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Hugh Freeze still looking for a No. 2 receiver

5/14/2015

A lot of the attention around Ole Miss' spring practices revolved around a yet-to-be-determined, three-headed quarterback race. The attention is there because you're talking about the most important position on the football field, and you're talking about a team that had a roller coaster of a three-year ride with its last quarterback.

But there's another spot on the field for the Rebels that got heavy internal attention, too: The No. 2 wide receiver spot.

Despite the gruesome leg injury that star wideout Laquon Treadwell suffered back in November, he's expected to make a full recovery by the fall. He was held out of spring practices, but he was running and thinks he's faster now than he's ever been. Coach Hugh Freeze said earlier this week that he will be guarded with how he uses Treadwell during fall camp, but he'll take some contact so he can get back to being comfortable with being physical.

With that said, it can't all be on Treadwell, who is viewed as a top-10 prospect for next year's NFL draft. He needs help, especially with underrated receiver Vince Sanders gone, the Rebels breaking in a new starting quarterback and lingering concerns with the durability of the offensive line. There are plenty of players vying for that receiver spot, and Freeze believes the mental side of things might be the biggest barrier for the contenders.

“Those guys are all talented," Freeze said of his receivers. "I think some have to pick it up a bit to be more consistent in their work ethic."

The talented guys Freeze mentioned were senior Cody Core, juniors Quincy Adeboyejo and Derrick Jones (a converted cornerback), and redshirt sophomore Damore'ea Stringfellow, who transferred from Washington last year. Core is the most polished returning receiver, ranking second on the team with 41 catches and gaining 558 yards with six touchdowns last year. Adeboyejo was pegged as a potential breakout player last year, but caught just 26 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns. Stringfellow has a lot of potential, but struggled with drops this spring.

Rising sophomore Markell Pack is the only other wide receiver who returns with double-digit receptions (14) from last seasons.

All of the receivers competing behind Treadwell showed some flashes here and there this spring, but inconsistency thwarted some growth. Having three different quarterbacks feeling their way through practice didn't help. Neither did the fact that Core, Adeboyejo and Pack dealt with injuries this spring. But Freeze wanted to see more push and more drive from the receivers this spring -- injuries, quarterback issues and all.

Freeze didn't always get that from this group, but he did come away increasingly optimistic about Core and Jones, who turned out to be the biggest surprises for the Rebels this spring.

"I’m real comfortable with Cody Core, knowing every spot that we play," Freeze said. "He was a solid performer last year and I think will push hard to be that No. 2 guy.

“I thought Derrick Jones had the best spring of anyone. He’s a long, rangy, fast kid that has come a long way.”

The Rebels have time to find the right fit at receiver, and there's plenty of potential/talent to work with. But once the season rolls around, it would be beneficial if Ole Miss had a quality No. 2 to help out Treadwell and this offense.