OXFORD – Ole Miss lost one its top deep threat and one of its most productive wide receivers last year in Mike Wallace.
The Rebels won a recruiting battle with Alabama for one of the top receiving prospects in the country in Noxubee County’s Pat Patterson.
In between the going and coming there are Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux.
The receiving corps was considered deep last year largely because of the second-line talent. Summers and Breaux both had some big plays in crucial situations late last season, but their roles are changing. While seniors Shay Hodge and Dexter McCluster are the leaders of the group, Summers and Breaux, both juniors, will be called on to make more plays.
“Their roles are changing. We lost Mike Wallace, and I had to move some guys around. Last year they came on,” wide receivers coach Ron Dickerson said. “I joke with Markeith all the time. I accidentally threw him in on a crucial down at Alabama, and he made a great catch. That shows he has the ability, and I tell him that every day.”
Summers on the rise
It was no accident when Summers ran 13 yards for a touchdown on an end around from the Wild Rebel formation in a 31-13 win at LSU. He had a 33-yard catch in the same game.
The Alabama catch, a 9-yard gain, was a career-first for Summers, a former Olive Branch star.
Breaux had 12 catches for 178 yards last season including grabs for more than 30 yards against LSU and Auburn.
“I was a little hesitant last year, but I got through it, and I felt proud of myself for doing that,” Breaux said. “I think I have improved mostly by learning the plays better and going over the routes. It feels second nature.”
Summers believes his biggest gains this spring have been in catching the ball more consistently.
“Last year we were just fill-in guys, role players. This year they’re expecting a lot more out of both of us. They’re trying to see what we’re going to be about,” Summers said.
That reconnaissance mission didn’t yield positive results in last Saturday’s scrimmage when the receivers collectively were plagued with dropped balls.
“Whew, I don’t know if I should claim them or me from that scrimmage,” Dickerson said. “We have to be consistent. We have to block downfield. We have to run disciplined routes, and we have to catch the ball when it’s in the air, and I don’t care if it’s a great throw or a bad throw. It’s our job to catch.”
A plan for Patterson
There’s no doubt Dickerson has a plan for Patterson to help out with the job. Patterson was rated the nation’s No. 4 wide receiver prospect by Rivals.com. He isn’t a burner, like the departed Wallace, but is a physical player who can win the one-on-one battles with defensive backs.
“I’ll throw the book at him, then trim it down and say, ‘Pat, I need you,’” Dickerson said. “This is what you’re going to do, and we’ll move him around to see where he feels comfortable. We have some ideas. With his ability, I think he’ll really be able to help in some of the things we do offensively.”
In the meantime Summers and Breaux are on the spring-time stage. Their careers are transitioning, and they’re eager to show they can be productive SEC receivers.
“I’m real comfortable with this,” Summers said. “I’ve been waiting on this for a while. I feel like I have to take advantage of it.”
Parrish Alford/Daily Journal