#3. Markus Wheaton (2009-2012)
The biggest receiver on this list--although not by much-- Markus Wheaton had a career defined by speed and big plays. Deep post routes and jet sweeps were his bread and butter, and Wheaton became a security blanket for every quarterback. Wheaton was so prolific that he couldn’t even be held back during a 2012 season in which quarterbacks alternated almost every series, finishing with 91 receptions for more than 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns.
After becoming the Beavers all-time leader in receptions, Wheaton impressed coaches at the NFL Scouting Combine and drew comparisons to Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. As it turns out, this comparison was fitting as the Steelers drafted Wheaton to eventually replace the mercurial Mike Wallace. While Wheaton has taken longer than expected to become that ultra weapon, he has still improved as a receiver during his three years of professional ball.
Wheaton has been a better slot receiver in the NFL, but he will have to step up and have a career year while starter Martavis Bryant is suspended for an entire season.
Signature Game #1 - 36-26 Victory Against Arizona State in 2012
One week after the 11th-ranked Beavers lost to Washington, Arizona State came to Corvallis looking for the upset. The game started poorly for OSU as quarterback Cody Vaz lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and ASU built up a 14-3 lead in the first half. The ingredients were present for an upset/blowout, but Markus Wheaton was determined to prevent that outcome.
The big plays started with a 38-yard jet sweep to put the Beavs in field goal range. Wheaton followed that up with a 50-yard touchdown reception in which he beat the cornerback with a perfect dig route and outran the ASU secondary to reach the end zone. Tied at 19 in the third, OSU finally took the lead for good when Vaz hit Wheaton on an end zone fade.
In a must-win situation, Markus Wheaton took over like all star receivers do and propelled his team to victory. Wheaton finished the game with four receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns and three rushes for 57 yards on jet sweeps.
Ironically enough, one of the biggest plays of the day didn’t actually count in the stat sheet. Vaz rolled out to his right and launched a pass downfield to Wheaton. The ball was badly underthrown and landed right in an ASU defender’s arms. This would have been a killer interception, but Wheaton jumped at the last moment and knocked the ball away. The Beavs recovered and kicked a field goal to tie the game heading into halftime.
Signature Game Pro Edition - Week 12 Loss to Seattle in 2015
Markus Wheaton has long been regarded as one of the most perplexing NFL receivers. The former Beavers star has all the physical tools to be great, but his seasons have been inconsistent. Part of this may be caused by offensive coordinator Todd Haley using Wheaton as an outside receiver, while another part could be Ben Roethlisberger feeling more comfortable with Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. The true answer may not be known for a while, but Beavers fans can remain comforted by the fact that Wheaton still makes his presence known with some big games.
In week 12 of 2015, the Steelers traveled to Seattle to take on the feared Seahawks. Many analysts expected this game to be a Russell Wilson-led blowout, but Big Ben and his receivers turned the game into a high-flying shootout. The Steelers top receivers were all healthy, meaning that Wheaton spent the game in the slot, a position in which he is more comfortable. The speedy 25-year-old repeatedly beat Kam Chancellor and Jeremy Lane on deep routes and served as a security blanket for Roethlisberger. Two of the best catches of the day came on plays when Roethlisberger was forced to scramble around desperately looking for a receiver. Wheaton worked his way open both times and was the recipient of a 41-yard pass and a 69-yard touchdown.
On a day where both Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant drew all the attention and were held mostly in check with 51 and 69 yards respectively, Markus Wheaton had the biggest impact with nine catches for 201 yards and a touchdown.