Orange Bowl Is Myles' 2015 Springboard

He is not calling his first varsity season disappointing, understand. Gabe Myles simply figures he has more to offer the Mississippi State offense. Much more. “I want to actually be a threat, so you have to watch out for #35.”

After what he did during nine days of Orange Bowl practicing, everyone attending will be watching. Because they came away talking about Gabe Myles. There were no Most Valuable awards during Mississippi State’s campus camp. But if polled, observers likely would have named Myles the most impressive overall during offensive drills.

It seemed most every time a ball came his way the second-fall freshman made the play. Even the modest Myles agrees, it was a fun show.

“I’m just trying to get back in the rhythm of making plays. I had a pretty good little camp practice, so yeah. It’s been pretty good.”

The 2014 season wasn’t shabby either. In fact only Myles regards the 22-catch campaign as the slot receiver less than ‘pretty good’. That’s quite a comment on this kid’s competitiveness.

“I took it as, I didn’t start this year and this is my chance to. I know the offense now, I know what’s going on. So this is a clear shot at me being able to say I want to be a starter for next year, and I need to go out and prove the reason why I should be starting.”

Some reader(s) out there just paused and asked, rhetorically…didn’t Myles start games in 2014. Why yes he did, three of them and all SEC contests at home no less: Texas A&M, Auburn, Arkansas. But as said just a bit above, Myles is competitive. Really, really competitive. So being on-field for first snap three times in a 12-game season is not ‘starting’ in Myles’ mind.

Besides, those assignments fell into his lap when senior Jameon Lewis was sidelined with a cracked leg bone. So again, if not first-team every week that isn’t starter status. Lewis is leaving after the Orange Bowl though, and the slot spot is Officially Open for 2015.

Myles knows whose name he wants written in that, umm, slot after spring. Thus his all-out efforts to stake a claim in bowl camp.

“Yeah, that was the number-one goal. Make sure I get better at my position. And if named a starter, I want to be able to say I proved why I should be. And if not, I need to be able to go prove why they made a mistake!”

Confident? Oh yes, absolutely. But not cocky at all. Maybe it is his long high school experience at quarterback that gives Myles such a big-picture appreciation of playing offense at any level. Maybe the fall 2013 spent at cornerback emphasized further what it takes to catch college passes. Then there’s just making up for lack of time as a wideout.

“I’m new at receiver,” Myles reminds. “So I took a whole lot of whatever coaches told me. I’m trying to make sure I get it down. Being able to come in and out of routes is the main thing. Little things like my head nod, my shoulder movements. That’s what I took into account, making sure I got open on one-on-one coverage.”

Right. The one-on-one matchups. Myles has seen lots of them from the throwing end of pass plays, and practiced covering them for a few freshman months. Doing it himself? This is work in progress. Take his 2014 snaps as evidence, because either starting or rotating there were not a lot of deep routes called for Myles. Nor Lewis either for that matter; State slot-men typically work the shorter and quicker patterns and go for yards after grabs.

Regardless, Myles drew a steady diet of outside screens rather than long routes and thinks this was his ’14 strength. “The bubble screens. I think I did real good catching the bubbles this year. I still want to develop as a route-runner more and I think that will help me in one-on-one down the field and be more of a threat.”

Right there you can see Myles’ open ambition to be a big-play maker. Yeah, there’s some ego involved. Any wideout worth his scholarship wants to haul in the long ball and leave a burned defensive backs behind. Myles said he had a few such shots last fall.

“And I just didn’t come down with them.” Nor did the bubbles allow him to show what sort of speed Myles may bring to the ’15 gameplans. “I want to be better at beating one-on-one coverage,” he said.

“It is what it is and that comes with reps and gaining the trust of the coaches and the quarterback to say let’s get Gabe on this route here. So I just have to keep getting better at what I’m doing.”

Myles and underclassman Bulldogs of all positions get their chances to improve a little bit more. #7-ranked Mississippi State arrives for Orange Bowl site camp Friday with five days of practice at Barry College scheduled. It won’t be all work and no play for these pups of course. #35 is expecting—counting on really—having his own eyes opened by a week in Miami.

“It’s the fast life! That’s what I’ve heard. But it’s going to be enjoyable with my teammates.”

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