In 2016, Slot Receiver Van Jefferson's breakout redshirt freshman year, he was second on the mostly high-powered Ole Miss offense in receptions with 49, trailing only team leader Evan Engram, who caught 65 balls on the year.
Now, in the middle of spring training 2017, Jefferson is a year older, a year wiser and a year more experienced. In other words, he's been through the ringer and come out on the other end stronger.
"Last year, I didn't know nearly as much as I do now. I’ve come a long way since last spring, but that comes with game experience," he stated. "I feel more mature and more prepared to get the job done. I’m not in awe of the situation. I'm ready for it. I just have to keep working and keep learning."
Jefferson and Markell Pack have the most experience in he wide receiver room, but he says he is just part of the group, a group he takes a lot of pride in.
"We are all in there having fun and we are all friends, but when it comes time to go to work, we go to work," he continued. "Markell, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, DeMarkus (Lodge), Tre' (Nixon), everyone in there brings a lot to the table. We have a good group, a real good group, and we’re still young. We’ll just get better and better. Markell is doing a good job leading the way and is having a really good spring."
Jefferson plays slot with Pack and Nixon and, now, Jason Pellerin at times. The Rebel offense under OC Phil Longo employs a lot of double slot formations.
"We all have a particular skill set. Jason gives us size, Markell and I are a lot alike and Tre' gives us speed. He’s a home-run threat. He’s progressing very well. I think we can be a very exciting group," he noted.
Jefferson is not allowing outside influences to bother him or his teammates.
"We can only control what we can control. The bowl ban, outside stuff, whatever, it doesn't matter to us. We’re extremely excited about the 2017 season. We still play Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas and the rest. It's why you come to the SEC," he explained. “We’re putting in a new offense with new responsibilities for us as receivers — more freedom to look for openings in coverage. We’re pumped about all of it.
"I don't believe anyone in the country can stop us, and all of our wideouts are starters."
Wideouts are only as good as the quarterback, the guy delivering the ball. Jefferson likes the Rebs' options.
"Shea (Patterson) is catching on to the new system and terminology quickly and he’s getting us the ball on time. He’s fun to work with. Jordan (Ta'amu) is also a very good passer and gets the ball out in a timely fashion. We’re blessed at quarterback, which will make our jobs as wide receivers easier," Jefferson said.
And even though he's on offense, Jefferson is pleased with the way the defense is responding and challenging them this spring.
"Coach (Wesley) McGriff brings a swagger to the defense. He's a cool guy, but he's demanding and he has that defense playing fast and furious. They challenge us every day," he ended. "The safeties and corners are getting more aggressive and have good technique. I go against A.J. Moore a lot. We talk trash to each other and get after it. He’s really improved at the Star position. Zedrick Woods, Myles Hartsfield, C.J. Moore, Deontay Anderson, Jaylon Jones — all of them — are improving."