LOS ANGELES — Everywhere Caleb Wilson goes on the field, he’s covered. The tight end gets shadowed by two defenders. He gets chipped at the line of scrimmage. He’s the target of more attention now than he’s ever had.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“If you’re not getting focused on, that means you haven’t earned it and you’re not making enough plays,” Wilson said. “I had to put that in perspective. It is respect to be focused on in the offense.”
Wilson has long had the respect of his UCLA teammates and now the former USC walk-on is earning it from his opponents. Since Wilson helped the Bruins mount the biggest comeback in school history with 15 catches for 207 yards against Texas A&M, teams won’t dare let the lanky Dallas native run free now. Wilson was held to six combined catches in the past two games entering UCLA’s conference opener at Stanford on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
But as he’s always done, the sophomore is ready to adjust.
“I’m just focusing on doing my job,” Wilson said. “If I can take two defenders and allow one of our teammates to get a one-on-one, I’m more than willing to do that.”
Wilson was always one to put his team first, like when he switched from quarterback to tight end as a senior at Serra High of Gardena. He caught 18 passes for 310 yards and seven touchdowns in half a season, but the position change stymied Wilson’s college recruitment. Schools were hesitant to offer the rail-thin, 6-foot-4, 216-pounder who was too big to play receiver and too small to play tight end. He originally committed to Old Dominion as a quarterback before accepting a walk-on spot at USC, where his father Chris was the defensive line coach.
After Clay Helton took over at USC prior to the 2016 season, Wilson’s father went to Missouri before landing with the Philadelphia Eagles while USC tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo went to UCLA to coach quarterbacks. He didn’t forget about the athletic walk-on and UCLA coaches called Serra head coach Scott Altenberg for a scouting report on Wilson before offering him a scholarship.
“This kid’s going to be a star at tight end,” Altenberg told the Bruins.
Wilson is second in the nation in tight end receiving yards (280) and third in the nation in tight end receptions (21). He caught his first collegiate touchdown two weeks ago against Hawaii. Now at 235 pounds, he can also contribute on running plays as a blocker this year.
Wilson’s emergence helped the Bruins…