Last season, WR Mike Wallace caught 24 passes in 12 games. It doesn't take a math major to figure out the average - two per outing.
Through just two games this year, he has almost half that total - a team-leading 11 catches for 184 yards and one score.
There are a multitude of reasons for the upswing in his production, he says.
"One, we've had a year to work on it and develop some chemistry with our quarterbacks and learn the offense better," said Wallace, the fastest player on the squad. "Two, (QB) Seth (Adams) is doing what he is supposed to do when we come to the line of scrimmage and there are eight defenders in the box - he's checking into some good pass plays and making the throws. Three, our offensive line is giving Seth more time to throw this year.
"Four, we aren't rookies any more. We were so young last year. . . . "
The early success has not been limited to Wallace. Sophomores Marshay Green (10 catches) and Shay Hodge (9 receptions) have also been in the mix.
"Somebody is going to be open and Seth has time to find them," Mike continued. "This is what we worked for, this is what we hoped for."
Wallace had a big day in the recent loss to Missouri - 7 catches for 136 yards and 1 TD. The touchdown was on a 68-yrad bomb on an audible by Adams.
"That was a great check. Seth has made a lot of excellent checks to get us into the right plays and that has made a difference," Wallace added. "On the long ball, Seth saw the cornerback playing off and figured a slant and up would get him to bite on the short route if he pump faked. It worked perfectly - perfect throw. I caught it in stride."
And nobody is going to catch Wallace from behind. Last summer, he ran in the 4.2s, repeatedly, in the 40.
"The game against Missouri meant a lot to me. Of course, winning comes first, and we didn't do that, but I was proud to have a game where I produced for my team," he explained. "I have been telling everyone I could do it, but that starts to sound hollow until you do.
"Maybe now I will get the ball more, if the openings are there. I have been patient because you can't force these things, but I hope this evolves into more opportunities."
WR Coach Hugh Freeze said getting the ball more will be up to Wallace and the rest of the receivers.
"If they keep doing their jobs and keep improving, they will get the ball. I have been telling them their turn would come and when it did they had to take advantage of it. Now they have to keep building on it," Freeze noted. "the thing with Mike is that he had to learn to play faster. He was a 4.2 guy playing at 4.6, if that makes sense. Now he's playing faster and is more comfortable and confident. I think they are all more confident because they understand so much more than they did last year as freshmen and first-year guys. They had to learn on the fly last year. This year, they have had a whole year to get it cemented in their minds."
Wallace said the goal of the wideouts is to score everytime they touch the ball.
"We all have different skills. I like the long ball myself because I can use my speed to run away from people. Marshay and Dexter like shorter passes so they can make something happen with their quickness after the catch," Wallace stated. "Shay and Mike (Hicks) are good in traffic and are physical receivers.
"Last year it was really hard on us because we were considered a weak link. We didn't like it. We've been waiting a whole year to prove we aren't the weak link. We still have a lot of work to do, but I think it's obvious the improvement we have made as a unit. We just have to keep it up."
Mike said the four-man rotation the Rebs are using right now will get expanded soon, he believes.
"We'll get Dexter back and Lionel Breaux and Markeith Summers are coming on strong. They just have to get a few more things down," he noted. "We're OK with the rotation we have, but it would be nice to get a couple of more guys in there so we can stay a little fresher."
Two games do not make a season. Wallace is aware of that, but he's proud of the start the wide receivers have had.
"We got to this point by working hard and sticking together. We have to keep doing that every day and it will get better and better for this group," he closed.
Mike Wallace -
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