Steve Robertson/

Split End Position Offers Junior Bulldog Greater Opportunities

It’s the kind of compliment that makes a veteran Dog feel good about his own game.

There was Gabe Myles, conversing with Deddrick Thomas about a spring day’s practice. “Deddrick was talking about ‘I used what you use to get off the line, and it works’,” Myles smiled.

Now not every trick will work for all Bulldog wideouts. Still such shared strategies are key to raising the entire receiving corps’ production. Why, even junior split end Myles isn’t above borrowing.

“We watch each other and grow and mold ourselves.”

Mississippi State’s receiver rotation is re-molding for 2016. The early losses of De’Runnya Wilson and Fred Brown has taken two of the top-four producers of ’15 with their 87 catches, 1,340 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Yet spring camp showed enough returning receivers and a number of still-developing pups to keep the air attack, well, attacking. This even with top targets Fred Ross and Donald Gray missing all or much of spring with injuries.

Exhibit A in the 2016 shuffling? Gabe Myles.

As a third fall sophomore, though just his second year as a wide receiver, Myles caught a dozen balls for 175 yards and scored twice. That was in a rotation role at slot position, where Ross rules of course. And still will in 2016.

Yet Coach Billy Gonzales wants Myles on the field this fall too. That’s why Myles now works on the outside. Either outside, he said.

“I’m X and Z. But mainly Z. So I don’t know what to call it.”

Call it a good move for everyone. Though Myles is a quite capable slot guy, quick enough to find openings and tough enough for tight end-type routes; he brings one trump move to split end.

His first step.

Unlike the classic ‘burner’ split end who accelerates downfield, Myles is just about top-speed before echoes of ‘hut’ fade. “I just want to be able to start fast. I want to always be a deep ball threat. So I take pride in being able to get off the ball quick.”

He showed it in spring ball, getting a jump on cornerbacks and breaking downfield. He may not have Wilson’s height and length, something the new State quarterbacks will miss. Myles instead will work on technique and tactics and getting more open.

“I have to play to my strengths. Make people miss while running a route. I think just being able to keep them on their toes, knowing I can run by them.”

Bulldog cornerbacks know that now. Proving it to SEC cover-men will be the next challenge. To that end Myles said he spent a “good” spring absorbing the finer points of playing outside receiver.

“A lot of learning, moving to the outside. Learning how to get off press-man and just become a better route-runner. So I think I’ve got a whole lot of learning to do still, but it’s been fun just transitioning over there and seeing how it is outside.”

And remember, Myles ought have some inside info on that…because as a redshirting freshman in 2013 he played cornerback. He came back over to offense, where he was a high school state champion quarterback, to get Myles’ talents on the field.

He’s left the slot for outside for the same reason, what with Ross, Malik Dear, and now Deddrick Thomas showing their stuff inside. This switch is best for the depth chart and for the rotation.

“I think we all felt that.,” said Myles. “I want to play a little bit more but with that you have to be versatile. You have to be trusted to be able play more than one position. So I think they just gave me a shot, said OK let’s see what you can do and if you can earn that trust.”

Myles did it in spring, with his coaches. Summer is about building trust with teammates as Bulldog receivers and quarterbacks gather for afternoon, unsupervised throw-and-catch sessions.

Oh, and Myles points out: in summer there is no ‘depth chart’. “Everybody is going to get about the same amount of reps. And with that you have to do what you can with the allotted time you have.

“And I know in the off-season we’re going to work. We’re going to work real hard and get together and just make each other better. We use our own teammates for stuff like this.”

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