Replacing Treadwell and Core a few of the goals for spring practices

For the first time in three years, the Ole Miss wide receiver corps will be without Laquon Treadwell for spring practices.

Treadwell opted to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft following a stellar junior campaign, and he’s widely considered the No. 1 player at his position. Gone, too, is veteran Cody Core, who impressed at the NFL combine over the weekend with his top-end speed and measurable. 

Treadwell and Core ranked No. 1 and No. 2 on the team, respectively, in receiving yards last season.

The cupboard is far from bare, however. Ole Miss returns seniors Quincy Adeboyejo and Derrick Jones, juniors Damore’ea Stringfellow and Markell Pack and underclassmen Damarkus Lodge and Van Jefferson. Plus, the Rebels signed a trio of four-star prospects - A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and Tre Nixon - in the recruiting class of 2016.

Wide receivers coach Grant Heard believes Ole Miss has the horses to compensate for the production lost.

“I think we do,” he said. “Of course, we’ve got some work to do to get better. But the athleticism is there. I think we can be really, really good. But we’ve got to put in some work this offseason and this spring, and just keep getting better and not be content with where we’re at.”

Stringfellow is of similar build to Treadwell, and is considered by many his heir-apparent opposite Adeboyejo in the starting lineup. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Stringfellow started five games last season, hauling in 36 catches for 503 yards. 

But he isn’t alone. Ole Miss is going to have to replace Treadwell by committee, especially considering Treadwell totaled 82 catches, 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He led the Rebels in all categories. Treadwell was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award (given to the nation’s most outstanding wide receiver) after he leading the SEC in receiving. He was named All-SEC and received All-American honors.

“I hope someone steps into that roll, whether it’s (Stringfellow), Lodge, Van or some of these young guys I’ve got coming,” Heard said. “But he’s definitely got the talent and the skill to be an impact player in this league and somebody you’re going to have to pay attention to. He’s just got to keep working, get healthy and I think we’ll be good.”

There’s plenty of intrigue surrounding the 6-foot-2, 181-pound Jefferson, a former four-star signee who redshirted last season. Jefferson was listed by as the No. 100 overall prospect in the nation in 2015.

“He got to get acclimated to school,” last season, Heard said. “I took him on some trips and traveled him and let him experience what it’s like at the hotel. Next year, if he gets a chance, it’s not going to be something new to him. He knows what to expect; he knows how we do things. He’s so much better and stronger than he was when he first go here. The biggest thing is him having confidence and understand what we’re trying to do. He’s been in it now, he’s heard it. Now we can start perfecting his craft a little bit more.”

Lodge is a former five-star prospect and No. 1 wide receiver in the country. Despite his lofty high school accomplishments, he barely saw the field as a true freshman, finishing with one catch for 12 yards and one touchdown.

Heard, of course, expects much more in year two.

“It takes some guys - especially coming from a great high school like Cedar Hill and having all the accolades coming in - it’s kind of a shock to those guys when they come in and they’re not the top dog anymore,” he said. “But I expect him to take this opportunity and run with it. I’ve seen nothing but great things so far. He’s maturing, which is big for him. I expect him to really have an awesome spring.”

Brown, Metcalf and Nixon won’t arrive on campus until the summer, but Heard is excited about the potential of all three.

“I’ve been truly blessed here,” he said. “The offense (Ole Miss head) coach (Hugh) Freeze runs is exciting to wideouts across the country. I’ve been able to at least get guy interested us that normally you might not be able to because of how we throw it around so much. And those three guys, not only are they great athletes, they’re great people. Their families are awesome. Those guys are going to come in and they’re going to push some guys. Those guys are coming in to compete. They’re not coming in to redshirt. They’re coming in to compete and get on the field as fast as they can. That’s going to make my room better as a whole, because you’re going to have to come to practice every single day or somebody will take your job.

“(Brown and Metcalf) are what you’re looking for. They definitely look better than I did coming out of high school. I like big guys. They fit who I want. Tre Nixon, we say he’s little, but he’s 6-1. That’s pretty big for a wideout, and we call him little in my room. They all bring something different. Tre can fly. D.K. is a long target, and then you’ve got A.J., who’s a bigger, more physical-type guy. They all bring something different to the table and something different that we need in our offense. They’re all going to mesh well together and have a great career here.”

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