- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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HOOVER, Ala. -- Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief knows just how important the Rebels’ receiving corps is.
Not only has he hit the gym and practice field harder in order to improve on his solid freshman campaign, but he’s making sure those around him are elevating their game as well.
Ole Miss had just three wide receivers -- Moncrief, Nickolas Brassell and Ja-Mes Logan -- record 20 or more catches last season. Those three were the only players to eclipse the 200-yard mark, they combined for just six touchdowns and Moncrief was the only player to catch more than 30 passes (31).
Making things worse is the fact that Brassell left the team after being ruled academically ineligible, meaning there isn’t much production behind Moncrief and Logan.
There are also two relatively inexperienced quarterbacks battling for the starting spot in Barry Brunetti and Bo Wallace, so having a more reliable receiving group becomes even more crucial for the Rebels.
“I push them to be the best,” Moncrief said Thursday during the third day of SEC media days. “I talk noise to them, try to make them go harder. I challenge them with catches, one-handed catches, hard catches.”
But what’s the best motivation? Fear. Fear of physical pain.
The Rebels have a new policy in place during summer workouts where one drop during drills means 20 pushups for the culprit. A second drop, and a player is at 50.
Moncrief said a poor move on a slant resulted in his one and only drop of the summer, but one receiver wasn’t so lucky. Moncrief said a freshman came out to workouts a bit nervous and dropped enough passes to hit the century mark in the pushup department. That was the last time the rookie headed out to workouts with wide eyes.
Moncrief said the unnamed freshman has made sure to keep both eyes on the ball and is now pushing some of the older guys.
“He might play this year,” Moncrief said.
At this point, Moncrief said he’ll take as many other players as he can to work with this fall. The hope is that Hugh Freeze’s new spread offense will help them produce more because of all the space Moncrief anticipates the receivers will get.
But Moncrief also understands that those bodies have to be able to produce or offensive growth won’t be made.
“We know we have to make big plays,” he said. “We have to get better at going to the ball and take hits. It’s the spread. That’s what we’ve been wanting so we have to be ready for it.”
18hDavid M. Hale