MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Duh. Laquon Treadwell isn’t just the leader of the Ole Miss wide receivers. No, Treadwell is the heart and soul of the entire team, as was proven when he suffered a broken fibula and dislocated ankle in the Rebels’ devastating loss to Auburn in November. There simply isn’t a player who can duplicate his production or his influence. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Treadwell enters his junior season ranked 13th in school history with 120 career receptions, and his three career 100-yard receiving games are tied for seventh-most in school history. Treadwell will be full-go come fall camp despite sitting out all of spring practices. Good thing, too. Expectations are high for the All-SEC selection, who ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper ranks as the top underclassman wide receiver in the country. He led the team in receptions (48) and finished second in touchdowns (5) and third in receiving yards (632) in just nine games last season.
UNHERALDED STAR: For all the attention Treadwell gets as Ole Miss’ No. 1 option at wide receiver, there’s Cody Core, a silent type who came out of virtual obscurity to finish fourth on the team in receiving yards (558) and second in catches (41) in 2014. His six touchdowns tied for the team lead. Core’s emergence a year ago made for a great story. He was a late addition to the 2012 recruiting class as an unheralded prospect out of Auburn, Ala., and he spent his first two seasons as a valuable special teams performer but nothing more, compiling all of 95 yards and five catches combined in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
However, he broke out immediately in Ole Miss’ season-opening win over Boise State, claiming the Rebels’ open third wide receiver job in fall camp and making the most of it with a 110-yard receiving performance against the Broncos. He isn’t the most-talented player after Treadwell. Actually, a number of others, be it Markell Pack to Damore’ea Stringfellow or newcomer DaMarkus Lodge, could all make a case for having higher upside. But there’s yet to be a challenger to his staring job. Core is too consistent, from his route-running to his catching and unmatched abilities as a blocker.
BREAKOUT ALERT: Sure, Stringfellow or Lodge would make for a bolder choice here, but 2015 just feels like the time for Quincy Adeboyejo. If you remember, he was billed as the Next Big Thing entering his sophomore season. The idea was Adeboyejo and his 4.40 laser-timed 40-yard-dash speed would pop the top off of opposing coverages and open up the Rebel aerial attack. What followed was an underwhelming 313 receiving yards and 26 catches. He’s got experience now having appeared in all 13 games with five starts in 2014. Time to see what all the fuss was about.
NEXT IN LINE:
1. Markell Pack - As a former four-star prospect, the talent is certainly there. Will consistent production follow? He finished with 173 yards in his true freshman season.
2. Derrick Jones - He was the star of spring ball after bouncing from wide receiver to cornerback and back to wide receiver last season. But we’re talking about practice.
3. Damore’ea Stringfellow - The Washington transfer disappointed in the spring. Physically, though, he’s second to none. He power-cleaned 340 in May, behind only Robert Nkemdiche and Fadol Brown. Wow.
4. DaMarkus Lodge - The jewel of the 2015 signing class, Lodge was rated the No. 2 wide receiver in the country by Scout.com and a five-star prospect. It’s not a matter of if but when.
5. Van Jefferson - Like Lodge, Jefferson was a highly-rated high school prospect, spurning Georgia for the Rebels on National Signing Day in February. The former four-star prospect should contribute early.