Is Marquess Wilson The Cougars' Most Important Player?

We're not going to answer this question, but instead will use it more as a discussion starter. Over at ESPN, Kevin Gemmell is putting together a list of the most important players on each Pac-12 team. Quarterbacks are excluded, which should answer one question and make things more interesting.

Gemmell went the easy route and picked Marquess Wilson, and I can't figure out if he's right or wrong. Wilson is certainly an easy choice, but is he the right one? All I can come up with is maybe and, with help from Jeff, a few reasons for and against.

Here's a quick blurb from Gemmell:

For starters, he's really, really good. And when you plug him into Mike Leach's system, he can be really, really great. No other non-quarterback on the Washington State roster will likely benefit more from the scheme change than Wilson, who has outstanding hands attached to his 6-foot-4 frame. Don't be surprised to see him up for some preseason All-America considerations. And if he's not, he should be.

Wilson is really good but also struggles with motivation at the moment, as Gemmell notes. But I struggle with whether really good is equal to most important, and it comes down to a few things.

Hit the jump for a couple items to chew on.

  • If Marquess Wilson went down with an injury, I wouldn't freak out. This sounds weird, and perhaps sacrilege, but an injury to Wilson wouldn't feel like everything is doomed. In part, it's because of the nature of the Air Raid -- one receiver does not make the offense, and the scheme is designed to spread the ball out to many players in space. I also happen to like Dominique Williams, and his emergence could be big for the offense.
  • But, as Jeff pointed out, Leach's offense is all about exploiting space. Having someone like Wilson, who can stretch the field and force defenses to pay extra attention to him creates more space for everyone else. His mere presence helps the offense, catches or not. These two points are the crux of the whole debate within my head, and it comes down to whether taking Wilson away cripples the team.
  • I think Gemmel was on to something with Travis Long, as well. Leach's teams are known for their offense, but were pushed to the next level when he had a serviceable defense. Not all-world, mind you, but solid enough to compliment the offense -- be it by forcing turnovers or quick three-and-outs. The defense is going to pivot on Long -- he'll be the guy who makes everything go, in a way. On the defensive side of the ball only, Long has to be the most important guy.
  • If we're looking at most important as most irreplaceable, and I'm not sure we are, I'd submit Andrei Lintz. With a questionable offensive line, at the moment, Lintz's role is going to be vital to the offense, and nobody else can fill it. Max Hersey is a solid backup and second tight end when Leach decides to use 12 personnel, but he's not Lintz. And Lintz is that safety valve for Jeff Tuel -- the guy who can use his big body to make space while providing Tuel an easy target to hit while under duress.

Overall, Gemmell certainly isn't wrong, and he nailed two of the most important players. But is the most important player Wilson, keeping in mind the quarterback is excluded? Is there a better reason to anoint Wilson as the most important player?

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