Ole Miss junior Wide Receiver Mike Wallace is pretty bold when it comes to his predictions for the WRs in 2007.
After a year when the Ole Miss passing game ranked near the bottom of the SEC, his assessment could be considered a bit surprising, but he's confident his words will come true.
"I think we can be the best unit on the team," said Wallace. "We've been working hard and we now know the system. We aren't freshmen any more and we aren't waiting on anyone to get here or anything. We feel we are set and ready to go."
Wallace said last year was a struggle, but it was an expected struggle that didn't leave a lasting impression.
"It was hard, but it was fun. We were learning on the run, and sometimes it got frustrating, but we knew better days were ahead if we kept working," Mike continued. "We paid our dues and learned the hard way, but now we know what to do and there is no hesitation from us any more.
"There was a lot to learn and we worked hard to learn it. All of us know all three wideout slots now and what all three receivers are doing on any given play. We are like brothers - we learn together, we hang out together and we work hard, as hard as any unit on the team. We want to be good.
"We know the speed of the game now and we know coverages better now. We know how to react to different situations."
Mike said learning on the fly is not easy, but it was understood from the start that the WRs had no choice. Playing while not completely knowing what to do at all times was simply something they had to endure and experience.
"We'd get frustrated sometimes, but we never lost our focus and kept our efforts on the big picture, which was gradual improvement and working hard until we got it right. We knew it would start clicking sooner or later and that it would be sooner if we kept plugging," he explained. "The big thing is we stuck together and helped each other a lot. I won't deny some frustration. When you are trying as hard as you can and not getting good results, it's hard, but like I said we stayed together and never lost our focus."
Last year's WR Coach Matt Lubick has moved on to Arizona State. Last year's tight end coach - Hugh Freeze - has taken his place.
"I can't say enough about how hard these guys have worked to get better. We aren't a finished product yet, but with the effort they give, we will get there. I have no doubts about that," Freeze said recently.
Wallace, Freeze said, needs to learn to play faster.
"Mike is the fastest player on our team, but sometimes he doesn't play to his speed level. We are trying to impress on him how important it is to play fast all the time," Hugh assessed.
Wallace agrees and says it's something he continues to work on.
"It doesn't do much good to run a 4.2 or 4.3 and play at 4.5 or 4.6. I think part of it was a hesitation and not knowing what to do at times. Now that I know what to do, I will play faster," Mike added. "I'm more mature and now what to do now. I think I will take my game to a whole different level now.
"I can see on film where I played slow at times last year. I know what I did wrong. I won't make those mistakes again. I will play 4.2 every play this year, starting in two-a-days."
Mike has a lot of faith in his comrades at WR.
"We are all hungry and we are all doing well in the offseason and in 7-on-7. It's great having Dexter (McCluster) back. He's hungrier than ever. Marshay (Green), Shay (Hodge), Mike (Hicks) - all of us are doing very well," he closed. "We have built some chemistry with the quarterbacks, we know what to do, we want it badly and we know we have the talent to get the job done.
"Stand back and watch. We will be good this season. We are aiming to be the best unit on the team. That's been our goal since last season ended. There were a lot of circumstances surrounding last year that hurt our efforts, but we are over all of that now. We won't be last again."
Mike Wallace update -
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