Plenty of weapons left in deep Ole Miss receiving corps

Published 6:00 am Sunday, July 30, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the seventh of a 10-part series breaking down each position on Ole Miss’ football team entering fall camp. A different position will be featured each day leading up to the Rebels’ first day of practice Wednesday.

Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore’ea Stringfellow are fighting for roster spots in the NFL. Throw in first-round pick Evan Engram, and Ole Miss’ pass-catching losses would be a cumulative blow for almost any team.

Ole Miss still has pieces to absorb it easier than most.

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The Rebels have stockpiled talent at receiver in recent years with a wave of youngsters set to lead the production out wide for what’s been one of the Southeastern Conference’s top passing offenses the last few seasons. Sophomore Van Jefferson is back in the slot after finishing with the second-most catches (49) and third-most receiving yards (543) among the wideouts last season on his way to freshman All-SEC honors.

Jefferson will be complemented on the outside by one of the SEC’s top young receiving duos in A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf. Brown is set to begin his first season as a full-time starter after averaging 14.2 yards on his 29 receptions with two touchdowns as a true freshman a season ago, using his 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame to win his share of battles against smaller defensive backs.

Pushing 6-4 and 225 pounds, Metcalf is the biggest receiver on the roster and a viable red-zone threat. The former Oxford High standout briefly displayed his physicality last season by outmuscling defenders to catch two touchdowns through the first two games — the only receptions Metcalf had before a broken foot cut his freshman season short.

Junior DaMarkus Lodge is in line to be a bigger part of the rotation this fall after biding his time in Oxford. Ranked by some scouting services as a five-star prospect in the 2015 recruiting cycle, the 6-2, 199-pound Lodge caught just 16 passes his first two seasons with the Rebels, though three of them went for scores. He’s listed as the third outside receiver on the preseason depth chart, putting him in position to get significantly more snaps this season.

Markell Pack brings the most experience to the position with 56 career catches entering his senior season. At 6-2 and 185 pounds, Pack could provide depth in the slot or on the outside and could be a candidate to return punts, something he did sparingly as a freshman.

Freshman Tre Nixon, another four-star prospect in Ole Miss’ 2016 recruiting class, will bring speed to the slot as Jefferson’s backup after redshirting last year. Trey Bledsoe and Alex Weber will provide further depth for first-year receivers coach Jacob Peeler, who’s got plenty of options with which to work.

“We’ve got a great skill set at that position,” said Peeler, who was Cal’s receivers coach the last two seasons. “Some very highly recruited kids. … I think they’re hungry. As long as they’re willing to be humble and hungry, I think the sky’s the limit for that group.”

Ole Miss added a pair of newcomers to the group in this year’s recruiting class, but only one of them, freshman Braylon Sanders, made it to campus. JaVonta Payton will start his career at a junior college.