By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – It may be too soon to compare Donte Moncrief to the great receivers of college football, but it’s not too soon to recognize the path he’s on.
Before joining the Ole Miss staff last January, Gunter Brewer coached the 2010 Biletnikoff Award winner at Oklahoma State as well as two other finalists over the course of his career.
The award goes to the nation’s top receiver, and last year Justin Blackmon led the nation with 1,782 receiving yards, the most ever by a sophomore.
Brewer won’t put a Biletnikoff label on his prized freshman, but he won’t back away from the idea either.
“Those guys made their own (way). A long time down the road we’ll be able to tell that. Blackmon wasn’t a speck on the map. He made himself a player, and I think Donte is that way,” said Brewer, citing Moncrief’s film study, attention to detail and work ethic as attributes that set him a part.
“He’s more focused, a little more mature thus far than some of the other players I’ve had at that age,” Brewer said.
While Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has praised his freshmen since he signed them, Moncrief has been a cut above, the only one in the class to be a starter from the first play of opening day.
Through five games, Moncrief has 10 catches for 207 yards and has the only two touchdown receptions caught by Ole Miss receivers this season.
Though he didn’t score a touchdown in the Rebels’ 38-28 win at Fresno State, he was the receiver of choice on two of the game’s biggest plays.
Moncrief, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, made the catch on a fade pattern on a two-point conversion to give the Rebels a full seven-point margin after Jeff Scott scored on a 12-yard run with 8 minutes, 59 seconds left in the game.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt stayed with the two-point call even after a false start penalty moved the Rebels back 5 yards.
Minutes later Moncrief grabbed a screen pass and ran 57 yards to the Fresno 5. The Rebels couldn’t punch it in, but a short field goal by Bryson Rose made it a two-possession game with the clocking winding down.
Moncrief showed a burst of speed on the screen, though he was run down before reaching the end zone.
He called it a “shocking” play more because he was caught than because his number was called.
“We really needed it. They believed in me, gave it to me, and I made a play with it,” he said.
It was much the same way with his 47-yard touchdown catch at Vanderbilt, his 38-yard scoring catch against Georgia.
The blueprint for Moncrief’s early success is simple. “I just came in with my head on, listened to coach Brewer, take coaching and play like he wants me to play.”
After an All-American career at Raleigh, Moncrief gave a verbal commitment to Ole Miss early in the recruiting process. It wasn’t a given that he was attend Ole Miss, however, once Brewer got involved on Oklahoma State’s behalf.
Was there the chance Moncrief would have gone to Stillwater?
“They were in my top three, so I’d say yeah,” he said. “I’m very glad coach Brewer is here, because I now what kind of player he can make you.”
Brewer said Oklahoma State recruits Mississippi more for junior college players than high school players, but had “an in” with Moncrief, who was related to former OSU running backs coach Robert Gillespie.
Brewer was heavily involved in Moncrief’s recruitment for both schools.
“I got to know the family and got to know him. He was scheduled to come on a visit and so forth. Everything transpired, and it was a nice easy transition for me to just go in the house and change shirts,” Brewer said. “I think the whole family was happy, and I was too. It was my job then to make sure he stuck with the Rebels.”