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Young receivers look to carry on Ole Miss’ Nasty Wide Out tradition

OXFORD — Nasty Wide Outs? At least to start the 2019 season, Ole Miss is just working with a different NWO: New Wide Outs.

After A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge all left for the NFL, Ole Miss doesn’t have many players on the roster with a lot of experience at receiver. The three starters listed on the pre-camp depth chart are junior Braylon Sanders, who has 20 career catches; sophomore Elijah Moore, who has started in only four games; and redshirt freshman Miles Battle.

“It’s definitely weird being the older guy. These three years flew by,” Sanders said. “But those guys, those freshmen are impressive. All of them really, but the biggest one is (Johnathan) Mingo … he came in at 215 (pounds) and he doesn’t even look like it. He’s going to be really good. All those young guys will be good.”

As Sanders mentioned, there are a lot of fresh faces in the wide receivers room. Ole Miss signed five receivers in the 2019 recruiting class. That doesn’t even count freshmen from a year ago who redshirted.
As of now, new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez doesn’t plan to redshirt anyone. He likes using eight receivers in a game.

Many of the young receivers were with the team last year with Brown, Metcalf and Lodge. They saw them work on a day-to-day basis in the way that allowed all three either to get drafted or sign with an NFL team. The Nasty Wide Out mentality isn’t lost on the 2019 receiving corps.

“Everyone’s just trying to keep the NWO alive. We want the whole group to shine, we don’t care which individual it is,” Battle said. “We’re all talented players and we’re just ready to show what we can do. With those three guys, we had some depth, we just didn’t get to play. We all have something to show and something to prove.”

Moore is the player who has shown the most. When Metcalf was injured last year, Brown moved outside and Moore stepped into the starting slot receiver role.

Moore played in nine games, started four, and set a single game Ole Miss freshman record with 11 receptions for 129 yards against South Carolina. He finished the season with 36 receptions for 398 yards and two touchdowns.

That experience now makes him, for all intents and purposes, the most experienced guy in the receivers room. Moore is primarily a slot receiver, but Rodriguez said he wants all of the receivers to learn all of the positions.

“We’re motivated by (the fact that no one knows us). I promise you by the end of the year you’ll know who every last one of us are,” Moore said. “But at the same time, I can’t play like a sophomore. I need to be more of a leader and learn to take control of the game more. It’s consistency.”

When the three returning receivers are asked which freshmen have impressed them the most so far, they all have the same answer: Johnathan Mingo and Dannis Jackson.

Both Mingo and Jackson are Mississippi natives — Mingo played at Brandon High School and Jackson at Sumrall — and four-star recruits, yet they play football very differently.

Mingo is huge, in the D.K. Metcalf mold, listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. Meanwhile, Jackson is just 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds but he can run like no other.

“They don’t have any bad habits because they don’t have any habits at this point because they’re so young,” wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler said. “We have a talented room, they’re just really unproven.”

On the first day of preseason camp, six receivers got first-team snaps. Moore started on the inside, with Battle and Sanders on the outside.

Demarcus Gregory, a redshirt freshman, Tylan Knight, a converted running back, and Dontario Drummond also got reps with the first team.

Head coach Matt Luke seemed especially high on Knight and his versatility, and seemed to indicate that the former Pearl High School star could play both running back and receiver.

“He can do a lot of different things. He can play running back, but he can also go out there and play receiver,” Luke said. “We were able to utilize him some in the spring game especially. He’s a football player and was the 6A Player of the Year in Mississippi. He was the MVP of the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game. He’ll continue to have a role and he’s got that competitive spirit that you’d like to see.”

By Nathanael Gabler, The Oxford Eagle