When a battle for the football between wide receiver Gabe Marks and cornerback Daquawn Brown is decided, a similar joust plays out verbally.
The two are among the most talented players on the Washington State team, and, with apologies to quarterback Connor Halliday, are easily its most talented trash-talkers.
The two are natural opponents. Marks posted team-highs with 74 receptions and 807 receiving yards last season, while Brown started four games as a freshman in 2013.
“Me and Gabe always go at it, you know,” Brown said. “We’re neck-and-neck, at each other’s neck all day long, let each other have it. We’ve been going at it with each other for so long that we know each other’s moves so it’s like you don’t know who’s going to win that route.”
Depending on the delicateness of your ear, the competitive and taxing nature of fall camp has brought out the best (or worst) in the two yappers.
“It’s just fall camp, you’ve got to get through the days and stuff like that,” Marks said. “It makes me play harder when I know the other person has more invested in it as well. I know they’re going to give me their best shot, so it just makes me focus on little things a little more. Camp’s rough, so you have to find something to really make you really appreciate being out here.”
Normally a player such as Marks, one of WSU’s most productive receivers in each of his first two seasons, might not be so concerned with the competition heading into his junior year.
But Marks didn’t start the final four games last season and sat out all of spring practice with an undisclosed injury. While he sat, other receivers such as Vince Mayle, River Cracraft and Calvin Green showed up and caught the attention of fans and media with impressive play.
Marks enters camp as a backup on the depth chart, behind Kristoff Williams at the “Z” receiver position, a clear indication that the coaches are going to make him fight to regain his old spot at the head of the corps.
“I’m one of the most competitive people, I like to really compete and stuff like that,” Marks said. “So whenever I feel like somebody is trying to step on my toes a little bit, I try to work a little harder, try to make sure I’m where I want to be.”
If WSU’s second day of fall camp was any indication, it will be very hard for the coaches not to put Marks on the field as much as possible. He dominated in drills and in the 11-on-11 portion of practice.
The Cougars may not be in pads yet, but on Sunday Marks made everyone else look rusty. He won consecutive matchups against Brown — who covered him well — including a sideline catch in which he managed to stamp a foot inbounds while spinning away from Brown’s hit.
He caught a deep touchdown pass from Halliday between two defenders, neither of whom could match his speed in order to make a play on the ball.
“The biggest thing is that he battles,” coach Mike Leach said. “He’s got to be disciplined in what he does. Often he wants to freelance, but when he’s disciplined he’s explosive, comes out of his cuts quick, does a lot of good things.”
That success led to more jawing from the vocal receiver, but every time he opened his mouth he followed it with a big play shortly thereafter.
“I’ve never been scared to back it up,” he said. “I do pretty well at that.”