Quick question: Who is the active leader in career touchdown receptions for Mississippi State? At first thought, the seemingly obvious answer is Jameon Lewis, but surprisingly, at least for some, the answer is De'Runnya Wilson. By the time he is through in Starkville, he may not own all of the records, but he may go down as the best and most efficent receiver in the history of Mississippi State football.
There are times in life when greatness happens right in front of your eyes, and in the case of Mississippi State wide receiver, that time might be right now. The 6-5, 225 pound, sophomore has the size to create matchup problems for opposing secondaries, and he has the speed to make opponents pay if they use linebackers to cover him. With only one year of varsity football under his belt in high school, Wilson has been learning his trade on the fly under the tutelage of the Bulldogs' wide receivers coach Billy Gonzalez, and Wilson's production on the field shows that he has been a quick study.
Coming into the season, pretty much everyone pointed to Lewis as the only sure commodity at the wide receiver position. However, the Bulldogs have spread the ball about a good bit, and with Lewis injured for the Texas A&M and Auburn games, Wilson emerged as the top target of Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. Any fan who watches Wilson play would have no doubts as to why that has happened.
Plays like the ones above and many others have helped him become a go-to target when the Bulldogs need a big play or Prescott is being pressured. After all, who would not like having that sort of target down field?
Last season Wilson started making a name for himself as a big, aggressive wide receiver. He finished his freshman season with 26 catches for 351 yards and three touchdowns, and going into the 2014 season, many felt he could become a true impact player if he could learn some of the subtleties of the position. After all, he picked up a few cheap offensive pass interference and holding calls from time to time that held him back, but most of the time, the penalties came as a result of aggressive play meaning they could be refined.
As the 2014 season has worn on, those penalties have been seen less and less, and now, it is Wilson using his frame to draw penalties from opposing defenses.
With his continued development, Bulldog fans are far from seeing Wilson hit the ceiling of his talent. In fact, one can legitimately wonder what that ceiling might be.
In 2014, Wilson only has 18 receptions, but he has scored on 33% of them, giving him six touchdowns for the year. He also leads the team with 319 receiving yards this season. At this point in his career he has 670 receiving yards, which stands at 29.5% of the way to Chad Bumphis's career-record mark of 2270. Bumphis picked up those yards on 159 receptions, giving him an average of 14.27 yards per catch and a touchdown scored every 6.6 catches. Wilson has his career yardage of 670 yards on 44 receptions at an average of 15.22 yards per catch and a touchdown scored every 4.8 receptions. Bumphis's 24 touchdown receptions, also an MSU record, equalled 15% of his career catches; Wilson's nine touchdowns represent 20% of his career catches. While Wilson may not catch Bumphis in sheer numbers of receptions, he is proving that he is explosive enough to attempt to match the scoring production, and while those numbers are fun, they do not show the other things Wilson does well such as block or turn his position into a defensive one when needed to prevent an interception.
The comparisons with Bumphis jump out because he is Mississippi State's all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdowns, and he is second all time in receptions. When one looks at receptions and yards per catch, Wilson's 15.22 yards per catch only stand behind Mardye McDole (19.1), Eric Moulds (17.1) and Bill Buckley (16.0) among players on Mississippi State's top-ten career receptions list. Of those three, none found the end zone as often as Wilson. McDole caught a touchdown every 8.92 catches, Buckley hit pay dirt every 7.2 catches, and Moulds put six on the board every 6.94 catches. Among the players in the top-ten all-time at Mississippi State in receiving touchdowns, only Harper Davis, who played at Mississippi State in the 1940s as highly decorated wide receiver and defensive back, is ahead of Wilson's average with a touchdown scored on every 4.6 catches. When looking at the list as a whole, Wilson is only 15 touchdowns shy of taking the top spot, and at his rate of production, he could summit that mountain.
The only thing that could keep Wilson out of this conversation is that he does not catch many passes. He has not had a 100-yard receiving game in his career, and his 44 career receptions average out to 2.31 receptions per contest. In order to have a better seat at this table, Wilson will have to find a way to make more catches as this season and the next go on.
It will be interesting to see if Wilson can continue this production through the second half of the 2014 season, especially once Lewis returns. So far, Mississippi State has seemed content to spread passes around through the receivers, but one has to wonder if there will be an attempt to take more advantage of Wilson's size and speed. Of course, one other factor that may keep Wilson off of the top of the record books is that he may only play three seasons. With his NFL speed, size and eye-catching numbers, Wilson may only have about 20 games left in his MSU career. It will be fun to see where he ends up when his time in Starkville comes to a close.