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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)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

Football Signees Report for Summer Classes

Although they will not begin competing for the Rebels until the fall, several members of the 2015 signing class have arrived at Ole Miss to begin their college journey this summer.

The first of two summer sessions offered at the University of Mississippi began Wednesday.

Among the players who made up the top-20 nationally ranked 2015 Ole Miss signing class and have arrived on campus are prep All-American wide receivers Van Jefferson and DaMarkus Lodge, as well as highly rated running back Eric Swinney and tight end Willie Hibbler. On the other side of the ball, signees like DBs Montrell Custis, Armani Linton and Cameron Ordway look to make an impact for the Landshark defense.

Fall classes begin August 24.

Below are the 2015 newcomers who have enrolled in the first summer session. There could be additions to this list within the next week.

Montrell Custis
Ross Donelly
Alex Givens
Willie Hibbler
Michael Howard
Van Jefferson
Armani Linton
DaMarkus Lodge
Cameron Ordway
Jason Pellerin
Austrian Robinson
Eric Swinney
Zedrick Woods

What They're Saying: National Signing Day

Head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff landed a top-15 class for an unprecedented third straight year Wednesday. Including mid-year enrollees, the 22-member class boasts 18 players rated a four-star prospect or higher by at least one recruiting service, the most in program history, including the seventh and eighth five-star prospects signed under Freeze.

As of Thursday morning, the major recruiting service rankings currently list Ole Miss at No. 15 (247Sports.com), No. 16 (Scout.com), No. 17 (247 Composite), No. 19 (ESPN) and No. 21 (Rivals.com).

Here are some National Signing Day links related to the signing class as a whole:

VIDEO: Hugh Freeze on Ole Miss' 2015 recruiting class via CBSSports.com

VIDEO: Mississippi Teams Capitalize on Success via SEC Network

VIDEO: Hugh Freeze on troubled QB Chad Kelly: Players deserve second, third chance via FoxSports.com

VIDEO: Ole Miss' Chris Kiffin talks D-Line, defensive backfield depth in 2015 via Courtney Cronin from the Clarion-Ledger

Rebels weather hectic final few days of recruiting, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Roller coaster day for Rebels, writes Parrish Alford from the Daily Journal

Ole Miss: 2015 Signing Class, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Ole Miss Rebels QB Chad Kelly can rewrite story, writes Greg Ostendorf from ESPN.com

Why troubled QB Chad Kelly is worth the risk to Hugh Freeze, writes Bruce Feldman from FonSports.com

Here are some related National Signing Day links to stories related to individual signees:

Doral Reagan's Shawn Curtis changes mind, signs with Ole Miss, writes Veronika Quispe from the Miami Herald

Former Pitt commit surprises by inking with Ole Miss, writes Riley Blevins from the Clarion-Ledger

South Aiken's Rasool Clemons signs with Ole Miss, writes Kyle Dawson from the Aiken Standard

Linton overcomes trials to become coveted recruit, writes Courtney Cronin from the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Sandy Creek's Eric Swinney talks about heading to Ole Miss via WSB

Can Swinney help Ole Miss at running back? writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Riverside defensive end Joe Anderson signs with Ole Miss, writes Andrew Lopez from NOLA.com

Winter Garden West Orange slot receiver Jalen Julius picks Ole Miss over Notre Dame, writes Alicia DelGallo from the Orlando Sentinel

Ole Miss lands potential return specialist in Julius, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: DaMarkus Lodge commits to the University of Mississippi via WFAA

DaMarkus Lodge reveals why he picked Ole Miss in exclusive with Bleacher Report, writes Damon Sayles from Bleacher Report

DaMarkus Lodge give Ole Miss a big win on signing day, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Rivals.com named Ole Miss and DaMarkus Lodge the best fit in their National Signing Day Award

Scout's Take: DaMarkus Lodge to Ole Miss Rebels, writes Gerry Hamilton and Tom Luginbill from ESPN Insider ($)

Ravenwood's Jefferson signs with Ole Miss, writes Sam Brown from the Tennessean


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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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    in post Madden 17 Ratings for Former Rebels

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