Updated Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 06:46 AM
PULLMAN — Star wide receiver Marquess Wilson has been suspended for a violation of team rules, a spokesman for the Washington State football program said Monday morning.
The Cougars' all-time leader in receiving yards walked off the field 20 minutes into a two-hour conditioning workout Sunday night, according to The Moscow-Pullman Daily News.
Wilson was dropped to second string two weeks ago after coach Mike Leach became frustrated with his star player's practice habits. Dominique Williams started at outside receiver the past two weeks, yet Wilson still led WSU in receiving in each of those games and leads the team this season with 52 catches for 813 yards.
Wilson's suspension comes during a season that has seen the WSU (2-7 overall, 0-6 Pac-12) struggle mightily under Leach, the first-year coach. The Cougars suffered a devastating loss Saturday at Utah, falling behind 39-0 early in the second half and losing 49-6. Leach questioned his players' pride and effort after the game.
Since Leach was hired in January, 17 scholarship players have left or been kicked off the team.
Last month, Leach said the program's attrition is a product of the coaching change. He also said he wouldn't be surprised if more players left the program. Thirteen players left WSU when former coach Paul Wulff took over in 2008.
"We're going to raise the bar around here," Leach said after a practice last month. "And folks that don't fit in with that, we don't expect to have them around. And there'll probably be more than that."
Leach kicked four players off the team earlier this year: T.J. Polai, Sekope Kaufusi, C.J. Mizell and Anthony Laurenzi.
The disappointing start has many who believed Leach's hiring would end a nine-year bowl drought wondering what happened.
The simple answer — WSU's new coaching staff prefers players they signed during their first offseason to Wulff's recruits, according to multiple players no longer with the team.
Blair Bomber, a former wide receiver who announced plans to transfer to Eastern Washington after rising in the depth chart during spring practices, said his reason for leaving was simple: playing time.
"In the end, the new coaches liked their receivers' game more than my own," said the redshirt sophomore, who had dealt with a lingering knee injury.
Former tight end Aaron Dunn opted to transfer to Division II Western Washington to play basketball shortly after WSU athletic director Bill Moos hired Leach. Ranked a four-star prospect by national recruiting service Scout.com coming out of Spokane's Mead High School, Dunn said Leach's Air Raid Offense didn't mesh with his skill set because tight ends aren't typically included in his system.
"With any coaching change — especially in football, the new coach is going to want to get his guys in and guys that fit in their system the way that he wants them to," Dunn said. "That leaves a lot of guys from the old system out."
Bomber, Matt Simmons, Spencer Waseem and Tyrone Duckett left the program three weeks ago. None was likely to earn playing time in 2012. Wulff recruited all four during his unsuccessful four-year stay in Pullman.
Moos, WSU's AD, questioned the ability of his program's former players to compete successfully in the Pac-12. The Cougars are 11-47 the past five years.
"Part of it in some cases is lack of playing time. Most of the time that's because of questionable talent," Moos said. "We're building a program that's going to be competitive in the Pac-12 and we need to have Pac-12 quality players."
Reports by The Spokesman-Review and Moscow-Pullman Daily News were included in this report.