Wilson Going To School On SEC Defenses

It began as an ordinary game-week interview. It became a tutorial on the finer points of playing college receiver, as a Bulldog soph turned prof.

The question was general, about why De’Runnya Wilson’s numbers have dropped off the past two games with others’ statistics increasing. His answer?

”(Against) Cover-two, the majority of my routes they convert the protection releases. The inside receiver will ‘eat’ from that. The last game we played they had cover-two to the field and I think made quarters-coverage to the boundary. That allowed Fred to get open, with RoJo running protection releases too on the outside. That’s really why inside receivers eat against cover-two.”

Got that? Wilson certainly makes it sound so simple. Ahhh, but ask if he could have said the same things a year ago at this time? “No, not at all!” he grinned.

To hear Wilson discuss his craft explains exactly why he is growing into a rising SEC star. And, why the future is even brighter for this Bulldog. He is not only willing to learn but starving for instruction to turn all the physical gifts into a top-tier target.

Oh, and add ambition to the checklist, too.

“I didn’t grade Champion too many games last year because of the little things,” said Wilson. “How to line up and look at different disguises and defenses and coverages. Last year didn’t know what the difference between the cover-two was and cover-three; when a safety walked-down, when it’s man, different stuff like that. I just had to learn that off-season and develop with Dak and get better as I went.”

Dak as in Prescott, who has found a comfortable connection with the second-year receiver. Through eight sophomore games Wilson is nearing his entire 2013 catch-count of 26, with 22 now. He’s already surpassed the yardage total, 367 to 351; and of more meaning doubled his touchdown output with six scoring grabs this season.

In fact, such is the impression made by Wilson this second season that when the balls aren’t coming to him, everyone notices. Panics, even, which amuses and even confuses the kid himself. “Folks asked me today, why you been so quiet?” Wilson said.

“I mean, sometimes it will be like that! I just really get in the game and do my job. Folks are like ‘they need to throw you the ball’ and this and that. Which I don’t understand. If I do my job by not getting the ball and that opens somebody else up, that describes why Fred Ross was open last week. It’s really what the concept is of what I do on the field and the whole receiver corps as a group.”

Teammate Ross did indeed have a big weekend against Arkansas, four catches for 107 yards with the game-deciding play on a 69-yard touchdown connection with Prescott. Meanwhile Wilson ‘settled’ for a two-catch evening and 18 yards; coming after another two-catch day at Kentucky with 30 yards. He isn’t concerned, really.

Just encouraged, as Mississippi State shows that scheming to take one target away this season only sets up teammates to take charge. “We feed off each other,” Wilson said. Though, he admits to getting a bit hungry again what with all the defensive focus he has drawn. Yeah, it can be flattering, but…

“It’s a lot frustrating. But I’m still learning. I’m really just trying to do what I’m supposed to do out there on the field and grade Champion every Sunday.”

Nowadays Wilson is achieving such top marks on far more than his inherent talents. Oh, thrown into action as a true freshman he did produce. Take his two-touchdown afternoon at Texas A&M. Or those acrobatic clutch sideline catches from Prescott which allowed State’s Egg Bowl comeback. Thus much more was expected from the second SEC season.

Demanded, even. Spring saw intensive teaching of details Wilson had no high school clue about, with obvious results this fall. Simply, he sees an entirely different field now.

“Different techniques, different coverages. When I get out there and line up I see disguises from the defenses, how to come in and out of my breaks and my routes. Technique-wise, a lot of stuff man. How to work hard during practice for in the game and it’s a lot easier.”

Of course things came pretty easy at Wenonah High. Good thing too because Wilson only played one real season. He was an all-state basketball star who had to be talked into returning to the gridiron as a senior. With size, length, speed, all of it, limited instruction wasn’t an issue. “We didn’t have a receiver coach to tell us how to do different techniques,” Wilson said.

”I’m not trying to talk bad about my high school. But when I started playing I had to develop. I had to learn the little things. The thing with me was go catch the ball, I ran a lot of go-routes in high school.”

College football? Yeah, there was a lit-tle bit more involved than going long, fast. Pre-season observers came away impressed with the new guy’s potential. Wilson’s own reaction was very, very different.

“It was hard, man. I hated it. It’s hard for me to say this, but I didn’t know if I was going to surely play. I didn’t like it, to be honest. It was so new to me, it was so hard. I never thought anything would be so hard for me in life.”

Yes, Wilson can confess he really weighed going back to the other game. To his credit Coach Dan Mullen allowed the frustrated freshman to play basketball in spring, figuring tastes of football success would keep the kid on track. Wilson’s true transition was recognizing at this level it is all business, not just play. Happily for everyone, this initial lesson was learned. And accepted.

“I’m just glad I went through my freshman year here, the learning stage. And I feel comfortable with the point I’m at now,” Wilson said. ““Because I realized nothing is easy in life. You can learn anything if you work hard at it. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes, but like my Coach said if you’re going to make mistakes make them at full speed. Make sure you’re going at full-speed. That allowed me to get better. The little mistakes I made as a freshman allowed me to get different stuff worked out.”

For that matter even some sophomore gaffes have been addressed. There was a September stretch Wilson drew offensive interference and holding and blocking flags. Yet once SEC season began he was playing clean and mean and making the big plays. Wilson learned to use his length and improving strength in the right way. Though…

“I just don’t want nobody to touch me when I’m running my routes, I don’t know why!” Wilson said. He’s adjusting since, after all, when the defender gets so touchy it only allows a smart receiver to use his own advantages and create the right kind of spacing. Plus, Wilson said, he now sees the fear in some cornerbacks’ eyes when they judge the size miss-match.

As for handling down-field contact legally? “I’ve learned how to chicken-wins and keep my hands to myself when running routes.”

At Mississippi State’s present pace Wilson will be running his routes on into January. Or, about the time SEC basketball season begins. Will we see Wilson try again to play both sports? He won’t say no outright but it surely sounds that way discussing his post-season goals.

”Get better. I’ve still got to get better. I see what I’m capable of doing, by us being #1 in the country I see what the team is capable of doing. I want to be the best now, at this point. Basketball doesn’t really bother me because I know what I’m capable of doing in football and being in life.”

And hey, who knows? Before long this still-student of the receiver’s game could become the teacher to a new generation of Bulldog route-runners.

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