Player Spotlight: Jeffrey Wilson

North Texas had an awful offense in 2015. One of the few bright spots and an MGN favorite was Jeff Wilson. He is quick, powerful, and effective. While he slowed down a bit toward the end of the year he was still North Texas’ most dangerous offensive player and received the focus of the defense late.

You have heard your friendly neighborhood MGN podcasters and bloggers discuss him at length but let’s grab a drink, sit and take a look at Jeff Wilson: RB.

What Wilson Brings

Jeffery Wilson’s running style is frequently compared to Adrian Peterson. While I don’t completely agree, I would say his gait is similar, as well as his fluid change of direction while running up field, losing little speed. Wilson does not have top end speed or AP’s balance, but he does have great acceleration and bends runs that quickly put tacklers out of position. After the handoff, Wilson is able to manipulate linebackers before even hitting a gap.

Additionally, he is able to vary his fakes and cuts, setting up defenders and taking away angles – while he doesn’t run with the same power as AP, he doesn’t necessarily have to run people over. Finally, Wilson’s vision allows him to make quick and decisive moves, as well as turn broken plays into positive gains.

Receiving

Wilson brings in an added dimension in the receiving game. Mainly used in the screen game last year, Wilson can catch the football with his hands and away from his body; at times he gained big chunks of yards last year just through his raw athleticism. In this Air Raid offense, Wilson will be asked to be a receiver in the screen game, in addition to running routes out of the backfield. In this play, Marshall totally disrespected the pass game and paid for it. Note the acceleration that makes this play deadly.

Versus Power 5 Schools

Against Iowa in week 4, North Texas was blown out 62-16. Jeffrey Wilson, however, was able to grind out 75 yards on 15 carries against one of the top run defenses in the country. For context, it was the highest rushing total by a running back against Iowa for the first 8 weeks of the season.

In the following play, Wilson shows his ability to manipulate linebackers before hitting the hole. After the handoff, Wilson baits the MLB with one step toward the right B gap. Wilson  cuts left and takes the gap created inside the LT. Wilson then baits the OLB to over pursue outside. With fluid movement, Wilson bursts up field, and breaks the OLB’s arm tackle. By this time, the MLB has come back across the field, covering the run well, and Wilson lowers his shoulder to break the initial MLB’s tackle, who eventually wraps up his foot.

Wilson vs Iowa 1

The previous run shown sets up the linebackers for the following run. Wilson bounces run around the outside of the LT. The MLB is tied up with a block. The OLB slows down to set up the tackle. Wilson fakes up field, the OLB bites inside, and Wilson is able to run around the contact.

Wilson vs Iowa 2

In week 10 against Tennessee, Wilson found very little room – or solid footing – to run.

In the following counter, North Texas is facing a 4-3 under front. Wilson takes a step towards the RT, causing the SLB to hesitate. He then follows the blocking H-back and pulling RG who sweep to the left. Wilson exhibits patience while waiting for blockers to create a hole. The LT is able to block the MLB while the pulling RG is able to put a block on the LDE. Wilson runs parallel to the line of scrimmage, and forces the WLB to take the outside leverage of the blocking H-back to contain Wilson, while the LT and RG create an edge. Wilson cuts and accelerates up field and then bends toward the sideline – quickly eating up 8 yards before the MLB gets a good angle on him.

Wilson vs Tennessee

Versus Conference USA

Marshall was one of the stingiest run defenses in the league in 2015. Jeffrey Wilson gashed them for 138 yards on 17 attempts on the ground, and one reception for 9 yards. Another 20+ yard reception was called back.

In this next play, Marshall demonstrates why its run defense was so good, but Wilson shows his ability to convert a broken play.

North Texas runs a zone stretch play to the left. Marshall is in 4-2-5, with a safety in the box. The C and LT pull, while the TE and RG pin. The right side of the o-line collapses, and the backside pursuit gains on Wilson. Finding the edge outside the pulling C, Wilson bounces outside; the safety seals the outside, and forces Wilson up field.

Part 1:
Wilson vs Marshall 1

The Mike LB has come across, filling Wilson’s gap created between the pulling C and LT. The LB comes in for the sure tackle for a one yard gain, but the LB’s hips are facing the sideline as he’s bearing down. Wilson feels the outside pressure and comes to a complete stop, cuts inside and leaves the LB grasping. Wilson showcases his acceleration up field and gains an additional 7-8 yards. Wilson turns what would have been a 1-2 yard play to about 8-9 yards.

Part 2:
Wilson vs Marshall 2

This next clip against Southern Miss shows his footwork and pad level through the hole, his fluidity, as well as his balance after broken tackles.

On this inside zone run, Wilson finds a small crease to punch through between the RG and RT. He keeps his pad level low through the hole. The hole isn’t completely clean, as he has to avoid running into the back of the C blocking at the next level. As he steps around that block, he has a linebacker bearing down on him. He cuts left, avoiding a direct hit, but the LB is able to land an arm tackle on his legs, tripping him up. Wilson is able to keep his feet underneath him, however, and regain his balance. Even so, he is able to accelerate up field again, causing the CB (#3) to misjudge his speed and land a poor tackle. Fortunately for the corner, a safety and linebacker are there to clean it up.

Wilson vs Southern Miss

Final Thoughts

North Texas will likely not run the same sorts of pulling sweeps and counters as last season, and as North Texas brings in several new faces to the offensive line – in addition to a new wide split line scheme – Wilson may need all of these skills to fight through an unproven offensive line. The new Air Raid system may bring a potential for big plays for Wilson, however. With Wilson’s vision, decision-making, and acceleration, he only needs one good block from a wide split offensive line to spring for a big gain. Additionally, several Air Raid plays could potentially pit Wilson 1-on-1 against a linebacker – a matchup in Wilson’s favor. If Littrell and Harrell utilize Wilson’s receiving ability, Wilson has a chance to build upon his 1,180 all-purpose yard performance from last year.

Hopefully, we see more of this next year:
Wilson scores on UTSA