OXFORD – Everybody on a football team has a role to play, and all roles can’t be catching or carrying the football.
Ole Miss wide receiver Markeith Summers understands that. He’s just glad his role involves the football this year.
Summers, a senior from Olive Branch, caught 17 balls last year, far down the food chain of options as the passing game focused on Shay Hodge, the favorite target of former quarterback Jevan Snead.
Hodge caught 70 balls last year, leading the SEC in receptions, receptions per game and yardage. Summers – most of the time – blocked.
“It was a little frustrating, because as a receiver you want to catch passes, but there are different roles to play, and we played a different role at that time. It is what it is. We had to play our roles,” he said.
Summers kept things in perspective in 2009. If frustration bubbled beneath the surface if stayed there.
Receivers coach Ron Dickerson said he didn’t have to work to keep Summers and Lionel Breaux, also a senior this season, focused on their roles a year ago. Breaux had 13 catches in 2009.
“That would have been a selfish individual, especially playing at this level. Everyone has a role, everyone has a job, and sometimes your job might be running the decoy route,” he said.
“Shay was in his senior year, he was one of the best receivers we had, and Shay deserved everything he got, all the accolades. A lot of them were because of the unselfishness of Lionel Breaux and Markeith Summers.”
Summers wasn’t strictly a decoy last year. He did display and ability to get open downfield, averaging 23.2 yards a catch. He had four touchdown receptions, and three of them came from 45 yards out or longer, one of them for 65 yards against UAB.
It was just last week that he could really feel his role changing. Summers, who missed a good portion of camp with a hamstring pull, had game-changing plays against Tulane as the Rebels built an early lead then fought to preserve it in the third quarter.
With 1 minute, 32 seconds left in the first half, the Rebels began a drive at their 36 with a 6-yard loss. On the next play quarterback Jeremiah Masoli found Summers in the middle of the field some 40 yards away with a step on a Tulane defender. Summers made an easy grab of a well-placed ball and raced to the end zone.
Tulane had closed to 24-13 with more than 10 minutes remaining when Masoli rolled right and found Summers for a 61-yard gain to set up a field goal.
Dickerson says Summers has put in the time necessary to learn how to get open downfield.
“You have to do a lot of film work. Some guys are blessed to have talent and speed, and Markeith has some of that. We sit in there and put plays together to help those guys use their technique and their God-given ability,” he said.
Summers finished the Tulane game with five catches for 165 yards, an average of 33 per catch. He gives credit to Masoli – who he calls an underrated passer – for drawing defenders out of position with his threat to run.
Summers says Masoli throws a very catchable ball, something that didn’t surprise Summers as Masoli’s transition played out in the summer, because he’d watched plenty of the former Oregon star’s highlights on Youtube.
“I was prepared to see what I saw. I watched those videos, and I knew that every time he scrambled he was looking to throw, not run.”
Masoli, however, said Summers gave him too much credit for the long balls and de-emphasized his own role.
“Before that first play he told me to just throw it up, and that’s something a quarterback looks for in a receiver. You want a guy that wants the ball, that comes to you and says, ‘Throw it up, and I’ll go get it for you,’” Masoli said. “That’s how you build trust.”
Summers knows a thing about trust, about playing a secondary role, believing in a system and believing that your time will come.
“He was in the shadow of Shay, and he was in the shadows of Dexter (McCluster) and Mike Wallace,” Dickerson said. “But he’s worked really hard, and he knew he had a senior year coming.”
Now he just wants to maintain the pace he set for himself against Tulane. He finds his new role very exciting.
“Oh, it’s great now. I love it. … I’m getting the ball. I’m just doing what I can to make plays and help out the team in every way,” he said.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal