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Brandin Cooks vs. Markus Wheaton

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Oregon State receivers Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton were dynamic in college. Who was better? And how will they do now that they're apart? Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.
Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images.

One is a current Beaver. The other is a former Beaver. But they both played together. Luckily for Beaver Nation, one will be around for a while longer, and judging by what the two have accomplished collegiately, one is better than none for Beaver Nation.

The Case For Brandin Cooks

Cooks isn’t exactly an intimidating figure. The Oregon State wide receiver is a generous 5-foot-10, 179 pounds. Not exactly somebody you back down to on the street — that is, unless the street is a football field.

Cooks is speed and quickness bottled up into one. He’s an OK route runner, but excels when the ball is in his hands. This season, Beavers fans will see even more Brandin Cooks. Not only has his counterpart, Markus Wheaton, graduated to NFL ranks, but he will be utilized in the punt and kick return games, if we’re going off Mike Riley’s spring game tactics.

Backed up behind a group of receivers that included James Rodgers in 2011, Cooks didn’t see many snaps. In 2012, however, he unloaded for 67 receptions, 1,151 yards and five touchdowns. Coupled with Wheaton, the duo was a killer 1-2 punch for the Beavers, keeping opponents off-balance in the secondary.

Cooks is outgoing. He interviews with wit and confidence, and isn’t afraid to get in an opponent’s face. He backs it up, too.

Many are surprised when Cooks has to elevate for the football. A 37-inch vertical is nice, but it doesn’t mean a thing if you time your leaps incorrectly. That’s not a problem for Cooks, who routinely makes circus catches in practice and games.

The Case For Markus Wheaton

Wheaton stands at 5-foot-11, 189 pounds. At Oregon State, he didn’t have his big year until 2013, his senior season. One could say he had help from Cooks, a strong receiver who lined up opposite of Wheaton, but most would say Wheaton just got real good, real fast.

From 55 receptions and 675 yards his sophomore year, to 73 and 986 his junior, to 91 and 1,244 his senior, Wheaton proved he had what it took for the next level. In the 2013 draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers rewarded him with a third-round pick and a nice rookie contract.

Observing his play, and speaking with Wheaton during the last four years, I’ve learned his forte is running routes. He’s the master. Wheaton may never be a punt return guy, or somebody who can break multiple tackles in a play, but he’s a lot like Jerry Rice in the way he runs routes. They’re clean and crisp. He anticipates well and has phenomenal hands — a definite possession guy with burner, Mike Wallace, speed.

Wheaton is also quieter, less vocal. He leads by example and doesn’t let talk get in the way. He’s truly a student of the game, a guy who could coach when his playing days are over. For Wheaton, that might not be for a while.

The Winner

I have to go with Cooks here, based off sheer production, pace and versatility. Cooks is basically a year ahead of where Wheaton was when he played. He’s also involved in the return game — a serious playmaker. He’ll be the feature guy of the receiving corps this year, which could be positive or negative. It's tough to discount Wheaton because Cooks' production could have been because of Wheaton's superior talents. It’ll be something to watch, no doubt, to see if Cooks’ production suffers because of Wheaton’s exit. Time will tell, but for now, Cooks is the guy.