Well. Few worry much about Ross’ August appearance, at least not off the football field. All that matters is how the senior receiver shows up--and hopefully shows off--come September.
Ross himself certainly hopes to look better in coming days than he has early in preseason. After doing the usual drills for a week, his first taste of this final two-a-days wasn’t sharp. “Today at practice I was pretty rusty,” he said.
Well, no surprise there. Remember that Ross missed all of spring after choosing March surgery to address a groin issue. He did it then so to be ready for next spring’s NFL draft. Plus, did a guy coming off a record-setting receiving season really need to scrimmage against redshirts and reserves in April?
The downside did show today though. “I haven’t really gone against someone else in a couple of months. So it’s definitely different getting out there and going against somebody. I’m glad I got those reps today, to get that bad stuff out of me.”
To be fair, what is ‘bad’ by Ross would likely be first-team work from most college pass-catchers. As a junior he didn’t just break the Bulldog receiving record. He smashed it with 88 catches, 14 more than a mark set way back 45 years earlier. His 1,007 yards were second-most ever at State.
And Ross did all this playing on a gimpy groin. “Yeah, about the whole season!” So the Bulldog mind boggles at what a healthy Ross might do for a senior season. He’s just got to get to full-health. Going into camp Ross rated himself at 90%.
Opening this week? “About 95. I don’t think I’m 100%. Today in one-on-ones I didn’t do so hot, I felt a little slow coming out of my breaks. Like I said, that’s just going to come with time and reps.”
Those reps will come. The good news is Ross reports no pain now that he’s testing himself. “I mean, that’s the most important part.” Ross does admit a touch of hesitation as he tried to get back into route-running routine, which time should fix.
“I just have to get the rust off,” he said. “I’m glad God blessed me, and the surgery went well. I’m just ready to start the season.”
Ross would certainly welcome a senior season similar to 2015. He isn’t ready to predict the stats will be similar, not yet. After all, “I had a good quarterback last year! We’re going to see this year.”
It’s fact, the combination of Dak Prescott and Fred Ross wrote records. Now the receiver needs a new thrower and four candidates continue competing in camp. While his opinion surely should count for something, Ross isn’t throwing his support to anyone just yet.
“They’ve been out there balling. They all bring something different to the game. It’s hard to tell who is going to be the quarterback right now. I can’t wait to see who it’s going to be.”
Fans—probably opponents, too—want to know where Ross will be lining-up this season. A split end in 2013-14, he moved to slot receiver and grabbed the spotlight. Ross, remember, is Mississippi State’s first first-team All-SEC receiver in two entire decades.
The 2016 plan though appears to be moving Ross around, to either outside receiver position as well as rotating back into the slot spot. So far this camp? “Just wherever Coach G says. I’ve played all of them before so it’s not much to go through it.”
Because he’s the ranking receiver Dog, Ross also draws coaching duty this preseason. He likes his underclassmen peers, predicting a big year for split end Donald Gray as well as soph slot-successors Malik Dear and Keith Mixon.
Yet it’s the kids who are catching Ross’ eye right now. Jamal Couch and Reggie Todd might look-up to Ross for his All-SEC successes…but Ross looks up to the freshmen literally. When Ross and De’Runnya Wilson were signed they brought fresh size to the receiver corps…
…but these guys? “Man, them are some big freshmen! And they both can run, they can fly. When they grow up I can’t wait to see how it’s going to be.”
Until then, Ross will keep growing comfortable and confident with his repaired self on the practice field. Then by September, it’s show time again.
“I’ve just got to trust it and believe in myself, and go back to doing stuff I used to do.”