After Michigan”s 24-10 win over Purdue on Saturday, coach Lloyd Carr paid senior wide receiver Marquise Walker one of the greatest compliments he can give a player.
“After six games, there”s nobody in the country playing better than Marquise Walker,” Carr said. “Nobody has been more important to his team.”
In 1998, Walker came to Michigan with David Terrell as the nation”s top two high school receivers and had never gotten the recognition until this season. Walker is in the middle of his best season at Michigan and is showing no signs of slowing down. He is the clear focus of the passing offense and is a clutch performer in every game.
“I think the ball is coming more my way and I am getting the opportunity to make more plays,” Walker said.
He proved it once again against Purdue on Saturday, catching seven of John Navarre”s 21 completions for 134 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps more importantly, each of Walker”s catches were for first downs.
“You look for that big target and (there is) a comfort zone with him,” Navarre said. “We try to get him the ball. He is going to get open, he”s going to work hard and he blocks too.”
In addition to his normal duties as wide receiver he has forced to give up his position as a punt blocker and become a punt returner to replace an injured Julius Curry and an under-the-weather Ronald Bellamy. It was Walker”s first time returning punts outside of practice, but he looked he had been doing it all season. He returned seven punts for 112 yards, including a 42-yard return to set up the Wolverines” first score.
Walker was not completely infallible as he committed two turnovers within Purdue”s 30 yard-line a fumble on a reverse and he threw an interception on Michigan”s last drive of the first half.
Walker knew he made the wrong decision in passing the ball into double coverage, but both he and Carr thought that he was already down before the ball popped loose.
“I know this: He fell down and if his rear end was touching the ground when the ball came out, he was down,” Carr said. “I would assume, like all these other times, I will be proven wrong.”
With his play this season, Walker has established his place as one of Michigan”s premier receivers a group that includes standouts Anthony Carter, Desmond Howard, Derrick Alexander, Amani Toomer, Tai Streets and Terrell.
While waiting for his time to shine, Walker has taken the time to learn from his elders each of which have played in NFL.
“It is very hard to wait. Every time I went out there I knew what I could do,” Walker said. “It is a learning experience. I played behind Tai Streets, Marcus Knight and David Terrell and I learned from them I took a little bit of their game and added it to mine.”
He is making his own mark for the Wolverines, as he has already set the Michigan record for receptions in a game and is poised to break more this season, including receiving yards and receptions for a season. With the records looming, Walker still remains focused on the team”s goals.
“I never think about (the records), I just like going out there and having fun,” Walker said. “As long as we get the win and try to get the Big Ten championship, that”s fine with me.”