Next in Line

Mike Wallace has been gone. Shay Hodge is now history. The past two go-to receivers are no longer around to prop up the passing game from the wide receiver position. Next in line? It has to be Markeith Summers. Read about it inside.

For the past two years, senior Wide Receiver Markeith Summers has tested as well as any skill player on the team during the offseason in regard to speed, strength, agility and overall athletic skills.

In those years, he has made some big, acrobatic, mouth-opening plays sandwiched sporadically in between the numerous catches of the likes of Mike Wallace, Dexter McCluster and Shay Hodge.

But, for some reason, Summers has yet to become the dynamic, consistent playmaker that his talent lends one to believe he should be.

For Markeith, it's now or never. This is his last year. He's a senior and he's being counted on to be "the guy" out wide.

"Markeith has to be the go-to guy," said Coach Houston Nutt. "He has to stretch the field and become more consistent for us. He has the talent to do that."

You see it in practice almost every day, some high-flying, gravity-defying catch that makes your head spin, but it seems as if he's been content to take a back seat - most of the time - to the aforementioned, now-departed receiver stars.

As spring training approaches this Saturday, the monkey is on Markeith's back.

All eyes are on him to assert himself and become the next Wallace or Hodge.

"I've been waiting my turn," he explains. "It's my turn. I'm glad I have this opportunity. I'm going to do the best I can and take advantage of it."

Summers was expected to have a monster offseason, but that was somewhat derailed by a sports hernia operation.

While he says he made some progress in the offseason, and will be able to go through spring training, he wasn't able to do everything he wanted to.

"I feel pretty confident I was able to get stronger and faster," Markeith noted. "I also wanted to learn the new offense we are putting in. I missed three weeks and am about 95% now, so I'm good to go."

Spring will be the start of the proving ground that he can replace last year's playmakers.

"You don't really replace them, you just go out there and do what you do. We have guys who can make plays just like they made plays, so you just go out there and do it," he said. "I don't think it's going to be that hard to do. We have the skill to do it."

Markeith will also be relied on to be one of the leaders of the wideouts.

"As seniors, we have to show the younger guys how to have fun but also work hard and understand the importance of doing everything right," said Summers. "I'm up for that. Just like the guys older than me helped me and stayed on me, I will do the same."

Summers likes the receivers on this year's team.

Even though sophomore Pat Patterson is suspended, Summers spoke of him first.

"Pat's a monster, we need him. Jesse (Grandy) is a blazer. Ja'Mes (Logan) is coming along real nice. Melvin (Harris), whew, he's doing very well," Markeith noted. "Lionel (Breaux) can do eerything. We have a nice receiving group. Jared Mitchell is over there with us now, but it's tough to make the transition from DB to WR - I know, I did it. It takes time, but he's learning well."

Of course, the receivers will only be as good as the guy delivering the ball - the quarterback. Summers already sees good things from Nathan Stanley and Raymond Cotton.

"Nathan is smarter, making better decisions and making better throws. He understands the game a lot better already than he did last season," Summers continued. "I think Coach (Dave) Rader has already helped him.

"Raymond wants to show he can be that guy too. Nathan has a year on him in knowledge, but Raymond is stepping it up too. I really don't know who will win the spot. I can't tell the difference in them much because they both throw the ball well."

Summers likes what he has seen of the "new" Rebel passing game.

"Coach Rader knows how to get you open. We will run things like combination routes that I like. Last year was more precise in terms of going to a spot. Coach Rader just wants you to get open and get you the ball and he doesn't care how you get open," Markeith assessed.

Back to the theme of replacing a lot of excellent players, Summers feels there's a lot to prove.

"I think there is pressure on us. Nobody expects us to do as well as those guys, but we do. We have got to go - we are still looking for a championship," he closed.

If the Rebels are to claim a title, Markeith Summers will have to be one of the centerpieces on the table.

It's his turn.

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