At first glance, De'Runnya Wilson appears to have around average numbers as a wide receiver. His nine touchdowns placed him in a tie for 26th place nationally in 2015. His 47 receptions left 138 players ahead of him in that column, and his 680 receiving yards only came in at 120 in the nation. However, numbers do not tell the whole story of Wilson, and that story has a strong likelihood of Wilson ending the season as a first team All-SEC wide receiver and a possible All-American receiver.
How does Wilson get to this point in 2015?
1. Wilson has not yet reached his total potential as a player
One thing Wilson has shown over his career is development. Bear Force 1 came to Starkville without having much of a football career. He came to Starkville as a talented basketball player, one named Mr. Basketball for Alabama in 2013, who could use natural ability to make plays in football. Mississippi State fans saw this during his freshman year when the raw receiver would find ways to box out defenders and get the ball at its highest point. They also saw it with some of the most obvious pass interference penalties of the season.
When the 2014 season rolled around, Mississippi State fans could not wait to see what Wilson would bring to the table. Coming into the season, much of the talk focused on senior Jameon Lewis, and fairly so, but everyone knew that Wilson could start to really turn into something special. When Lewis went down with an injury, Wilson proved just how valuable he could be as he became the No. 1 receiver for the Bulldogs.
Looking back at his season, Wilson made several clutch passes and drew several pass interference penalties on big plays during the season. Perhaps more importantly, he developed a strong relationship with Dak Prescott on the field. If Wilson continues to develop along the same path he has developed over his first two seasons, he will do something special in 2015.
2. Wilson has an established quarterback returning to Starkville.
This one does not have as much to do with Wilson as it does with Prescott, but having a tested, established quarterback returning to lead the offense in Starkville will only help Wilson stand out as a wide receiver.
Pharoh Cooper does not have that built in advantage at South Carolina. In fact, Cooper is the leading returning passer for the Gamecocks in 2015. He has more completions, attempts, touchdowns, and yards in his career (7 for 11 for 107 yards and three touchdowns) than the two players vying for the quarterback position in Columbia.
Laquon Treadwell, another talented receiver in the SEC, faces the same issue at Ole Miss. Can Chad Kelly figure it all out and become a solid player for the Rebels on the field and avoid trouble off of it, or if Kelly is not the answer, can Ryan Buchanan or Devante Kincade answer the call for the Rebels. Treadwell is super-talented, but he has to have someone throw him the ball.
D'haquille Williams faces a similar issue at Auburn. For all the angst at times about Nick Marshall, he was a quarterback that got Tigers to a national championship game and led them to a respectable 2014. He has left town, and while Jeremy Johnson has been hyped because of play in limited situations, Johnson must now show that he can do the same thing as a full-time starter.
Wilson has a huge built in advantage in that he does not have those worries with his quarterback. Prescott finished eighth in the Heisman voting in 2014, and he chose to return to Starkville even though some said he could have gone in the NFL draft. Prescott has had a year to refine his skills coming into his senior season. He should be much improved in 2015. These other quarterback could well come in and put up huge numbers, but it seems like more of a sure thing with Prescott.
3. Wilson could double his career stats next season
At first glance that might sound like an outrages statement. For his career, Wilson has 73 receptions for 1031 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averages 14.12 yards per catch and 16% of his receptions have gone for touchdowns. A season with those numbers would rank as one of the greatest in Mississippi State history. Expect Wilson to do that and more in 2015.
Wilson did not play against Vanderbilt or South Alabama in 2015. He did not log a catch against UT-Martin, either. That is a fourth of his season in which he did not register anything in the stat column, and it just happens to be three games in which he could have put up huge numbers. Perhaps also telling in his 2014 stats is the fact that of Wilson's 47 receptions, more than half, twenty-five, of them came in his last three games. Nearly half of his receiving yards came in those three games, including going for over 100 yards in games against Ole Miss and Georgia Tech. He also snagged a third of his touchdowns in those games.
Of note, those games featured two top-fifteen defenses in Alabama and Ole Miss. If Wilson could find ways to be a force against those teams, there is no reason he can't do the same thing against some of the weaker defenses he'll face in 2015. Wilson did not take advantage of weaker defenses early in 2014, he should do that in 2015.
If Wilson can stay health for all 12 games in the season, there is no reason he cannot double his career stats. If Wilson puts up a season with more than 70 catches, 1000 yards and double digit touchdowns, it would be hard not to name his to the first team All-SEC.
To become an all-conference player takes skill, good circumstances, and a bit of luck. Wilson has the first two coming into the season, and hopefully, he will pick up a little in the luck department in 2015.