“It was one-on-one, I caught a pass and he was really going for the ball,” Ross said. “He kind of gave me a shoulder and knocked me down.”
Now, if every Dog on all practice fields had frozen in place, shocked at the sight of Ross on the turf, it’d have been understandable. Mississippi State has taken extreme caution with this record-setting receiver, even forcing Ross to wear Don’t Touch Red in his senior preseason.
The only person not nervous about this accidental blow…was Ross himself.
“I tapped (Tolando) on the head. He was like my bad and I was like no, I want to get hit!”
Sometime shortly after Saturday’s 11:00am kickoff, Ross will get his chance to make real contact again and at last. He claims full recovery now after a spring groin surgery, summer rehab, and deliberate August return to action.
“I’m ready to go,” Ross said. “I’m 100%, I’m ready to play football.”
Fact is, or at least in Ross’ mind it is fact, he could have been playing 100% for a couple of weeks already. Coach Dan Mullen said no contact, no way. He even denied Ross the satisfaction of shedding the hated red jersey up to now. Simply, no chances were being taken with the undisputed top Dog on the offensive side of the squad going into 2016.
“Yeah, I didn’t like sitting over there watching practice. It was pretty boring. I mean, it was hard watching my teammates, the receivers, work hard. I wanted to be out there with them. Now we can finally get together as one and play football.”
Fred Ross plays football very, very well. As well as and maybe better than most any Bulldog who has run a route. He is coming off a junior campaign that produced records for receptions (88), 100-yard games (five) and consecutive 100-yard games (4). Ross not only led the SEC in catches per-game but he was second nationally for catches in conference play…and that’s just eight games in this league, remember.
The result was Ross becoming the first Bulldog wide receiver named first-team All-SEC in literally two decades. And with 127 catches so far, Ross ought surpass the MSU mark of 162 about half-way into the season.
If he stays healthy, that is. And about those records… “I didn’t know that, actually!” he said. “That’s a blessing for you to tell me that, thank you!”
There is one wild-card factor to Ross revising more records. Somebody has to toss him the ball, right place and time and everything. After two-plus seasons combining with Dak Prescott, it’s up to Ross to help break-in the next Bulldog quarterback. Or more likely quarterbacks.
And no…Ross will not go against policy and ID an opening day starter.
“I have no idea, my guess is as good as y’alls! It’s going to be fun to see!”
There is the key though. If Ross, who has so much riding on the right quarterback taking over, can call the process ‘fun’ then maybe the rest of us can relax at least a little? This is not to downplay the change in charge of course.
“It’s definitely different without Dak, with three young guys at quarterback. It’s definitely different not having that leader here. But it’s fun, it’s interesting and I can’t wait to see how this week is going to go.”
The rest of us can’t wait to see how a healthy Ross is used this season. He wrote the records at ‘H’ receiver last season, the slot spot; and this is where Ross is likely to at least begin again. At the same time Mullen and Coach Billy Gonzales have said since spring they intend to move their top target around to X and Z and any other spot in the schematic alphabet.
A split end in 2013 and ’14 before moving inside, Ross is completely comfortable any where, any route. “It’s wherever Coach Mullen wants me to go. It won’t be too much of an adjustment.” Plus, working Ross around the field for more matchups also allows younger hotshots like Malik Dear and Keith Mixon to get in the slot and out in traffic.
“Those guys have been working hard and doing a good job,” Ross said.
If Saturday plays-out as most expect, starters like Ross might have a short opening day’s duty. Though asked how many quarters he’s given “The whole game, I hope! I hope he just lets me loose!” What Ross knows for certain is, come Saturday he is cleared for contact.
“I can’t wait. I’m anxious. Hopefully I deliver the hit instead of getting hit!”