Grant's Charge

Grant Heard has a passion for his job. He's back home now, at Ole Miss, where he starred for four seasons in the late 90s.

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Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze named Heard his wide receivers coach in January. Heard was with Freeze at both Lambuth and Arkansas State. But the landscape of Ole Miss football is far different than in his playing days.

Ole Miss was 2-10 last season. Conversely, Arkansas State finished 10-2 and won the Sun Belt Conference. Heard coached quarterbacks at Arkansas State, and his star pupil, Ryan Aplin, was the conference Player of the Year.

"I love coming to work," Heard said, in an interview with Ben Garrett and Steven Godfrey on Rebel Sports Radio recently. "We want to get this thing back to where it should be, where our players, our fans deserve for it to be."

Heard, a former wide receiver, left Ole Miss in 2000, graduating as the school's all-time leader in career receptions and touchdowns. At Ole Miss, he'll head a talented, young group of wide receivers led by rising sophomores Donte Moncrief, who led the team in receiving last season, and Nick Brassell.

The depth chart, though, is etched in sand. Ja-Mes Logan and Tobias Singleton and Collins Moore and Philander Moore and Vincent Sanders all have an opportunity to rise above the rest, as does a Josh Pinkston, who walked on last season.

"A young, young group that is super talented," Heard said. "I think it's going to be an exciting group to watch, especially with our offense. I can't wait to see them out on the field this spring. In my mind, it's a clean slate. I want to see what they can do and see how fast they learn. The past is the past. Let's move on."

Donte Moncrief
Associated Press

Heard knows the intricacies of Freeze's offense, having seen the fast-paced, ever-evolving offense up close at both Lambuth and Arkansas State. Actually, Heard, formerly a graduate assistant at Ole Miss, was the offensive coordinator at Lambuth.

Suffice to say, the wide receivers will play a pivotal role in the successes or failures of the unit. Arkansas State was ranked the No. 17 passing offense in the nation a year ago, and the Red Wolves were 25th in total offense.

Further, Lambuth accumulated 5,861 yards while becoming the No. 1 offense in NAIA in 2008. Lambuth finished third in the nation in scoring offense and fourth in passing efficiency.

"One week, we might throw it 60 times. The next week, we might run it 60 times," he said. "We're going to be fast-paced, and we're going to try to snap that thing as fast as we can."

Still, Heard has but one expectation for his wide receivers, that they "be great every day at practice, and just give me everything they've got."

"To be a threat at all times, and that also involves blocking," Heard said of the role of the wide receivers in the offense. "When we get the ball in our hands, I always tell my guys be special with it. You should be thinking touchdown, not just first down. I'm thinking touchdown every time I touch it. Just be special with it, and make things happen when you get the ball in your hands."

Be special. Heard had such a mindset as a player. The end zone was always on his mind. Not simply a first down. Or a leaping catch in traffic. Or his final receiving totals. Touchdowns. Always touchdowns.

"As a group, they're way too talented to have the year they had. They deserve more," Heard said. "But it's not going to be easy, and it's going to take hard work. It started as soon as Coach Freeze got here. It's time to go to work."

Ole Miss opens spring practices March 23, concluding with the Grove Bowl April 21. The staff has fundamental goals for the spring, and much of the emphasis will be placed on implementation of the offense.

Nick Brassell
Associated Press

The team will hit the ground running, literally. As fast as this offense moves, Heard said the staff has to get the players acclimated to pace and timing.

"I don't think they realize the pace that we want to go at, especially when we start practices. It's not going to be an ease into it deal," Heard said. "We're going to jump right in and get going at the tempo we want set. I tell them, those days when you don't you want to run hard in practice or at weight training, you better think about it ‘cause it's going to jump on you quick."

More than anything, though, Heard and company have to teach a team beaten down from losing how to win again; how to believe in themselves and play with each other. Ole Miss hasn't won a Southeastern Conference game in over a year.

"Coach Freeze, he's a mastermind at getting kids to believe in themselves and bigger than that, believe in each other. That's what it is. Once they start believing in themselves and start playing together as a team, the winning will come. And once it comes, it'll be contagious," he said.


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