Marquis Maze? He’s Alabama’s leading receiver, despite being only 5-10 and 180 pounds. This year he has 31 receptions, ranking third in the Southeastern Conference, for 355 yards, ranking seventh in the league in yards per game. His reception total is only one behind the number Julio Jones had at this time last year, and Jones was on his way to being a first round NFL draft choice.
Maze has made particularly effective receptions with his favorite route, the crossing route under the linebackers. That, he said, allows him “to get the ball early and make plays with my feet.”
The crossing route can be hazardous to the health of a wide receiver, who is running straight into the teeth of defenders while trying to catch the football.
“It’s dangerous,” Maze agreed. “But I’m a dangerous player. I’m not afraid to go in and get tackled by those guys.
“When I get the ball in my hands early, I don’t really think the first guy can make the tackle.”
Tide tailback Trent Richardson said, “Maze, he’s a leader. He’s crazy. He’s probably more like Coach Saban with the short man’s syndrome a little bit. He’ll get after you. He’s never going to let you down. He’s going full speed every play. He never takes a play off. He’s going to block for you downfield.
“You’re going to get Marquis Maze’s 100 per cent every game.”
Maze, a senior from Birmingham, was the leading returning receiver for Bama this year. In 2010 he had 38 catches for 557 yards and three touchdowns. But the book on the Crimson Tide was that there would be a falloff at wide receiver with Jones having departed for professional football. Last year Jones had 78 receptions for 1,133 yards.
Richardson thinks that Maze had a little chip on his shoulder because of the pre-season questions about Bama’s receiving corps.
Maze said “I took it as motivation, because I know we have guys that can make plays. We might not have as physical a receiver as Julio, but I knew we had guys that could make plays.”
Maze said he wasn’t even aware he was just one reception shy of what Jones had at this time last year. “I’m not focused on how many catches I get or any of that,” he said. “I’m just worried about winning.”
Even though he enjoys getting the football as often as possible, “the biggest picture is that the team is winning and we’re dominating our opponents.”
Next up for Maze and his Alabama teammates is an SEC game at Ole Miss on Saturday. The Crimson Tide, 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the SEC and ranked second in the nation, takes on the Rebels, 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the conference, at 5 p.m. CDT with television coverage by ESPN2.
He also said it was encouraging to have Darius Hanks back making plays. And redshirt freshman DeAndrew White, who had two touchdown catches against Vanderbilt, “had a confidence-boosting game. I think now that he made those plays in the game, now he knows that those plays he makes in practice every day he can make in the games.”
Maze also has been impressed with the progress of first year quarterback A.J. McCarron. “He gets better every game,” Maze said. “He’s learning on the go. He’s done a wonderful job managing the game.”
Maze isn’t making his name just with pass receiving. He’s Alabama’s leader on kickoff returns with five for 182 yards, a 36.4 yard average. His 83-yard touchdown return helped break open a close game in Bama’s 38-14 win over Arkansas. He has 24 returns for 322 yards, a 13.4 average that ranks third in the SEC.
It’s no secret that speed is a key to Maze having success. He said he first realized he was fast when he was a freshman in high school and got paired with an older teammate who was considered the fastest guy at Tarrant High School. Maze beat him. And no one really wanted to challenge Maze again until he got to Alabama.
Javier Arenas was the first to challenge Maze.
“I beat him.”
Then came Kareem Jackson, Terry Grant.
“A lot of fast guys,” Maze said.
And you won all those?
Dangerous and speedy Marquis Maze hopes that his next stop after Alabama is the NFL. “That has been my dream since I was a kid,” he said. “It’s high priority for me.
“I think receiver is my ticket, but I think also kick returns and punt returns help me.”