It’s obvious that wide receiver is one of the most important positions to make Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze’s offense work as well as he hopes, but with the amount of up-tempo possessions Freeze wants the Rebels to have, they are still not where they need to be depth-wise.
Yes, Ole Miss has one of the top returning set of wide receivers in the Southeastern Conference in juniors Donte Moncrief and Vince Sanders and senior Ja-Mes Logan, but they’ll need to feel comfortable with a rotation of six to eight players to get the most out of the offense.
Moncrief is the leading returner out wide, as he had 66 receptions last year to go along with 979 yards and 10 touchdowns. He enters his junior campaign ranked fifth in school history with 14 touchdown receptions.
Sanders took a big step forward in 2012 and showed why he was so highly recruited out of high school. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Noxubee County product tallied 504 receiving yards on 39 catches and four touchdowns.
Both Moncrief and Sanders will be the top two outside receivers to start the season.
Logan is a valuable man on the depth chart because of his ability to play both outside receiver as well as in the slot. Last year, Logan caught just one touchdown pass, but he had 43 catches for 490 yards.
Both senior Korvic Neat and junior Collins Moore are looking to play an entire season without injury and provide a spark in the slot. Neat missed three games last season with a groin injury and never made a huge impact. Moore has been bitten by the injury bug throughout his entire career in Oxford, and played in just four games last season after dislocating both shoulders.
The top incomers at wide out for the Rebels are Laquon Treadwell, who was ranked as the No. 1 high school wide receiver in the country by Rivals.com and ESPN.com and Quincy Adeboyejo.
Treadwell had 81 receptions for 1,424 yards and 16 touchdowns as well as 257 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground during his senior year, as he led Crete-Monee (Ill.) to the Illinois Class 6A state championship. Adeboyejo caught 91 balls and tallied 1,265 yards and 17 touchdowns during his senior year.
Junior college transfer Quadarias Mireles, incoming freshman Derrick Jones and sophomore Cody Core are other players who could find themselves on the wide receiver depth chart this fall.
Mireles had 828 all-purpose yards for Hinds Community College, while Jones had 975 receiving yards, 44 receptions and 15 touchdowns as a senior at Eupora High School. Core had one reception last season, but played in all 13 games on special teams.
At tight end, Ole Miss has major issues, as they have to replace both starters from a year ago.
Incoming freshmen A.J. Jackson, Christian Morgan and Evan Engram were all expected to come in and compete for immediate playing time, but now, the Rebels are down to just one of those guys. Jackson will not become academically eligible to enroll in school, according to various media outlets. Morgan sustained a knee injury in fall camp that will likely result in a redshirt this season.
That leaves Engram as the lone man on the roster that could make a contribution in the passing game. During his senior year, Engram had 40 receptions for 975 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder will have to add weight to help in pass protection.
The Rebels have other guys who could be used in pass protection or in goal line sets, but in order to get production in the passing game, Ole Miss could look to move someone to the position. Redshirt freshman John Youngblood could be a candidate for a move after starting his career at tight end before being moved to defensive end.
Moncrief, Sanders, Logan and Treadwell will be as solid of a group of wide receivers as anyone will have, so the Rebels are in good shape. However, they could be in great shape if they get contributions from those other key pieces.
Moncrief will be a better player than he was in 2012, but the numbers won’t show much progression because the overall depth will even the stats throughout the depth chart.
I expect Treadwell to be very solid and eventually turn into a star out wide. If Moore can stay healthy all year, he will provide consistency in the slot.
Adeboyejo should also play as a freshman and be a solid receiver deep in the rotation. Core could also play a similar role if he continues to progress. Last year in fall camp and in spring practice, Core always showed flashes, but he has to put it all together to see the field at wide receiver.
Ole Miss fans could also see running backs Kailo Moore and Eugene Brazley get a look at slot receiver with the crowded depth chart at running back. Both are speedsters that Freeze wants to get the ball in open space.
Even if some guys don’t progress this year as the coaching staff had hoped, the Rebels would still be in good shape at wide receiver. The worst-case scenario is pretty good, so if they do take step forwards as predicted, it will go a long way into speeding up the tempo and taking the offense to another level.
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