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SPRING FOOTBALL PRIMER: Ole Miss boasts more talent, experience out wide

Editor’s note: This is the third of a seven-part series previewing each position for Ole Miss heading into spring football practice, which begins Tuesday.

The SEC’s leading receiver is back. So are two other starters.

It’s safe to say Ole Miss’ receivers aren’t lacking for talent and experience.

The Rebels boast one of the league’s top group of wideouts entering the spring. Ole Miss returns four of its top five pass-catchers from last season led by All-American A.J. Brown, who set a single-season school record in receiving yards (1,252) a season ago while also leading the SEC in catches (75) and touchdown receptions (11).

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Brown spent most of last season in the slot after beginning his career on the outside and figures to stay there with Van Jefferson and Tre Nixon no longer with the program after transferring to Florida and Central Florida, respectively. The Rebels also return both outside receivers from the SEC’s top passing offense in Oxford native D.K. Metcalf and rising senior DaMarkus Lodge, complementing Brown’s physical play with a blend of size, speed and range.

The 6-2, 200-pound Lodge averaged a team-best 17 yards per reception last season and trailed only Brown in receiving yards (698). Lodge’s seven touchdown receptions were tied for second-most with the 6-4 Metcalf, who finished with 39 catches for 646 yards in his first full season after a broken foot cut his true freshman season short.

Ole Miss also returns tight end Dawson Knox, who became a larger part of the Rebels’ passing game in the latter part of the season with defenses focusing much of their attention on Brown and company. The 6-4, 250-pounder had 24 catches for 351 yards with all but four of those receptions coming in the final six games of the season.

The spring will largely be used to start figuring out the rest of the rotation and sorting out the depth behind the Rebels’ proven playmakers.

Rising sophomore Braylon Sanders (four catches, 65 yards) and tight end Octavious Cooley (four, 66) are the only other pass-catchers back that got game experience last season. Freshman Kam White will join the fold after redshirting last season while the Rebels will add a pair of four-star signees to the mix in Demarcus Gregory and speedster Elijah Moore, who projects as a slot receiver.

Rising sophomores Jacob Mathis and Gabe Angel are also options at tight end. Jason Pellerin, who will start the spring back at quarterback, could also get some snaps there after spending last spring at the position.