Matt Lubick -

Slowly but surely, the young Ole Miss wide receivers are getting some teeth and growing some fangs. There have been moments that have made Coach Matt Lubick feel good about the receiving corps. Read about the progress of the WRs, and what still needs to be done, insde.

At the start of the 2006 season, Ole Miss Wide Receivers Coach Matt Lubick had a monumental assignment facing him - make a brand new, and extremely young, receiving corps SEC-ready in a short period of time.

There have been pitfalls and there have been success stories, but the main thing Lubick wanted, and has seen, is weekly improvement.

"I think we have gotten better each week, for the most part, but we are nowhere near where we need to be. The guys understand that and accept that there are growing pains, but I can see them getting more and more comfortable each week," Lubick stated. "Each practice they get better at running their routes and understand more each day what we are asking of them in our offense.

"I also think they are playing in games with more confidence each week. The improvement is going to be gradual, but each baby step is important."

Lubick believes one of the biggest stepping stones his group faced was - and is - undertanding coverages, something he's seen progress on.

"They are getting it now in terms of route adjustments and changes in their routes after the snap depending on how the defensive back is playing them," he noted. "That's not an easy thing to learn. Again, it's not an overnight deal. It's a repetition thing.

"They are also starting to understand where they need to be on every given play and the technique they need to use to get there, wheher it's in a route or in blocking. They are starting to get the big picture and say 'now I get what you were telling me in August.' Each rep brings that closer and closer."

After seven games, is Lubick happy with his troops and where they are right now?

"That's tough to gauge. I think they are capable of playing better than they are playing right now. I will probably feel that way three years from now when they are seniors," he smiled. "That's just the coach in me and everyone on this staff - we're never satisfied, but I also understand their youth and that they have done some good things too.

"Here's the main thing. They have done everything I have asked of them. As long as they are doing that, they will get better. I've said it before and I will say it again - they are a hungry, eager bunch. They are doing all they can."

Lubick is a stickler about wide receiver blocking. How's that coming along?

"They've been good from the standpoint of effort. They know it is important. They are still working on their technique, honing that and brushing up on it daily. We've had two holding penalties on downfield blocking and that can't happen," Matt explained. "Holding is a killer and is from taking the easy way out, when players try to block with their hands and not their feet. They get out of position and consequently hold. They have to be square to the target and adjust.

"We work it hard every day. We always talk about being a player without the ball is just as important, if not moreso, than being one with the ball. A receivers gets five or six plays a game with the ball in his hands, on a good day. He's got to be a player without the ball 60-70 other plays.

"The good thing we have is competition at the wide receiver slots and they know if they don't block they aren't going to play because the next guy will. We don't have a superstar WR who is catching 12 passes a game that we can let slide on blocking a little. They are all about even and they all know they have to block to play. They know they have to be team players and have to block to be in the lineup. With that mentality, we'll get better there in time."

The Rebs were able to hook up on a long pass play - a 55-yarder from Brent Schaeffer to Mike Wallace - in the Alabama game.

"From an offensive standpoint, that play gave us back some momentum that we had lost in the third quarter," said Lubick. "For Mike, it was a huge play for him and Brent because it builds the confidence they have in each other. We want to take more shots downfield, but they won't get called if we don't show some success when they are called. The WRs know that.

"Mike has good speed. His next step is running his routes at that speed and coming off the ball with that speed he's got. Playing full speed and being able to change directions at his max speed. He's a much better blocker now because he's put on some weight and can hold his blocks at the point of attack without getting thrown around."

One thing Lubick wants to see more of is the Rebel receivers attacking the ball more when it's in the air.

"We are working on that hard. We are not attacking the ball hard enough. We have to do a better job of that. When the ball is in the air, we want our receivers to believe it's theirs and go get it. Shay Hodge and Mike Hicks have been the best this week of attacking the ball. Mike Wallace has been a little inconsistent in that area and needs to pick up his aggressiveness toward the ball," Lubick said. "We had two or three plays against Alabama where if our guys had just been more aggressive in going after the ball, we would have made more plays. When the ball is in the air, it's ours and we have to have that mindset and act on it."

The task this week is for the Rebel wide receivers to be able to handle aggressive man-to-man coverage, which Arkansas will employ almost exclusively.

"From the receivers' standpoint, the Arkansas game should be exciting. They have talented DBs who will play press man coverage. It's man-to-man and it's their best stuff against our best stuff. As a receiver, that's a challenge you like," he noted. "Our guys are excited to see if they can win the man-to-man matchups. If they do, it's a big play."

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