No. 125: Marquel Wade, No. 1, Arkansas, Wide Receiver
Generally, one would not expect a guy who only caught eight balls a season ago to draw rave reviews from people looking into the 2012 season. Marquel Wade is not a typical player, and Arkansas was not a typical situation.
The Hogs were stacked at wide receiver last season, and while Wade is a heck of a ball player, he was stuck behind Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, Cobi Hamilton and Chris Gragg as far as targets were concerned.
I am more bullish on Wade than B/R's Barrett Sallee, but I have no doubt the sophomore campaign will open some eyeballs.
Speed, speed and more speed.
What he brings to the table is a shifty, speedy approach to the game that will get the Razorbacks big plays in bunches and scare defensive coordinators and special teams coaches.
Now that he will be in their pass sets more often, watch for the shifty sophomore to break the big plays and show off his ability to make defenders miss. The same can be said for Wade as he takes over the primary return man duties in Fayetteville.
Wade also has a toughness about him.
His play on special teams really stood out, as he got down the field, made tackles and was not afraid to stick his nose into the play. He did have a bit of a mishap against Vanderbilt, but Wade's the odd receiver who drew a penalty of aggression. That approach to the game is going to help him as he plays a bigger role in the offense.
Experience. While Wade is long on natural ability, he is short on experience.
Game speed won't be a big problem for him, as he saw a lot of action on special teams. However, how he transitions into the bigger role of wide receiver is the question.
He is not the bigger body that you want out of the No. 1 receiver, so Wade will have to work for spacing and learn quickly where he can get the ball form Tyler Wilson.
Expect Wade's contributions to increase markedly in 2012. That means more catches, more returns and more touches out of the backfield.
He is a player that is going to go from hoping he gets the ball, to a guy the Hogs rely on as a part of their game plan from week to week. He has the tools to do all of these things, and while Cobi Hamilton is the No. 1 receiver in Fayetteville, Wade is a great complement.
John L. Smith and Paul Petrino have to find a way to get the sophomore close to 10 touches a game to truly maximize what this electrifying player can do.
Between kickoff returns, punt returns, catches and rushing attempts, 10 touches a game is a doable number, and Wade will have a chance to show people what we saw flashes of a season ago.