While they may have been reserves last season, juniors Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux both played valuable roles in Ole Miss' successful 9-4 season.
Summers, who made a name for himself as a physical blocking receiver, was used primarily in running situations. Breaux, on the other hand, was another speedy wideout to complement senior Mike Wallace in stretching opposing defenses.
But with Wallace now gone, the two are being called upon to raise their games this spring.
"Last year we were just fill-in guys, but this year the coaches are expecting a lot out of us," Summers said. "Me and Lionel practice hard and run most of the plays, but the coaches want to see what we're going to be about."
While replacing the sub-4.3 speed of Wallace is next to impossible, head coach Houston Nutt has continued to implement a receiver-by-committee approach.
"(Mike Wallace) outran every corner every Saturday and did the same at the Senior Bowl in Mobile," Nutt said. "Not many have his speed, but Dexter, Shay Hodge, Lionel Breaux and Markeith Summers are a nucleus we are confident in."
Breaux, the heir apparent to Wallace, said he's focused on refining his knowledge of the offensive playbook.
"Spring is going good. I'm continuing to work hard learning my plays and catching balls," he said. "Personally, I'm more comfortable in the playbook and running my routes. Last year, I was a little hesitant, but I got through it. I feel good."
On paper, Summers and Breaux's numbers in 2008 aren't that of significant production. However, the pair was invaluable with what they brought to the table, as their talents were maximized in a variety of ways.
Starting five of 13 games, Breaux totaled 178 yards on 12 catches, but also returned two kicks for 44 yards. Summers started two games last season, accounting for five catches and 94 yards. His one touchdown came on the ground, with a 13-yard scamper against LSU in Ole Miss' 31-13 win.
Now, they'll focus on polishing their games as primary receiving options.
"We lost Mike Wallace, so their roles have changed," said WR coach Ron Dickerson. "They have to carry a heavier load now. They showed me they can get it done last year, but they have to be more consistent because their roles are expanded. We are looking for every-play consistency and we are starting to see some of that here lately."
As with any position, this spring has had its ups-and-downs for the Ole Miss receiving corps.
The group is one of the deepest on the team, but the search for a steady mix has proven tricky. With every good day comes another plagued with inconsistency, as Saturday's scrimmage showed through numerous drops by Rebel receivers.
Summers said the unit took the challenge from the coaches to get better in week three.
"There's been a lot of improvement," he said. "Last week we were dropping a lot of balls and having missed assignments. But it's a lot better this week. We've picked our games up. I don't really know (why we struggled Saturday). You have your days."
Now the day has come for Summers and Breaux to move forward as integral parts of the Rebel offense.
"I've been waiting for this for a while," said Summers. "I feel good. I just have to take advantage of it. The whole team is working hard. The receving corps are getting better every day."
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