Ole Miss Wide Receivers Coach Matt Lubick started the year with a clear understanding of where his group of young, talented and raw players would be and where he wanted them to get during the course of the season.
Right now, after three games, they are slightly ahead of even his curve.
"They are making a lot of progress. Every day, something else becomes more natural to them," said Lubick. "Are they as good as they are going to be? Not even close, but I like their direction and their attitude about getting better."
Currently, five Rebel wideouts have caught passes - Dexter McCluster (8-123 yards), Marshay Green (7-102), Mike Wallace (3-71), Shay Hodge (3-30), and Kendrick Lewis (2-4). Four of those are freshmen and Wallace is only a sophomore.
They are on the field for one main reason - speed.
"Our starting X and Z are a lot faster than last year in 40 times, but what they are having to learn is how to play fast," Lubick stated. "Shay Hodge, for instance, doesn't run a 40 time as fast as Dexter or Mike, but he plays fast. He doesn't make many false steps, he comes off the ball hard, he makes his breaks in routes quickly and at full speed. It doesn't do any good to run a 4.3 on the track if you don't play 4.3.
"Mike runs in the 4.2s, but he doesn't play 4.2 every snap yet. That has to be a natural thing, engrained in you. He's getting there, but he has work to do. Sometimes a 40 time is overrated. What we are trying to do now is to get them all to play faster, not just run faster. Plant the foot on a break at full speed, come out of breaks at full speed, take off at full speed - just play faster. That will come when their reads and knowledge of the system grows and is natural to them."
Matt said the progress they have made as a group to this point stems from their work ethic.
"They come to practice genuninely wanting to get better every day. They know they have work to do. They are a humble group - they know they don't have all the answers yet and they know what it will take for them to get the answers and to develop," Lubick added. "At the end of the day, they break down as a group with the cheer 'get better' and they picked that motto themselves. I couldn't be happier with their work ethic and attention to detail."
But Lubick is the first to point out there is work to do.
"We have to be more precise and more dependable. You can't make mistakes and use youth as an excuse," he explained. "If you are out there playing, you are responsible to do what you are supposed to do and execute, whether you are a freshman or a senior.
"They understand that and strive for that. And they are very coachable. If you correct them, they take constructive criticism very well.
"Each rep they get, I can see their confidence growing and their knowledge develop."
Lubick said the timing between the WRs and QB Brent Schaeffer is improving too.
"They are starting to get a feel for each other in terms of knowing each player's speed and how they break out of routes. Their anticipation of each other is getting better," Matt noted. "Brent is very good at anticipating what a receiver is going to do, but that will only get better and better as they become more familiar with each other."
Lubick said there is not a plan in the Rebel offense to get any certain player the ball "X" amount of times.
"Dan (Werner) likes to spread the ball around and we have confidence in everyone we put in there to be able to make a play," he added. "The more people the defense has to worry about, the better. Sometimes it works out where a receiver is hot or the defense is not paying as much attention to a certain receiver and he gets the ball more, but it's not by plan, per say.
"We want everyone on offense to know that their time could come at any moment and to play that way on every snap. That's a lot harder to defend than calling one receiver's number over and over. We are starting to develop that kind of versatility in our receiving corps. We are already playing more kids than we were last year."
Lubick would like to expand the number of players who see the field, but that has to be earned in practice.
Junior Carlos Suggs is practicing now after breaking his collarbone in the summer, but his consistency level has been lacking as he tries to get back his conditioning, etc. RS frosh Michael Hicks was expected to play a role this year, but has, due to the speed of the youngsters, been passed on the depth chart for now.
"We've got five right now we are comfortable with and are looking for one or two more to step up and produce," he closed. "We'll get there."
Matt Lubick -
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