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Ole Miss football 2021 preview: Is it breakout time for these Rebel receivers?

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Who’s going to make the jump?

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Mississippi vs Indiana Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

After a record-breaking 2020 season offensively, all eyes will be on the wide receiver room this fall. Replicating a player like Elijah Moore is next to impossible after taking the country by storm with his ability to get open and seemingly making no mistakes. While his athleticism will be missed, there are plenty of people left who can fill those shoes.

Braylon Sanders

Undoubtedly, Sanders will likely be the #1 target this season. He has played at Ole Miss since 2016 and will be looking for a high-scoring season to put him on the map. From what we saw last season, he is clearly capable.

Sanders capitalized on opportunity in 2020 after catching 14 passes for 370 yards. He only had four touchdowns but averaged a team-best 26.43 yards per catch. It seems like he has been in the shadows waiting his turn for a while now. He played behind star receivers A.J Brown, DK Metcalf, and Elijah Moore. As long as Sanders is able to stay healthy, there is a lot of excitement coming for him this season.

“I think Braylon can play all over the place, I think he’s extremely talented,” Kiffin said. “He had a good (last) year from a height, weight, speed, ball-skills standpoint; he’s a potential first-round draft pick. You saw the explosive plays he made a year ago. He just didn’t have that many opportunities with injuries and other situations, so I look for him to have a really big year.”

Jonathan Mingo

Jonathan Mingo has been waiting for this season for a while, and frankly needs to rise up to the challenge. He played in all 10 games of the 2020 season with 27 receptions for 379 yards and three touchdowns. Ole Miss fans saw a glimpse of his capabilities in the Kentucky game. Mingo had eight receptions for 128 yards and two touchdowns to get the win in overtime over Kentucky. After that, he stayed pretty quiet for the rest of the season. Everyone is hoping for the Brandon, Mississippi native to step up this season, but no one more than Mingo. In a press conference following fall camp practice, he talked about his priorities and the changes that he made in the off-season.

He took the time and “wanted to get his body right” with mobility and flexibility. He said he wants to get “in a better state of mind … by playing more confident and fast to be in the best situation I can put myself in for the upcoming season.”

Jerrion Ealy

Ealy might be the most athletic player every time that he steps out on the field. The dual-sport athlete has been proving himself his freshman year and earned numerous pre-season honors including an All-SEC first-team honor. Ealy’s numbers really speak for themselves in terms of utter dominance. In both of his seasons thus far, Ealy has had over 700 yards and in 2020 he had 9 touchdowns. Our fearless leader (Kiffin) doesn’t love to spill the tea on most things within the program, but he has alluded to the fact that we might not see Ealy in his normal role in the backfield.

In one of his rare appearances at a press conference, offensive coordinator Coach Lebby said, “he needs the football. If I’m smart, I’ll give him the football…the guy needs the ball. He’s special. We’re going to find ways to get it to him for sure.”

Arguably the very best part of the Kiffin/Lebby offense is how dynamic they make every player. I’m not saying that we won’t see Ealy in his normal role, but we are probably going to see him out wide as well.

Dontario Drummond

The 6’1” 220-pound receiver is one of the most underrated weapons on the offense. In 2020, he had 25 receptions for 417 yards and 7 touchdowns. It is possible that Drummond could take some reps in a tight end-like position to fill that gap while Ole Miss gets healthy. Once again, the ability to be versatile in this offense is crucial. Drummond will still play outside receiver, but when needed, he can step into that role.

(This Drummond to Ealy pass might be my favorite play from last season)

John Rhys Plumlee

Ahhh, the piano playing, baseball hitting, former quarterback, receiver? John Rhys Plumlee is the biggest question mark this season. That isn’t because of injury but more so of, will he work? and where?

If you have eyeballs, you can’t deny his incredible athleticism and willingness to be a team player. He isn’t going to be quarterback, but he still is an asset to this team. Going into the Outback Bowl against Indiana, the Ole Miss offense was scrambling to find offensive production after injuries and opt-outs from Elijah Moore and Kenny Yeboah. Plumlee was given the opportunity to slide in the slot position, and in his debut at receiver, shined.

He had five receptions for 73 yards and came up big at the end of the game to get the win. With a full off-season of preparation, there are a lot of theories of what he can bring to the offense. While his starting position isn’t clear yet, I wouldn't be shocked if we saw Plumlee at O-Line this fall.

Dannis Jackson

The junior from Sumrall, Miss. has been the talk of this seasons’ fall camp. Jackson hasn’t taken significant reps during his time at Ole Miss, but during this off-season has focused a lot on how to change that. Personal accountability has been a factor in Jackson’s growth.

“In the passing game, we have a lot of playmakers and things like that. I’m just being accountable. Knowing my assignment, being able to line up and get there fast. Do what I have to do. The rest just comes,” he said. “It’s something I put more time into. I noticed I needed to put more time into it.”

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All of the questions will be answered on Sept. 6th in Atlanta when Ole Miss takes on Louisville in the season opener.