Monday, May 7, 2012
Moncrief is ready to fly in Freeze's offense
By Edward Aschoff
OXFORD, Miss. -- Donte Moncrief isn't afraid to be your typical wide receiver.
Ole Miss' sophomore-to-be craves glory like the next self-assured wideout, and he shouldn't be ashamed of it. Quarterbacks get all the love, but they'd be nothing without their receivers, and the good ones know that.
So, it's no shocker that Moncrief is enjoying coach Hugh Freeze's spread offense. While it took some time to adjust from last season's more pro-style attack, Moncrief said he's having more fun in a more wide open scheme because, well, he has the opportunity to get more touches.
Donte Moncrief led the Rebels with 31 catches for 454 yards and four touchdowns last season.
"This offense is kind of better for a receiver, because you can get the ball a lot," said Moncrief, who, as a freshman, led the Rebels with 31 catches for 454 yards and four touchdowns in 2011.
Regardless of the type of offense Ole Miss runs, there aren't many scenarios where Moncrief isn't the focal point of the passing game. He's easily Ole Miss' most talented receiving target, and at 6-foot-2 and 214 pounds, he isn't afraid to get physical and make the tougher catches.
Moncrief, the leader of a pretty raw and inexperienced receiving group, wants to be the star, and might have to be. However, for an Ole Miss team that ranked 11th in both passing and total offense in the SEC last season, there's still work to be done before fall arrives.
"Everybody expects me to be the big playmaker when we need a play," he said, "so I'm going to have to try a little harder this summer, get stronger, faster and catch more balls, and be ready to help my team.
"That's the stuff I'm going to work on and get better at so I can become one of the best to come through [Ole Miss' program]."
By try harder, Moncrief means studying his playbook a little more so he can memorize his routes better this season. It was easier to get away with freshman mistakes and botched routes at times in last season's offense, but Moncrief said that with so much going on in the spread, those mistakes won't fly.
Outside of learning new terminology, Moncrief said the toughest thing for him was memorization. Instead of always looking to the quarterback, hand signals from the sidelines, especially when the Rebels crank up the tempo, dictate plays.
He also has to get used to the quickness of this offense. Freeze and offensive coordinator Dan Werner want plays to operate as quickly as possible. Five-step quarterback drops are a thing of the past for the Rebels. As soon as the quarterback has the ball, Moncrief said the play is nearly over.
"It's some fast plays, so you want to get the defense on its heels so you can score real quick," he said.
Outside of the mental part, Moncrief still has some fine-tuning to do physically. He shed some pounds to get faster, but is putting in more time with strength coach Paul Jackson to up his on-field physicality. Fortunately for Moncrief, he craves physical play and actually likes to block, so taking on defenders is rewarding. He thinks it'll benefit him more, because he believes defenders grow weary of seeing receivers that can deliver a bone-rattling block out of nowhere to spring a running back.
"I like it. I love contact," Moncrief said with a sinister smile beaming off his face.
While Moncrief's rambunctious demeanor toward opposing defenders is probably adored by his coaches, Moncrief knows that his first job is to catch passes -- lots of them. Even though he's improving his blocking ability, Moncrief still says he's still the most dangerous in-stride, and he believes he'll be even tougher for defenders to keep up with in 2012.
"Hopefully, there will be a lot of deep balls this year," he said.