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A Closer Look: Wide Receivers

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This is the third of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performers: A.J. Brown (75 catches, 1,252 yards, 11 touchdowns), DaMarkus Lodge (41 catches, 698 yards, seven TDs) & D.K. Metcalf (39 catches, 646 yards, seven TDs)

Returning in 2018: Brown (Jr., 2L), Lodge (Sr., 3L), Metcalf (So.,1L), Braylon Sanders (So., 1L), Floyd Allen (Sr., 1L), Jared Farlow (Fr., RS), Josh Ricketts (Fr., RS), Kam White (Fr. RS,) Alex Weber (Sr., 3L), Drake Beck (Fr., RS), Garrett Styles (Fr., RS)

Newcomers in 2018: Demarcus Gregory (Fr., Duncan, S.C.), Elijah Moore (Fr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Losing from 2017 Team: Markell Pack (Graduation), Van Jefferson (Transfer), Tre Nixon (Transfer).

Looking back at 2017: The heartbeat of Phil Longo's air raid offense was undoubtedly found on the perimeter at wide receiver. In 2017, Ole Miss boasted one of the nation's most talented receiving corps, compiling an average of 328 receiving yards per game and 14 yards per catch.

A.J. Brown took the SEC by storm. Brown ranked first in the SEC and 10th nationally with his Ole Miss single-season record 1,252 receiving yards. Brown, the 2017 Connerly Trophy winner, hauled in an SEC best 11 touchdowns, tied for the most in a single season by an Ole Miss player.

DaMarkus Lodge and D.K. Metcalf also put up big numbers of their own with both hauling in seven TDs and tallying more than 640 receiving yards apiece.

The receiving corps totaled a remarkable 11 plays of 50 plus yards and 30 of at least 30 yards. Ole Miss was dynamic in the passing game and hit its stride as an offense when the running game came along in the latter part of the season. The ability to have Lodge, Metcalf and Brown on the field at the same time equated to a match up nightmare for opposing defenses. Ole Miss relied more on its receiving corps than any other position on the field and the gifted group delivered.

Looking ahead to 2018: Ideally, Ole Miss would like 2018 to mirror 2017 in terms of the production and involvement of the receiving corps in the offense. One could make the argument the Rebels will rely even more on this group due to the loss of Jordan Wilkins in the backfield and the running game being a little uncertain.

It will be interesting to see how sophomore Braylon Sanders -- a guy the coaching staff has been high on -- is incorporated into the offense next season. Will he have more of a role and if so how much bigger is that role? It seems unclear right now given that the Rebels return three of their top four receivers, but still an interesting prospect to keep an eye on. Newcomer Elijah Moore is also another interesting guy to watch next year because of his speed. Matt Luke said he could potentially be a dynamic punt returner for the Rebels and also gives them a speedy option in the slot. It's worth reiterating that slot receiver Van Jefferson will not be back next season.

When Shea Patterson went down with a knee injury against LSU, Jordan Ta'amu slid in and made a smooth transition at signal caller. He showed good chemistry with the wide receivers quickly and his 14-play, 71-yard game- winning drive at Kentucky, capped off by a well-placed ball to D.K. Metcalf showed his uncanny calmness in big moments. Given the reaction of the team after the game, that moment showed them a lot about Ta'amu.

If the last five games of the 2017 season were any indicator, Ta'amu and the Ole Miss receiving corps will be dynamic in the passing game again in 2018.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)

Brown Shines in Return to Starkville

A.J. Brown - 2017 Egg Bowl

STARKVILLE, Miss. - A.J. Brown gathered his teammates in the visitors tunnel in the moments before Ole Miss took the field on Saturday night at Davis-Wade Stadium in the Egg Bowl. He swatted their shoulder pads and told them to lock in. He took his helmet off so they could see his face and delivered a message to his team that portrayed how he felt about the next 60 minutes.

This game meant more to him. Brown grew up miles from the stadium. He chose Ole Miss over his hometown Bulldogs, a decision that spurned criticism and chiseled a chip on his shoulder.

"I knew there were a lot of eyes on me," Brown said. "I just wanted to keep my cool, avoid the pushing and shoving and play my game.

His coach knew this would be a unique day for him.

"I knew he was going to be emotional coming back home," Matt Luke said. "I told him let's go out and enjoy this. We have 60 minutes left together, let's just go out and enjoy this."

The sophomore wide receiver made his presence felt from the time the clock began to run. He caught a 50-yard pass on the second play from scrimmage that set up an Ole Miss touchdown a play later. He caught a 77-yard deep ball for a score from Jordan Ta'amu that gave the Rebels a boost in momentum after Mississippi State narrowed the gap. The sophomore wide receiver caught six passes for 167 yards and the one touchdown in an emotional return to Starkville. He helped Ole Miss reclaim the Golden Egg Trophy.

"It was really huge," Brown said. "This wasn't just me. This was for the seniors."

Brown didn't practice this week while dealing with a hamstring issue. He wanted to be ready for this game.

"I was really antsy all week," Brown said. "I just wanted to do something."

The 77-yard touchdown looked like a sure overthrow out of the hand of Ta'amu. Brown jolted forward with a burst of speed, somehow caught up to the football and raced to the end zone.

"I thought he overthrew me," Brown said. "I didn't know what to think. I just knew I had to run. I don't know how I caught the ball."

Luke shared the same viewpoint while the football was in the air. He did not think there was any way Brown was going to be able to catch up to it.

"I thought it was overthrown with me me standing on the sideline," Luke said. "He wanted it and he just went and got it."

He relished the silence of the stadium after his touchdown catch and acknowledged this was something he'd been thinking about for two years, a return to Starkville where he made his decision to come to Ole Miss.

"I knew I was going to come back here," Brown said. "I thought about it a lot and it felt great."

 Brown was overjoyed in the mob of players trying to put their hands on the Golden Egg trophy.

"We were really excited about this win," Brown said. "We had to get the Egg Bowl back."

The proverbial chip on Brown's was fueled by some of the things he heard from people back home. It motivated him to muster the performance he had. It's one he will remember for some time to come.

"I had a chip on my shoulder coming into this game being from Starkville," Brown said. "It felt great. It really did."

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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