Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Wheaton looking to build on solid 2011
By Kevin Gemmell
In a conference already spilling over with wide receiver talent, a bigger, stronger Markus Wheaton can only be a good thing for Oregon State. And maybe a problem for the rest of the conference.
As Sean Mannion continues his development as a starting quarterback, his No. 1 target is also focused on getting better for the 2012 season.
In a video interview he did with the OSU athletic department, Wheaton described his goals for the upcoming spring session.
"I want to improve all the way around," Wheaton said. "I'm really working on everything from the basics to the small details."
If you look at just the numbers, Wheaton was one of the best receivers in the Pac-12 last season. He tied for fifth with 73 receptions and was sixth in receiving yards with 986. Where he came up short -- where Oregon State as an offense came up short -- was finding the end zone. The Beavers were second to last in the conference in scoring offense, averaging just 21.8 points per game. They scored the fewest touchdowns in the Pac-12 (31) and for all of his catches and yards, Wheaton had just one touchdown reception -- a 3-yard catch from Mannion in a 27-8 loss to Utah.
Part of improving that will be Mannion developing a rapport with Wheaton, who said the two have been working out together constantly.
"We have been throwing routes every day," Wheaton said. "I feel like building that chemistry will be huge for the season. Last year we didn't know he had a spot so we weren't doing too much last year during this time."
Mannion will get better. Wheaton, who said he's put on about 10 pounds will also get better. Developing a run game would certainly help both of them. Last season the Beavers were last in the conference in rushing offense, averaging just 86.9 yards per game on the ground.
"We've always prided ourselves on the running game," said OSU coach Mike Riley in a Q&A last month. "We've had great runners with great production through the years -- we've been a good running team and it's been a key to the success that we've had. Last year, not running the ball was an indication of the lack of success we had."
Wheaton also said wide receivers coach Brent Brennan has been riding him about following through on routes more. He's looking to add some mental strength to go along with his newly-developed physical strength.
"I get lazy running my routes," he said. "Coach Brennan helped me with my route running. He's pushing me to get better at that."
Oregon State checked in with the No. 5 passing attack in the conference last year, averaging 286.8 yards per game through the air. But a lot of that was playing catch-up. Even as the running game develops, Wheaton said he expects to do a better job stretching the field next year with Brandin Cooks on the opposite side.