Marquess Wilson still adjusting to Leach

MARQUESS WILSON A month ago was being talked about as an All-America candidate, and he'll no doubt be among the pre-season selections when the national magazines hit the stands. But since spring ball began, and again yesterday, Mike Leach has been mostly lukewarm in many of his comments about the 6-4 junior wide receiver. So what's going on?

Maybe it's motivation. Maybe Leach sees something untapped in Wilson, something that could enable him to go from very good to great. Maybe Leach is simply displeased with the wideout's consistency or effort.

Maybe it's all of the above, and more. But I don't think Leach is trying to motivate Wilson, or any other player, through public comments. That doesn't seem like Leach's style, which is plainspoken, direct and what you see is what you get.


"Well, he needs to figure out how to get off press coverage. He needs to fight through it a little better. And he needs to be a more consistent player," said Leach following Day 12 of the Cougars' spring session.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Many in the media, and among fan bases, love to compare players or call someone the next so-and-so. Not unexpectedly, Leach was then asked how Wilson compares to Michael Crabtree.

"No. He doesn't. (long pause) Now, he could, he could, he could. But the biggest thing on doing that is he's got to have the same work ethic. And right now his work ethic doesn't equal (that). Great receivers have great work ethics. Right now, his work ethic is average," said Leach.

WILSON HAS BEEN head and shoulders above anyone else, the Cougs' best receiver the past two seasons and a true long-ball threat. But Leach's Air Raid doesn't operate like a traditional offense. It's primarily a short passing attack, with runs after the catch being what chews up the yards. Oh, there will be 4 verticals at times. But the deep ball is not the bread and butter.

And so Wilson will need to adjust his considerable skills if he's to thrive under Leach. So far, it hasn't been a seamless transition. Wilson has been put on the third team at times this spring. And fans sometimes worry when a player goes through a spell like this. The concern is the student-athlete will get discouraged, which could lead to an even worse situation. That seems unlikely in this case.

"Every coach expects us to be physical as a unit," Wilson said back on April 6, around the spring session's midpoint. "They all expect that from us and that's a mindset that we need to have where we think we're big guys and (to) just go out there and be physical."

Keep in mind that Wilson said that the same day he dropped a pass and was immediately relegated to run with the scout team.

And also keep in mind that it's still spring, a time of experimentation, when the coaches will elevate a number of players to the first unit in order to take a closer look. The Air Raid has a lot of receivers to look at, and Leach and crew have been giving some players turns with the 1s that will not be starters in the fall.

IT ALSO SEEMS CLEAR that Leach does see both the talent and potential Wilson possesses, regardless of whether he's employing any motivational devices through his comments or not. He said so soon both after taking the job at WSU and again just before spring workouts began. And then once spring was well under way, too.

"There's some stuff that would be misses with some people, that aren't misses with him," Leach said.

Yes, Wilson has caught 0, 2 and 2 catches in the Cougars' main scrimmaging sessions. But Wilson is still likely to win most of the battles during drills when he goes up against the top Cougar corners. And we're also still, only, through practice No. 12 in the spring.

Think the kinks might be worked out between now and the end of fall camp? The guess here says they will.

  • The Cougs will hold their annual Crimson & Gray Game in Spokane this Saturday at Albi Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m., with beer gardens opening at 10 a.m. and Cougar players and coaches signing autographs at 11 a.m. WSU expects a crowd of 10,000-plus for the game, which will be televised live in the Greater Spokane region on SWX.

  • The game will not be the capstone to Leach's first spring season at WSU. He wants to take what he and his staff learn from the game and employ it in practice while it's fresh in players' minds, so the Cougs will hold one more practice next week.

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