WKU receiver Vasquez growing on, off the field

TIM HARRIS/HERALD Sophomore Marcus Vasquez, more than a year removed from his switch from quarterback to wide receiver, has 12 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns through four games.

Zach Greenwell

Head Coach Willie Taggart was trying to pay Marcus Vasquez a compliment last week, but he couldn’t find the sophomore receiver.

Taggart then realized Vasquez was standing right in front of him, only without his signature dreadlocks.

“I was looking for the dreadlocks, and I’m like, ‘Where the hell is Marcus?’” Taggart said. “They told me he got them cut off, and he looked totally different.”

Vasquez said his transformation goes much deeper than a new haircut.

The Chula Vista, Calif., native made the switch from quarterback to receiver last season but said he’s just now coming around to his expectations at the new position.

“It’s not where I want it to be,” Vasquez said. “I can always get better, I can always work better in practice, and I can always be a better player in games.”

Vasquez made three starts at receiver last season, when he caught just 19 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns.

The 2010 version of Vasquez — short hair and all — has nearly matched those numbers in four games.

The sophomore has reeled in 12 catches for 151 yards, and he’s already reached last year’s touchdown total with two scores.

“Marcus has a chance to be really special in our offense,” Taggart said. “He’s a really talented kid, and every week he’s making some big-time catches out there.”

Vasquez has also proven himself as a deep-ball threat. Both of his touchdowns this season have been for at least 31 yards or more, which he says has come from him being a more reliable route-runner.

“I feel a lot of responsibility,” he said. “I feel like I’m the leader of the wide receiver group, and I feel like the quarterback needs to have confidence in me. When we need to go deep, I want to be the one they want to call on.”

That sense of accountability is something Taggart said he’s watched blossom in Vasquez since he first met him.

“He’s starting to grow up,” Taggart said. “When I first got here, he was very immature. You appreciate that as a coach, and as he grows up, you see his play starting to pick up on the football field.”

Vasquez had five receptions for 47 yards at South Florida, a game in which sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes threw for a season-high 221 yards.

That’s production junior running back Bobby Rainey said the Toppers (0-4) need, especially if they’re going to use vertical passing to open up the running game.

“He’s going to compete,” Rainey said of Vasquez. “Once (he) gets that train of thought at all times, he’s very dangerous with the ball.”

Vasquez said that’s how he wants to be viewed by opposing defenses — as a threat.

It’s an identity he said he thinks will help WKU eventually break its 24-game losing streak. And if things go according to plan, Vasquez said it’s safe to say WKU fans haven’t seen the last of him in the end zone.

“I’m really trying to shoot for more because I know it’ll help the team out,” he said. “I’m trying to be that receiver on the team that they know they can count on.”