamic athletes at the position, and Meyer’s spread offense couldn’t reach its full potential without an electrifying speedster who could make plays in open space.
“We didn’t have the home run hitter,” Meyer said. “We didn’t have enough make-you-miss guys on offense.”
It’s never a good thing when a team lacks playmakers, regardless of offensive philosophy. But in Meyer’s spread, which is designed to create mismatches with explosive athletes, it can be extremely detrimental. Without such playmakers on the perimeter, OSU’s aerial attack faltered in 2012, and the team finished the season ranked 105th nationally in passing yards per game.
“We felt like we were pretty deficient last year in terms of getting the ball in space,” said offensive coordinator Tom Herman. “We get one-on-one with a safety or one-on-one with a corner, or even a linebacker at times, and we can’t make that guy miss.”
It’s not a problem that Meyer has dealt with much in his coaching career. His teams at Florida were stacked with ‘make-you-miss’ talent, the most prominent being Percy Harvin, who is now a receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.
In college, Harvin hardly played a defined, traditional position. Instead he lined up all over the field.
In 2008, his final year at Florida, Harvin led the Gators in receptions and was second in rushing yards. Meyer calls the unorthodox role in which Harvin thrived the “hybrid,” but others simply refer to it as the “Percy Harvin position.”
Harvin, who reportedly might be traded by the Vikings, could not be reached for comment.
Thus, it wasn’t surprising to hear Harvin’s name mentioned several times Feb. 6 — National Signing Day — when Meyer and his coaching staff addressed their 2013 recruiting class, which is ranked No. 1 by Scout.com, No. 2 by Rivals.com and No. 3 by ESPN.com and features plenty of much-needed speed.
In fact, Meyer believes the newest crop of Buckeye talent contains multiple players that fit the Harvin-position mold.
On Feb. 6, the most talked about prospective Harvin-type playmaker was Dontre Wilson. Wilson, ranked by Scout, Rivals and ESPN as a four-star prospect and ESPN’s No. 5 athlete, originally committed to Oregon, but announced that he would sign with OSU just days before National Signing Day.
Wilson caught the OSU coaching staff’s attention while playing for DeSoto High School in DeSoto, Texas, because of his ability to make an impact as a running back and a receiver.
According to ESPN, Wilson accumulated more than 2,600 total yards of offense and 46 touchdowns in 2012.
“There are not too many people in the country that can do that,” Meyer said. “That’s a very unusual athlete.”
After the Buckeyes won the battle with Oregon to acquire Wilson’s services, running backs coach Stan Drayton and receivers coach Zach Smith began fighting for the rights to personally coach the multi-talented athlete.
“We’re so excited to have him in this system,” said Drayton, who coached Harvin with Meyer at Florida.
Like Harvin during his time with the Gators, Wilson will likely receive most of his tutelage directly from Meyer, while spending some time with both Drayton and Smith as well. Drayton, though, didn’t seem too upset about this arrangement.
He beamed while talking about Wilson on National Signing Day, the first day coaches can speak about incoming talent.
It’s easy to understand why OSU coaches are so enthusiastic about Wilson. Many athletes are fast, but few possess world-class speed. Wilson is in the second category. “You sit there and look at his track time. His track times are national times,” Drayton said. “He can be a collegiate track athlete and be an All-American. He is that fast.
“That’s probably one of the missing pieces to the puzzle that we were looking for to complete the spread type of philosophy that we run here.”
Wilson isn’t the only incoming freshman with speed who can help complete OSU’s spread offense, though. In fact, the staff seems just as excited about Jalin Marshall, ESPN.com’s and Rivals.com’s four-star and Scout.com’s five-star wide receiver.