They call it blowing the top off the coverage.
In 2008, that was Mike Wallace's job – stretching the coverage vertically and outrunning it anyway.
That's what Wide Receivers Coach Ron Dickerson was looking for in spring training.
"We still have our feelers out, but the guys are working hard and trying to fill that void. We are a long way from where we need to be the first game, but I think we took some baby steps and are going in the right direction," said Dickerson. "I'll settle for that for now."
The Rebels have two, three and four-wide sets, but for depth chart purposes, Dickerson wanted to lump all the wideouts under Z (flanker) and X (split end).
At Z, senior Dexter McCLuster – no surprise – leads the way. The jack-of-all-trades can play three of the four wideout slots and will also line up at tailback and in the shotgun as the QB in the Wild Rebel set.
"I don't know if I can say enough good things about Dexter. He's just tremendous and is versatile. He can play Z, Y (inside 3-receiver set) and H (inside 4-receiver set). He makes big things happen," said Dickerson. "But what has been particularly satisfying to me is how Dexter has evolved off the field. He's going out in the community doing good things. He's humble. I hope my young guys are watching him closely."
Junior Lionel Breaux is next up followed by sophomore Andrew Harris.
"Lionel is unique. I call him the Mad Hatter because he has to wear so many hats. Besides Shay, he's the only wideout I have who can play all four wideout positions. Very versatile. He has to know a lot of different routes from different angles and he gets it done," Ron noted. "I think he has been my biggest surprise of spring.
"Behind him is Andrew and he's had a good spring. Andrew is so strong he can literally toss DBs out of the way, go up and make the catch. I'm very happy with his progress and I have to remind myself he has only been here one full cycle of football."
Junior Richie Contartesi is next in line.
"Richie is like Breaux in that I ask him to play all four positions and he responds well. Richie has stepped up and done well. Size is his only drawback, but he plays hard and gets the job done," said Dickerson. "He will help us in certain situations."
Walkon Vincent Moss is probably the fastest wideout.
"He's never played football before. He can run fast on a straight line and he's learning to catch the deep ball. If he keeps developing, you never know – he might be a guy who can blow the top off the coverage every once in a while," Ron allowed.
At X, senior Shay Hodge was the man coming into spring and his lofty status remains intact.
"Trusty hands Shay. He's done a great job of taking on a leadership role. He and Dexter organize the position meetings and are being great leaders," Ron stated. "I think Mike (Wallace) talked a lot after the season and Shay took it all to heart that it was his turn to carry the baton. He's one of our go-to guys, for sure."
Junior Markeith Summers has made a move during the spring as well.
"He could replace Wallace. He could be that guy who can blow the top off of coverage," said Dickerson. "The thing holding him back is that for five plays he looks like he's All-SEC and then five plays he looks like he has never played receiver. He just needs more confidence in himself. I know he has the ability to be great. He's got a chance to be special."
Right on Summers' heels is senior Jacarious Lucas.
"A hamstring injury slowed him this spring, but he's done a real good job of catching the ball and he may be my best downfield blocker. He will help us next year," Ron said.
Senior J.D. Lawhorn decided to give football another shot after sitting out a couple of years.
"J.D. has been a surprise to me. He's taken a lot of reps and has done well. He's coming on and doing some good things," added Dickerson.
Senior Will Cole and walkon Artis Ford round out the receiving corps.
"Will knows how to play the ball and leverage the defender. He's improved," Ron stated. "Artis needs to live in the weight room for a year, but he comes to practice with his lunch box and knows how to work. I'm glad we have him."
Melvin Harris is not participating in spring training due to a broken foot, but Dickerson misses his presence.
"I think Melvin would be in the mix if he had gone through spring and will be in the mix in the fall. He's so tall and has good receiver skills. I will be surprised if he is not in the rotation next year," Dickerson closed.
Overview: Dexter and Shay dynamically lead this group and that's a good start. Breaux had a productive spring which helps solidify things. Summers can be spectacular but needs to do it every snap. Drew came on strong toward the end of spring with some newfound confidence and knowledge of the system. Jacarious has shown the ability to make plays. Melvin Harris should provide some ammo to the group. Overall, they didn't replace Wallace's specialty of blowing the top off – yet – but they may not have to. If a couple of more can jump to the "next level," they can be special. Good group.
Wide Receivers -
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