Marquess Wilson is game by game, quickly becoming the most prolific wide receiver in Washington State University history, setting records left, right, up and down any field that will host him. His thin, yet endless frame races around silly looking db’s and reaches any which direction to snatch up passes that, for lots and lots of receivers would simply be out of reach and untouchable. He has what I like to call “game burst” and seemingly every drive he leaves us oohing and awing (and for me, jumping out of my seat with an emphatic “He did What!?”) while hauling in amazing, jaw-dropping, just simply unbelievable catches. For a select few receivers it simply doesn’t matter who or how many defenders you throw at them, they will always come up with a couple plays a game that no other player on the field can match, Wilson is one of those guys. So we’re going to assume that MW’s a lock to be the best, most complete receiver the school has ever seen to this point in time, especially with Mike Leach pushing him to be better than he has ever been. But my man is not just on pace to break the bank on the WSU receiving books. In fact halfway through his college career (fingers majorly crossed) he’s all set to assault the all-time Conference records, leaving us in wonder of where he will end up on the all time list of unstoppable receivers in Pac-10 history.
Three Cougar receivers rank among the top 25 Pac-10(12) receivers of all time, according to BleacherReport. The list is of course subjective so there’s some debate probably on #21-25 and possible overall rank, but the top 20 are probably locks in any report, excluding the Utes and Buffs because they weren’t in the Conference. Devard Darling #25, Jason Hill #20 and Brandon Gibson #17 are on that incredible list, but Washington State now boasts the Pac-12’s reigning leading receiver in the aforementioned Marquess Wilson as just a sophomore, and keep in mind, he had a backup qb throwing to him for much of last season. So let’s now get deep into the conversation of the best wide receivers this Conference has ever seen.
*Wilson smashed most of the freshman receiving records at Washington State and now owns the all time single season receiving record after his sophomore campaign produced 82 catches for 1388 yards and 12 touchdowns. Think about that number from a player on a 4-8 team, that’s remarkable. With just under 400 yards to go until he holds the WSU career yard mark (Gibson with 2,756), and only 14 tds till he holds that career record as well (Hill with 32), it’s safe to say that Wilson is already the most prolific and explosive young receiver in school history.
Keeping in mind that Utah and Colorado receivers have not been accounted for on the list due to the brand new Conference expansion, Brandon Gibson is currently ranked highest of all Cougs on the bleacher report listed at #17, ahead of #19 Shaun McDonald/ASU and #18 Bobby Wade/UA. So we now set our sights on the likes of DeSean Jackson (the most explosive first 3 steps in a college receiver that I’ve ever witnessed personally, holds the Pac-10 record for punt return tds with 6, CAL), Dwayne Jarrett (Pac-10 record holder with 41 receiving tds in just 3 seasons, USC) and Mario Bailey (Pac-10 single season record holder with 18 tds, UW) from #11-16.
*Marquess currently owns 137 catches and 18 tds and if he matches production from 2011 he will have 209 catches and 30 tds after just his junior season. So after 2012 the numbers say that he’d fit in quite nicely somewhere in here. If he really has a breakout year and were to put up a few more catches and matches the yards total from either freshman or sophomore year, he would surpass #11 Dwayne Jarrett in those 2 categories. That’s some good food for thought… but wait, he might be even better than that!
So now we have to look at the top 10! From #5-#10 the list boasts the likes of Mike Thomas (Pac-10 record holder for all time receptions with 260, UA), Mike Haas (1 of only 10 players in CFB history at any school to accomplish 3 1000 yard seasons, OSU), Derek Hagan (2nd in Pac-10 history in receptions  and yards , ASU) and Lynn Swann (who never produced big numbers but is in the College Football and NFL Hall of Fame and is largely regarded as the best athlete of his era at the position, not to mention he played at a run dominant USC).
*Oh my goodness, at this point we’re splitting hairs because I can’t possibly see Marquess regressing in the Mike Leach School of Record Setting Qb’s and Receivers, which means he’ll add to the “3 seasons of 1000 yards” group in just 3 seasons. That’s dang impressive and would have to be considered for top 10 worthy, if indeed Haas’ accomplishments put him in the top 10. Personally though, I really am not sure about Haas’ status as #8, so there’s an opinion barrier for me. But Swann is #7, and while MW isn’t at all the best athlete of his time because there are just so many big, strong and fast receivers like him these days, his knack for adjusting to the ball and making the unbelievable catch is as good as there is in College Football today. Not just that but he’s on pace to annihilate the Conference catch record of 260! MW’s other strength: keeping his balance after catches while defenders fall around him, aka Derek Hagan, who was physically more imposing than Wilson but never could separate the way our boy does. Marquess for me easily breaks into this top 10 list if the production continues and matches last season.
And finally we look at the top 5. WOW, the top 5 in Pac-12 history! Could Washington State possibly be on this list? Well, #5 is John Jefferson (188 receptions and almost 3000 yards in the mid-70’s at ASU… in the 70’s! That was simply unheard of in that time). #4 is little-big-man Troy Walters (Pac-10 record holder for receiving yards in a career with 4047 yards, Stanford). #3 is the physically imposing Reggie Williams (243 receptions for 3598 yards with 16 100 yard games in 3 years, UW), #2 is Keyshawn Johnson (Pac 10 record holder with 12 consecutive 100 yard games and part of the Rose Bowl HOF for his 12 catch, 216 yard, 1 td effort in ’96, USC) and #1 is the simply unstoppable Mike Williams (Pac-10 record holder for freshman receptions , yards  and tds , and tacked on an additional 95 catch, 1314 yard, 16 td sophomore year for good measure. He played only 2 seasons at USC).
*Now almost assuredly, if Wilson were to stay healthy and play 2 more seasons he would take the Pac-12 record books and engrave the Washington State logo all over them. But the questions in the top 5 are, what kind of absurd numbers would the Williams’ kids have put up if they had stayed 4 years, and does a 5’6 Troy Walters trump a close winner in the ranking if anyone above 6’0 takes his record? It’s close here. Marquess is much bigger and faster than #4 and #5, but a rail compared to the top 3, who just manhandled and overpowered their prey on the outside. But again, MW has the knack for getting separation unlike anyone outside of Walters and “Key” on the list. His highlight reel is as impressive as any to this point as well, as he has a true “burst-ability” and has made some of the most ridiculous catches I have ever witnessed in any capacity, especially near the sideline.
If (and that is a big if at this point due to the nature of the NFL nowadays) Marquess stays healthy and stays in school for all 4 seasons will he rumble into the top 5 in my humble opinion, crushing nearly every record ever set in the Conference. It might even be safe to say that the Cougs would overtake the Huskies after Marquess’ Junior season if he can jump all of Williams’ numbers, putting him at #3 all time! But to break into the top 2, I believe two things have to happen at Washington State:
1: The Cougs have to go at least 8-4 this year or next with MW. USC has the top 2 on the list and both of them have a Rose Bowl victory to their credit. I don’t think WSU has to make a Rose Bowl but they have to win a big, respectable bowl game (most likely the Holiday or Alamo). Especially when you consider the Leach factor will “diminish” any outsiders’ general opinions on possible high numbers. If Marquess becomes a respectable-bowl mvp, he could overtake Keyshawn, although the perception of Washington State over USC could be tough to shake.
2: On top of that Marquess needs to break 100 receptions in a single season. Point blank, I think he needs to match 95 catches to even dream about catching the great Mike Williams, but he needs 100+ in reality. While 95 is a ridiculous number of catches in general, with Leach at the helm, Michael Crabtree grabbed a gaudy 134 balls for 1962 yards and 22 tds in his biggest season as a freshman at Texas Tech. That is absolutely incredible and I have to believe that Marquess can and will come close to those numbers in this system and with these qbs as a veteran receiver. If he takes the Pac’s single season receiving td record on top of it, I think there’s a chance that he’s #1.
Start the “Marquess for Heisman” campaign Coug fans! And make sure to check out MW’s 2010 Highlights and 2011 Highlights (Please excuse the music, it’s not ACU’s highlight film). Keep tuned to Allcougdup.com for more CougSclusives!