WRs Coach Grant Heard misses his leaders, but new leaders are emerging

Grant Heard has the daunting task of replacing his bedrocks - Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core, but he likes who he has to work with for the upcoming season(s).

Laquon is gone.

Cody is gone.

Normally, that would be a crippling blow to any football unit, but Ole Miss WRs Coach Grant Heard and the Rebel staff have prepared for this day with some outstanding recruiting and development.

"Those guys not being there has been strange. I have been used to seeing those two every day for three or four years and all of a sudden, they are gone. That's hard, personally, but from a football standpoint, we are going to be OK. They helped build a legacy of great wide receivers here and I think we have guys who can carry that tradition on," Heard noted. "We can do the same things offensively with the guys we have here and the guys coming in. It's my job to get them ready to fill those big shoes."

Certainly, that's not to say the former two will not be missed - one is a first-rounder and the other will get a legit shot in the NFL, but it is saying Heard is pleased with the talent he has to work with, starting with senior Quincy Adeboyejo, who will be gunning for his fourth letter and looks to be the wideouts' leader for 2016.

"Quincy and Derrick Jones are the old men in the room and I lean on Quincy a lot to help those young guys out," said Heard. "He has accepted that role. It's not any easy role to accept because there's pressure involved there, but he's doing a good job with that part of it. I expect a lot our of Quincy because he has played a whole bunch of quality football in his time here. We need that to continue. He was one of the main targets last year (38 catches, 7 TDs) and he will be one of the main targets again this year.

"He's a little different that what we have had out wide with Quon, Cody and Damore'ea Stringfellow who are all well over 200 pounds (Quincy is 195), but he will be fine there. We don't ask our guys to block a lot, but when we do, it is a crucial block like on bubble screens. He has to be technique sound and he has worked hard on that. When he first came in here, blocking was not his deal - it really wasn't, but now he's getting better at it. He's doing a heckuva job right now. It's a want-to deal and Quincy wants to."

Stringfellow missed the first half of spring training and is just now getting back in the flow of practice and contact, but Heard will be leaning on the big fellow in 2016.

"String had a solid year last year, but we have to have more this year. He will be the most physical receiver on the team and will have to take up some of the slack from Quon and Cody," Grant stated. "I'm expecting him to do some big things in 2016. He ended last year strong and needs ti pick up where he left off in fall."

A player who has had a good spring, particularly for a redshirt freshman, is Van Jefferson.

"Van is doing a nice job. He is getting comfortable with the offense now. He is a guy who wants to do things right and he's been around the game of football his whole life, so he knows what things are supposed to look like. When he first got here, things weren't going as smoothly for him as he had hoped and he got a little frustrated," Heard noted. "But now he knows what is going on and he's just playing - he's not having to think. He's playing with a lot of confidence. I look for Van to be a major contributor next year and to only get better and better as he learns more and more and gets bigger and stronger."

Damarkus Lodge opted to play last year instead of taking a redshirt. He didn't get to play much, but now he's getting his opportunity.

"He just has to learn to be more consistent. In spring, he will have a great day and then follow that with a not so great day, but he will get there," added Heard. "He will be fine. He has the talent, he just has to put it all together on a consistent basis. He's made some spectacular catches and then dropped some balls he should catch easily, but he will get there."

Heard has three high school studs coming in - A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and Tre Nixon - who will get their opportunity to play as true freshmen.

"I have only redshirted one kid since I have been here, so they know if they pick up on things quickly, they will play," he stated. "If they are the best, I am going to play them. I tell them every day to come in with the mindset of playing and push the current guys. If you end up redshirting, it's OK. If you play, that's OK too. I think receivers are coming into college now more prepared to play because of all the 7-on-7 they have now. Football is almost 12 months a year for high school kids now. They've had thousands of reps before they get here and that helps."

Overall, Grant likes what he has seen so far.

"They've all had their moments, good and bad, this spring, but I think we are going to be just fine. We just have to keep working and developing. As I said, we have the raw talent, now it's a matter of fine-tuning and getting them ready for the season," Heard ended.

In short, Heard is confident the Rebel wide receivers will keep on trucking and there is "life" after Quon and Cody.

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