Strength Vs. Strength

For the past few weeks, it could be argued that a strength of the Ole Miss football team are the wideouts coached by Grant Heard. There is no argument the Mississippi State secondary is one of its strong points. Strength against strength.

Football, among other things, is about matchups.

Coaches watch hours and hours of film to try to determine where they may have an edge over an opponent.

But this week in the Egg Bowl match, will be, at least partly, determined by how well two strengths of the respective teams fare.

The Rebel wide receivers have emerged, particularly lately, as one of the better units on the team.

Led by sophomore Donte Moncrief with 53 receptions good for 775 yards and seven scores, the Rebel receiving corps is no longer a one-man show. Ja-Mes Logan has 35 catches and Vince Sanders has 31.

State will counter with a quality secondary, led by senior Johnathan Banks, who has 16 interceptions in his career, and Corey Broomfield, a converted corner now roaming center field at safety.

"It'll be a good match," said Ole Miss WR Coach Grant Heard. "It's like that every week in the SEC. We look forward to the challenge. I think we'll be ready to go. We just have to make more plays than they do."

The formula for the Rebels to succeed is not complicated. In fact, it's downright simple, according to Heard.

Grant Heard
File Photo

"Donte and the rest just have to be themselves. Donte has to be physical - that's his game - and explosive, as do the others," Heard said. "It comes down to if there's a play to be made, you have to make it.

"I don't think there's a ball that they can't handle and they just have to go make plays like they have done all year."

The Rebels started off as the Moncrief show in their receiving corps, but as the season progressed, Logan, Sanders and Korvic Neat (23 catches) showed they can make plays as well.

Defenses that were keying on Moncrief had to start paying more attention to everyone else.

"They've all played well. The truth is if you have one star wideout, you better have somebody on the other side capable of making plays because the defensive coordinators now are too good and they know how to take a particular player out of a game," Heard said.

"Those guys just needed a chance. Once defenses started putting extra attention on Donte, the others started making plays and that's been good for everyone.

"That's helped Donte as much as anything - that defenses now have to respect those other guys. Ja-Mes had a game with 160 yards receiving. Before that, Vince had a big game. The thing they like about this offense is that the ball could be going anywhere at any time and you have to be alert and playing hard all the time. It's helped everyone stay in the game."

Heard said that when Moncrief does receive extra attention, he doesn't let it bother him.

"He just does what we tell him to do and goes about his business," Heard said. "You can't get frustrated. It's a compliment to be double-covered. It means you're doing things right and they're worried about you.

"Eventually, the other guys are going to make enough plays where they can't double Donte. That's happened a time or two already."

Like OL Coach Matt Luke, Heard is a veteran of the Egg Bowl as a former Rebel player.

"I have a lot of memories of this game. This game means so much to me, the team, the staff and more importantly, the fans," he said. "We just have to go out there and lay it all on the line, play as hard as we can. That's what this game is all about - ultimate effort."

Heard wants to see the Golden Egg returned "home."

"This game lights a fire in me. The Egg should be here, but MSU isn't going to give it to us," he said. "We're going to have to go out there and take it. It's going to be a good game."

Strength against strength.

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