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Braylon Sanders may be Ole Miss’ best kept secret on offense

The true sophomore has emerged as a fourth downfield threat in just two games this season.

NCAA Football: Southern Illinois at Mississippi
When you whip off a 55-yarder.
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss has scored 123 points in two games this season. Ole Miss’ offense has been directly responsible for 116 of those points. Jordan Ta’amu has connected with his sundry wide receivers for 336 yards against Texas Tech and 448 against Southern Illinois. He’s thrown seven touchdowns to those selfsame receivers.

These are statistical, verifiable facts, and they’re here stated in support of the following value judgment: Ole Miss boasts a very, very good offense, and in particular, passing game.

The murderers’ row of pass catchers in Oxford is no secret fireworks display on the college football landscape. Led by sure-hands A.J. Brown, the Rebel receiving corps touts a bevy of four-star or higher talent that catch the deep ball with real, appreciable consistency. They eat up yards quickly, and they do so aided by one of the most accurate downfield arms in the business.

That Brown, D.K. Metcalf, and DeMarkus Lodge can line up against opposing secondaries may feel a bit unfair, but life is unfair. All three open up both the boundary and the underneath passing attack for an offense that thrives on pre-snap response to defensive schemes and the ability to improvise in the moment. Any one of three threats could slam into you on this or that play, and that should be terrifying to everyone residing outside of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Granted Ole Miss’ receiving corps is built around the big three, but never forget about their four-threat, Braylon Sanders.

This guy hauled in exactly 133 yards on four receptions for a touchdown against Southern Illinois. He averaged thirty-three-and-a-third yards per reception in the game. Against Texas on Tech, he logged another four catches for 60 yards and no TDs, though that averages out to 15 yards per catch.

Here’s his touchdown catch from Saturday.

Sanders catches big balls out on the boundary, and his relative anonymity over and against Brown, Lodge and Metcalf masks his quiet threat from the outside. His touchdown pass up there is an acknowledgement of his secret weapon status in Ole Miss’ receiving arsenal, because this toss was coming to him all the way down the pipe from the huddle.

Ta’amu and Phil Longo are growing their trust in Sanders, and that bodes well for the Rebel passing game. When every opposing secondary’s eyes are locked on Brown, Lodge or Metcalf, Sanders can slip happily through the lid and burn an opponent for 55 yards, as he did Saturday. As he did against Texas Tech. As he’ll continue to do given the right usage and looks on the part of Longo and Ta’amu.

There are many to love in the Rebs’ receiving regiment, and Sanders is making a name for himself therein.

Sanders’ success depends upon that of Brown, Lodge and Metcalf as much as theirs does on his. Put another way, when those above him in the four- or five-wide sets start burning off yards, Sanders stands up as a dangerous, if afterthought, option. Put him outside the numbers, give him one over the left shoulder, and watch him work his way into the red zone.

Braylon Sanders is rated below three elite men in front of him on the depth chart, but he’s just as good as any of them.