August 5, 2012 in Sports

WSU’s Wilson responds to challenge

By The Spokesman-Review
 
The Spokesman-Review photo


(Full-size photo)

PULLMAN – If there is a topic Marquess Wilson likes discussing less than his own play – much of which has been outstanding through the first two seasons of his Washington State career – it has yet to be discovered.

He’s a star receiver and potential All-American, but also far more comfortable catching passes than he is talking about himself in front of a camera. And so it came as no surprise that when he was asked Sunday about his development in coach Mike Leach’s pass-a-whole-lot offense, Wilson praised the hard work of the team’s quarterbacks, offensive linemen, running backs, receivers and coaches before saying anything else.

So outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons is left to evaluate Wilson’s progression from the spring, when he was publicly criticized by Leach for his lack of nasty, so to speak, during practices.

“It’s night and day,” Simmons said, shaking his head in mild amazement. “Night and day.”

First, there is the matter of Wilson’s arms, and his chest, and his shoulders. All are bigger, intended to add another dimension to the game of the 6-foot-4, 185-pound junior who caught 82 passes for 1,388 yards last season – both WSU records – and could build off those numbers playing in an offense as prolific as Leach’s.

Everyone knows he can catch. And run. But it was his reluctance to push people around that held him back a bit during the spring, prompting a challenge from WSU coaches.

Four days into camp, he’s answered.

“We talked about the other day, with him being such a long, angular guy, people are going to assume that he doesn’t like contact, or he’s going to shy away from contact,” Simmons said. “We’ve just got to take his weaknesses and make them strengths.”

Never mind that Wilson’s personality comes through in the form of a smile more often than not. That doesn’t mean he can’t knock guys backward. Simmons uses former Lakers great Magic Johnson as an example:

“One of the greatest point guards and basketball players in the world was always happy with a smile on his face,” Simmons said. “But if you came through the paint he wouldn’t hesitate to put that elbow on you. It’s a part of the game. It doesn’t make you a bad person.

“I’ve got to teach him that it’s OK sometimes to play the game violently.”

Wilson said he honestly doesn’t know why he couldn’t commit to the coaches’ desired style of play during the spring, though it wasn’t necessarily a matter of not trying.

“It was more my integrity of wanting to come out there and play and seeing I was letting my team down,” Wilson said. “That just made me come to the realization that I needed to work harder for them, because I know they’re going to work hard for me, so that’s what’s been pushing me this fall camp.

“We want to be known as one of the more physical receiving corps out there, and that’s what we’ve been working on this summer and this fall camp, just getting stronger in the weight room.”

Leach said he’s been impressed with Wilson’s play the past couple of days, though he agrees with Simmons that “little things,” technique-wise, are what the junior receiver most needs to focus on.

“You can tell that his confidence has grown,” Simmons said. “He wants to be good. He’s a kid that will do whatever you ask him to do to be the best that he can be.”

So far, he has. Which means those cameras won’t stop rolling any time soon.


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