Next Man Up

The opening of fall camp is usually a happy time for head coaches. For Hugh Freeze, Saturday was anything but.

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Junior wide receiver Vincent Sanders suffered a broken collarbone and will miss at least six weeks, despite Ole Miss practicing in shorts and shirts on a day that was supposed to be without contact. He was tackled to the ground during a one-on-one drill.

"Ruined my whole day," Freeze would say afterwards.

Sanders is scheduled for surgery on Tuesday. Freeze said the hope is Sanders will miss only three games, meaning a return to the field at Alabama Sept. 28.

"We've got some good young kids. They'll get ready to play," Freeze said. "Hopefully we can stay healthy and not losing anyone else from that spot."

The loss of Sanders is significant. As the team's No. 2 wide receiver, he played in every game last season, 12 starts, and finished second on the team with 504 receiving yards on 39 catches and four touchdowns.

Senior Ja-Mes Logan has shifted from the slot to the outside with Sanders out, with Korvic Neat moving into the starting lineup in place of Logan.

"I'm very familiar with the offense. I know from inside to outside to the other side to the other inside," Logan said. "Basically, if you know every position, you'll be successful with this offense."

Laquon Treadwell
Ole Miss Athletics

"The good thing about this offense is once they know it, they can be put anywhere," wide receivers coach Grant Heard said. "Ja-Mes, Donte (Moncrief) and Cody (Core) I can move around. They know it, and they can go in there and fill that spot. They just got to keep trucking on and keep getting better."

Other candidates to fill the void left by Sanders include freshmen Quincy Adeboyejo and Laquon Treadwell - two highly-touted freshmen who have already seen time with the first-team offense in practice.

"Ja-Mes is prepared to do both, and I think we've got some good young ones," Freeze said. "But Korvic's role has to increase. It's certainly a blow (to lose Sanders). The guy knew everything we did and could do it at a fast pace. He had a great off-season."

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Treadwell is a former five-star prospect who was ranked the No. 5 receiver in the country by Adeboyejo, a former three-star prospect, was hotly recruited out of Cedar Hills, Texas. He signed with the Rebels over offers from, among others, Clemson, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

Adeboyejo is practicing outside, while Treadwell has settled in in the slot. Freeze said following practice Sunday four receivers will have to be ready to play come the season-opening game against Vanderbilt Aug. 29.

"They pick up quick," he said of the newcomers. "They're quick learners, and of course they've got some skill level that helps. I expect them to be very good players."

"They're freshmen. When things start going fast and get hectic they make mistakes," Heard said. "They are picking up the offense really quick, and they're making plays out there. I think they're having fun. This offense, it's easy but it's different for them. When things get hectic, they've got to learn to slow it down in their minds."

Collins Moore could get a look, as well, but the sophomore is currently running with the third team. Moore was limited to just four games last season due to injuries to both shoulders. He missed all of spring practices following surgery.

Collins Moore
Chuck Rounsaville

Moore said, physically, he feels 100 percent. The biggest adjustment so far has been picking up the ins and outs of the offense. And he isn't afforded the benefit of time, not with the added competition at his position.

"I'm just trying to compete out here during camp," Moore said. "I've got a lot of great teammates out here, and the receivers are grinding pretty hard. I've just got to try to keep up with the group and do my best.

"At my position, it's a lot of competition. I feel like everybody has a chance. It's good to have this much competition, because if something were to happen, the next guy's right there just as talented."

Whoever ultimately steps up will have big shoes to fill both on and off the field, according to Heard.

"He's just a competitor," he said of Sanders. "I know he's going to do what's right every time, and him just being around, he brings a little element to our meeting room. He's funny and stuff like that. That's one things we're really going to miss is him being in that room.

"He gave us what we needed. He was that guy I could move around, and he proved to us last year he can make plays. The next guy's got to step up. We've just got to pick up that slack for a couple of weeks."

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