Markus Wheaton was a teammate of Brett Hundley at Chandler (Ariz.) High. (Jonathan Ferrey / Getty…)
Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton tries to sell it. "We have a lot of guys who can make plays," he said. "Any one of them can fill the big-play role."
One guy who is not buying is UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. He knows full well what Wheaton can do. The first varsity pass Hundley threw at Chandler (Ariz.) High was a 50-yard completion to Wheaton.
"That's my boy right there," Hundley said. "He's one of the fastest guys in the Pac-12 right now. He's blowing up, doing big things. People don't understand how really, really good he is."
UCLA fans would prefer not to find out Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
Oregon State has seen playmakers come and go. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers went on to the NFL after the 2010 season. His brother, receiver James Rodgers, left after last season.
But as long as the Beavers have Wheaton, Pac-12 defensive coordinators will have some sleepless nights, even if Wheaton downplays his role.
"We have three or four guys who can catch you off guard," Wheaton said.
Wheaton, a senior, had 73 receptions for 986 yards last season. And he was in mid-season form in the Beavers' only game this season. He had eight receptions for 87 yards in a 10-7 victory over Wisconsin two weeks ago.
His presence has made things easier for sophomore Brandin Cooks, who had six receptions for 80 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown catch, in the Wisconsin game.
Wheaton is the one with receptions in 24 consecutive games. But chat with him and he pitches the image of an old-timer just trying to be a mentor to kids.
It's the same role James Rodgers had, though Rodgers also found time to rack up 6,373 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns in his career.
"I'm just helping out the young guys," Wheaton said. "If something has to be said, I'll say it. I make sure their attitudes are right."
The trouble for Wheaton is UCLA has seen his act before. He had seven receptions for 83 yards against the Bruins last season. Two years ago, he had a 22-yard touchdown run against UCLA.
And then there is Hundley, who was a sophomore tossing passes to Wheaton in high school.
"You have to watch out on the deep ball," Hundley said. "The guy is fast. You can't let him close the cushion and get even. You'll be watching him run by you."
Hundley and Wheaton haven't seen each other since summer, but both were looking to connect this week.
"I'll shoot him a text," Hundley said.
Wheaton, on the other hand, was going for the personal touch. "I'm going to try to call him, make sure his mind is right," Wheaton said.
Just helping out another young guy, right Markus? No ulterior motive involved here.
"We're just two friends," Wheaton said. "Oregon State is ready. I want to make sure he's ready."