This is the third of eight position previews of Washington State University’s 2011 football team. Today: Receivers. Tuesday: Running backs and tight ends.
PULLMAN – Mike Levenseller has said it before. And he’ll say it again before he calls it quits as a receiver coach.
There is depth and then there is quality depth.
This season, Washington State has depth at the receiving position.
And, Levenseller believes, the next step is just down the field.
“Having quality depth is what we are developing,” Levenseller said Sunday. “We have talented depth right now, guys that can play. But to develop the quality of route-running and making plays, we have to be consistent.
“(Quarterback) Jeff (Tuel) has to know when he delivers the ball, we’re going to make the plays.”
“You saw it today,” Tuel said earlier this week. “I literally walk over and say thank you to Marquess (Wilson). He’s running wide open across the middle and I throw it high. It comes out of my hand and I’m just clinching. I’m like, ‘Ah (crud).’
“And then he jumps up, catches and runs for, whatever, a 50-yard touchdown. You can’t coach that, you can’t teach that, that’s just something you wake up with every day, as they like to say. Our receivers wake up with that every day.”
But it is Levenseller’s job to coach and teach consistency. As spectacular as Wilson was as a freshman – 55 catches (a WSU freshman record) for 1,006 yards (ditto) and six touchdowns – there is room for improvement.
And Wilson is filling that room.
“He has really taken off,” Levenseller said. “You look at a guy like that and wonder how can he get better, well, shoot he’s gotten a lot better. Pad level, understanding leverage, he’s improved greatly since last year.
“I’m really, really pleased with him.”
With an improved Wilson on one side, senior Jared Karstetter, a Pac-10 honorable mention selection last year when he caught a team-high 62 passes, on the other and a group of underclassmen in the wings, the Cougars are set on the outside.
But their depth really shows at the flanker spot.
Senior Isiah Barton, a junior college transfer, made strides at the end of last season and seems to have solidified his hold on the starting role. But freshman Henry Eaddy, junior Gino Simone and sophomore walk-on Bennett Bontemps are all pushing for playing time.
No wonder Karstetter can say “we want to be leaders and we think we are the best group on the team. As wideouts, that’s what we shoot for. We want to be the best.”
“We’ve made some great plays,” Karstetter added. “We just need to get more consistent as a group. There have been plenty of plays, ones down through the threes, that are big-time plays. We expected that coming in. We have a deep group of guys, we just have to keep making it more consistent.”