Junior wide receiver looking to step into the vacated shoes of Laquon Treadwell

One play has stuck with Ole Miss wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow.

No, not either of his two touchdowns in the Rebels’ Egg Bowl rout of Mississippi State in November, or any of his other 36 catches in 2016. 

Stringfellow has been haunted by his lone drop — a drop he’s used as motivation this summer as he prepares to potentially replace Laquon Treadwell, the former No. 1wide receiver for Ole Miss and the team leader. 

“Every aspect. I want to get faster, I want to get stronger, I want to get better on my routes. I want to catch the ball better,” he said of his offseason goals. “Last year I dropped one catch that was right in my hands. That’s the one I think about the most. Just catches like that and things like that I want to improve on.”

The game in question doesn’t matter, really. For Stringfellow, who finished fourth on the team with 504 receiving yards last season, one drop is one too many, especially considering the quality of receivers he’s competing against day in and day out.

Replacing Treadwell won’t fall on any one player. Ole Miss has strength in numbers, meaning Stringfellow has to be at his best at all times. Damarkus Lodge, Markell Pack, Derrick Jones and the freshman trio of A.J. Brown, Tre Nixon and D.K. Metcalf are all gunning for him. Quincy Adeboyejo, tight end Evan Engram and slot receiver Van Jefferson are all but assured of significant playing time.

“I think we’re pretty talented,” he said. “We have a lot of big receivers now. We have a full room as well, so I’m excited to go out and see how these guys are going to do. In our room, we try to get everybody to be the best they can be so they can have those opportunities to maximize their talent.

“It makes it difficult on a defense because they don’t know who to target on, especially when you have good receivers and good backs and you can come at them any way. They don’t know how to defend it.”

Stringfellow was injured early in the Sugar Bowl, the 10th and final win for the Rebels to cap off an historic campaign for head coach Hugh Freeze and company. He said he’s close to 100 percent now, and doesn’t foresee any issues once fall camp opens in August.

Stringfellow said he’s “running and doing everything” this summer. He sat out spring practices, though the decision was by design — his “getting healthy season,” as he put it.

Ole Miss will open the season in Orlando, Fla., against Florida State Sept. 5, which he hopes is a continuation of his strong showing to close out his sophomore season. Stringfellow hauled in five catches for a season-high 84 yards and the aforementioned two touchdowns in the win at Mississippi State.

“It was really exciting,” he said. “It was my first coming out party. I got to get a feel for getting the ball and doing a little bit. I guess it was important for the fan base and myself, too, to instill confidence. Got a little taste of what I bring to the table. I think, week to week, I can be pretty consistent. It’s based on your work ethic. I feel like I have a pretty good work ethic, and I want to be consistent.”

Stringfellow said his summer days are pretty routine. He has team workouts in the morning, followed by class and some extra work in the Manning Center in the afternoon. His biggest focus in these offseason months is to gain weight. He’s eating more and has a daily pushup routine, all in an effort to get bulkier.

He’s put on some 10-15 pounds so far. He wants to be around 220 come practice time.

“Obviously you’re experienced, so you know what you’re going to be hit with,” he said. “You just go in and try to be as prepared as possible. That’s on and off the field. Right now I’m just trying to stack classes and trying to get the best grades so it’s easier in the fall.”

He’s continuing to adjust to life without Treadwell. The pair roomed together last season, on top their playing duties. “He’s pretty clean, which is good,” Stringfellow said. “I don’t like a dirty house.” 

Now Stringfellow is on his own.

“It was great having him around,” he said. “We bounced ideas off of each other. We grew together, and we actually lived together his last year here. We built that relationship. It was great to see him grow; he came a long way. Seeing him go through the process, I learned a lot.”

More than anything, though, Stringfellow is working on his chemistry with quarterback Chad Kelly. Kelly led the SEC in passing, total offense, passing touchdowns and points responsible for a year ago. 

But gone is his favorite target. Enter Stringfellow.

“Chad’s a great guy,” Stringfellow said. “He talks about how blessed he is all the time, and we go and talk about things that we didn’t take full advantage of in our previous opportunities. We’re excited to play with each other and have this year.

“I think our chemistry is pretty good. I’d like for it to be a lot better, which will happen over time. But it’s pretty good. It’s off the field, too. We hang out all the time around the house — barbecue, throw some stuff on the grill — just to build the relationship side of it.”

That includes watching a whole lot of film. Kelly has developed a reputation as a film junkie, and he’s beginning to rub off on Stringfellow.

“We watch film all the time when I’m over (at his house),” he said. I have no choice.”

Potential No. 1 targets rarely do.


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