OK, for the record, is it Mike or Burnell?
"My real name is Burnell, but people back home call me Mike," said Wallace, the sophomore Rebel wide receiver.
OK, which one do you prefer to be called?
"Whatever," he smiles. "I don't care. I answer to both. It really doesn't matter to me."
OK, for the record, Wallace will, from this point forward, be "Mike" in The Ole Miss Spirit. Why? Easier to type.
It seems the whole wide receiver unit is falling under the same spell - nobody knows their names.
That's easy to understand. If you look up the official stats from 2005, only one - Carlos Suggs - has ever caught a pass in a game, and that's exactly what Carlos caught "a" pass, as in one.
That doesn't seem to bother Mike any more than what folks call him.
"We know we have something to prove and we understand why fans are doubting us," Mike, who has a prankster's type of boyish personality, noted. "Collectively, we've caught one pass in a game. One. Why wouldn't someone doubt us?"
But Wallace believes the doubting will stop - eventually.
"It's all up to us. It's our time. It's our opportunity. We just have to take advantage of it," he explained. "We are working hard to gain experience in practice and then take that over into games in the fall. I mean this in a good way, but our goal is to silence the doubters."
Mike said last year was hard, but certainly not a waste of time.
"It was difficult not playing. I'm used to playing. I've never sat on the bench before," he explained. "But we soaked in what the older guys like Mike Espy and Mario Hill and Taye Biddle were doing and tried to follow their lead. They taught us a lot and helped prepare us for when it's our turn."
But Wallace is the first to admit the Rebel receivers are not finished products.
"We've had a double dose of learning this spring," he noted. "We are constantly trying to improve our receiver skills, but we've had to do that while learning a new offense with new routes and new reads."
He says that's not something that can't be overcome, it just takes time.
"It's not going to happen instantly, but we are getting there. The biggest difference is in the snap count. Coach (Dan) Werner likes to vary it to give us an instant of advantage on the snap, but we are split out so wide that I just go when the ball moves. I can't hear the snap cadence anyway. As for the reads and routes, they are different, but not so much that we can't get them down by fall."
Individually, Wallace worked in the offseason on gaining weight and strength to help him separate from press coverage and get off the line of scrimmage more effectively.
"I weighed 173 pounds most of last year," he explained. "In practice, the DBs were more physical than me. I knew I had to do something about that.
"I now weigh 190 pounds and I'm a lot stronger. I can tell the difference at the line of scrimmage and in blocking. I'm also faster than I was."
Faster? That's pretty good news. Wallace was one of the top five fastest on the team last year and was times in the high 4.3s in the 40 yard dash.
"I'm more explosive now because I put on good weight," he stated.
Mike has always had confidence in his hands. That remains.
"I can catch the ball. My problem was physically competing with the DBs. Spring has been a challenge, but I believe I am gaining the respect of the DBs now," said Wallace. "I'm learning how to get in and out of breaks quicker and learning how to get some separation from coverage. We all are."
So, you can call him Mike or you can call him Burnell.
But his goal is for you to call him "good."
"It's all in my court. I want to stay at the top of the depth chart and to become a leader of our unit. I feel I'm making strides in those areas," he closed. "We want to be known as a good unit. I think we will be."
Thanks, Burnell, uh, Mike.
Mike or Burnell?
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