Espy focused on 'redemption'

In 2002 and 2003, Mike Espy had a total of 60 receptions for 1,007 yards. Last year, he slipped to 24 catches for 229 yards. Some blamed the quarterback situation. Not Espy. Find out why inside.

It's common knowledge, even to Wide Receiver Mike Espy, that he didn't perform up to his potential in the 2004 season.

It would be easy for him, and the rest of the WRs, to cast a stone toward the musical chairs situation with the quarterbacks, but Espy says that's not true, for a couple of reasons.

"As a group, I don't think we helped our quarterbacks the way we should have last year. I don't think we pulled them through some tough times by making all the catches we should have made and boosting their confidence," Espy said flatly.

But he plans to make up for that this year.

"I'm in the best shape I have been in since my sophomore year," he noted. "Not a lot of people know this, but I had mono last year and didn't feel right until late in the season. That's not an excuse, but it was part of my problem.

"I just didn't have my normal energy or strength. I felt a half-step slow sometimes and was drained a lot."

This offseason, the sparkle is back in Espy's eye. He gained back his strength after the season, had a "pretty good" spring and established himself - again - as one of the go-to guys.

"I feel great. I have had an excdellent summer. I'm strong (he recently maxed out in the squat at 450 pounds), in shape and healthy," Espy stated. "I'm ready to roll."

His goals for this year are simple.

"All of us, myself included, have to go out and be consistent. We have to make all the plays that are there to be made," the personable Espy stated. "That's our job. We can't drop passes on third down and kill drives. We have to be reliable and a sure thing when the ball is there.

"It demoralizes an offense when someone doesn't make a play that's there to make. Instead of moving the chains, you punt. It kills your offensive momentum. We did too much of that last year and have been working hard ever since so we won't have a repeat."

Mike said the Rebel receiving corps has dedicated itself to being as good as they can be.

"We have been working very hard in the weight room, in the film room and in volunteer passing drills. I have seen the improvement and consistency we are all dedicated to," he said. "Taye (Biddle), Mario (Hill), Larry (Kendrick) and I have one more season to make things happen. We don't want to waste it."

Espy is also "pumped" about the prospects of returning punts and kickoffs again.

"I'm taking some to the house this year," he said bluntly. "I've been one move away several times. I've been on the verge of breaking some big returns. This year, I'm going to make it happen."

Espy likes the focus he has seen from the whole team in the offseason.

"To be honest, it took a week or two of spring to get used to Coach (Ed) Orgeron's pace in practice, but now that we've adjusted to the pace in the weight room and on the practice field, it can only benefit us," he closed. "After last year, we've got a lot to prove. We're looking forward to getting going."

Look for number 11 to be right in the middle of it.

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