I had a chance to speak with Mark Sandritter of the Washington State SB Nation site CougCenter, about the 7th round drat pick of the Chicago Bears, Marquess Wilson. Mark covered Wilson during his time playing wide out with the Cougars, and he'll provide some insight on one of the Bears newest players.
If you haven't already, check out the Marquess Wilson scouting report from CougCenter.
Windy City Gridiron - Wilson quit the team and released a statement claiming abuse from Head Coach Mike Leach; I'm asking you to pick a side, was this a situation of a mentally weak player quitting when faced with adversity, or a case of a player taking a stand against an abusive coach?
CougCenter - Wilson reportedly recanted his claims of abuse to investigators and independent investigations by WSU and the Pac-12 found no signs of abuse, so it apparently wasn't a stand against abuse. The new coaching staff pushed Wilson hard from the time they were hired. He was the golden boy and the incoming coaches made it very clear that he wasn't going to receive star treatment. Following the situation from the outside, I think the combination of huge expectations from fans and media and tough love from coaches wore him down over the season. He was a potential All-American and yet it never seemed he could do enough to impress the coaches. He and the team weren't having the season many expect and I think it all just led to him reaching his breaking point.
As for the letter, I'm still not convinced it was mostly his doing. I think he was influenced by others, most notably his step father, to write the letter in a form of damage control. They didn't want him to be labeled a quitter so instead he was standing up to abuse. The problem with that was two investigations failed to confirm any of the allegations and he was instead labeled as a guy who walked out on practice because it was too hard.
Wilson is a 20-year-old kid who made a mistake. Should he have walked away? Absolutely not. But people make mistakes and I think it's unfortunate he's received as much criticism as he has.He's been drug through the mud since and suffered the consequences, I wouldn't expect similar issues in the NFL.
WCG - Do you think if Wilson remained on the team, that he would have been a top 50 prospect had he turned pro?
CC - I think he would have been in that mix, but it's tough to say because he wasn't as good as a junior as he was during his first two seasons. He has solid hands, but struggled with drops last season, possibly due to a lack of focus. If Paul Wulff and his staff had kept their jobs and Wilson continued along the trajectory of his first two season, I would say absolutely he is a top 50 selection.
The issue, however, is Wilson was never going to be a combine guy. His skills translate much better to a game than they do to a workout. He's a long strider and would continually beat teams deep, but isn't going to run the fastest 40-yard dash. He has tremendous body control and successfully high-points the ball more often than not, but that won't show up at the combine.
If Wilson finished out the season, my guess is he's a third-round pick. If he had the season many were expecting him to have, he's probably a solid second-round pick with a chance to sneak into the late first-round discussion.
WCG - Were there any other instances during his Cougars career that NFL scouts would red flag?
CC - There were some "body language" issues on the sideline last season, but they were overstated in my opinion. Matt Millen highlighted Wilson's "poor body language" during the end of a blowout loss. He was open and didn't get the ball so he threw a hand up, as if a wide receiver has never done that.
Outside of the one incident at practice, Wilson comes off as a hard-working, humble kid. He was never in trouble off the field and he never failed a drug test.
WCG - During his college career was he used mostly split out wide or in the slot?
CC - Wilson played outside his entire three years. He spent most of his career as the X receiver and rarely moved off it. He had some success on inside screens during his career, but his skills fit best outside where he can get vertical and out maneuver defenders for the ball.
WCG - What is the one thing you think Wilson needs to work on to make the transition to the professional ranks?
CC - He needs to get stronger. When he arrived at WSU he looked like he was 170 pounds soaking wet. I would wince when he was hit sometimes, hoping the defender didn't break him in half. He added some weight during his career, but still has some filling out to do. The good news is he's only 20 and is still physically maturing. He had some issues getting off press coverage, most of which were attributed to his lack of strength.
He also needs to be more consistent with his hands. Whether it was a focus issue or a skill issue, Wilson dropped too many balls last season.
Thanks again to the guys over at CougCenter!
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