By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Wide receivers coach Ron Dickerson challenged his players to get out of the shadow of the departed Shay Hodge and create their own.
Hodge led the SEC in receiving last year, and the Rebels have no true “go to” player at the position.
“I had Dexter McCluster in my room at the beginning, and now someone has to step up. I told them I didn’t want them to be those guys, but I wanted them to be better.”
Dickerson said that redshirt freshman Ja-Mes Logan and sophomore Jesse Grandy were the two who “grabbed the bull by the horns” in spring drills.
“Ja-Mes dropped an easy one today, and so did Jesse, but Jesse came back and redeemed himself. That’s what it’s all about. You have to let the last play go,” he said.
If you can do that you have a better chance to hold your own with the heat increase, as it is expected to this summer with the arrival of signees Quadarias Mireless and Vincent Sanders.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt singled out the freshmen as players who could get into the playing rotation.
“I’ve told my veterans that those guys are coming in to win a job,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson said sophomore receiver Patrick Patterson, whose suspension was announced before the start of drills, has been a model citizen.
“I’ve seen Pat do nothing but move forward. He knows he can help this team, and I’m proud of him,” Dickerson said.
Nutt did not say suspensions have been lifted for either Patterson or redshirt freshman safety Tig Barksdale.
Patterson has attended the majority of spring practices, while Barksdale has attended none.
Reserve tailback Rodney Scott turned an ankle in the scrimmage, but it’s not believed to be serious.
Pushing for playing time
Redshirt freshman Charles Sawyer hasn’t cracked the starting lineup at cornerback, but he might.
Nutt has had nothing but praise for Sawyer, a 5-10, 172-pound Miami, Fla., product, through most of drills, and he lived up to that billing Saturday with a couple of interceptions against starting quarterback Nathan Stanley.
“He has the ball skills, and his awareness, the way he plays the ball in the air, it’s outstanding,” Nutt said. “And he’ll hit you.”
Then as a reminder that he still has much to learn, he was beaten for a 61-yard touchdown when Raymond Cotton connected with 6-foot-6 wideout Melvin Harris.
“Spring has kind of been a surprise, because I’m doing the things I need to do out of nowhere,” Sawyer said. “I’m picking up a lot of new stuff. Sometimes I think too much, and lose focus, but when I’ve been focused I’ve played well.”
Running backs update
Nutt called tailback Enrique Davis the “quickest” back on the field Saturday, but converted defensive back Derrick Herman had his moments, too.
Davis got to the hole quickly and often ran through first contact. He carried six times for 53 yards with a long run of 21 yards and scored on a 2-yard run.
Herman had a 66-yard run, an 11-yard touchdown run, and finished with 140 yards on eight carries.
Herman, a junior, and redshirt freshman Korvic Neat are deeper on the depth chart, but have side-to-side movement that isn’t the primary asset of the top three backs, Brandon Bolden, Davis and Scott.
“We have good numbers at running back, guys you feel good about that understand protections,” Nutt said.