HOOVER, ALA. – Half of Donte Moncrief’s receptions in 2012 came in the final three games. He had 66 for the year; 33 of them against LSU, MSU and Pitt.
Moncrief got better as the season went on, just like the Rebels did, who finished 7-6.
“I was just working on my craft,” said the current junior of his late-season success and who goes into the 2013 season considered one of the top receivers in the Southeastern Conference and nation. “And there were some things I still did wrong. So I continued to work on some things in this offseason.”
Among them: “I could have run better routes. I could have been stronger. That’s some of the things I worked on in the offseason. I got stronger under Coach (Paul) Jackson. And every day I worked out, I worked on my routes. Those were big things.”
Moncrief is looking forward to being a big part of the offense again, and he believes year two of the Coach Hugh Freeze era will allow the Rebels’ offense to be more productive than it was.
“It will be even more fast,” said Moncrief, whose 66 total receptions in 2012 were the third-most in a single season in Ole Miss history and his 979 yards receiving were second-most for a Rebel in a season.
“We’ll move faster than we did last year. And there will be a lot more plays that y’all haven’t seen. It will be exciting to watch our offense.”
At least for Ole Miss fans. Opposing fans, likely not so much. Some in college football have said an offense such as the one the Rebels run – faster-paced, quicker snaps, often no-huddle – are not to their liking. That’s been some fans and also some coaches.
Moncrief said he’s all about this offense. And any team can choose to run it. It’s just that the Rebels and a few others have actually chosen to go that route.
For one of the country’s best receivers, who was just announced as a member of the Biletnikoff Award watch list, that’s one aspect he loves about playing football at Ole Miss under this staff.
“It wears down a defense,” he said. “And once a defense gets tired, that’s when we’re throwing the deep ball. That’s what we want. Once we wear you down, we’re going to take shots.”
Moncrief doesn’t believe it is as much a safety issue that the opposing people are referring to as it is something altogether different.
“Defenses just don’t like it because they get real tired and can’t give it everything they’ve got every play,” he said.
Ole Miss will have to give it everything it has every play in game one at Vanderbilt. Moncrief knows the preseason practices are up soon. But it’s Vanderbilt he and his teammates are looking forward to playing.
“I think it’s going to be great to open up with a hard game,” he said of the Commodores, who have had the Rebels’ number six of the last eight meetings in a series dominated for half a century before that by Ole Miss. “We’re going to fight when we go to Vandy. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got for four quarters.”
The last time Ole Miss opened a season with a conference foe, the scenario was much the same. The Rebels were coming off a 7-6 campaign and a bowl win against Nebraska. The new season was 2003, the opener also in Nashville against the Commodores. Ole Miss went on to win that game and record 10 victories for the season.
“It’s very, very important because it’s a SEC game, it’s at Vandy, it’s opening up college football,” Moncrief said of the nationally televised affair. “So that’s all a great thing. It’s a Thursday night so everybody will be watching.”
And they’ll knowing an Ole Miss team coming off a successful season has a chance to get 2013 off on the right foot.
“We’ve got a lot of momentum, knowing we did pretty good but also that we could have done better,” said the Raleigh, Miss., product.
One of those games they could have done better was against the Commodores in Oxford, who pulled out a close contest late with a 27-26 victory.
“Those losses hurt,” Moncrief said of the one not only to Vandy but also games against Texas A&M and LSU that were clearly winnable. “But after those were over, we never thought about them again. We moved on.”
For the Rebels to move on to bigger and better things this season and beyond, that’s the same approach they’ll have to take heading into 2013. Moncrief said they are, especially so at his position.
“It’ll be hard to stop our receiving corps,” he said. “Our receiving corps will be really good. We’ve got a lot of players. There’s going to be a lot of movement out there at the wideout.”
And in an Ole Miss offense that depends on that position, that can only be good news for the Rebels.
And one last thing. Moncrief became almost a folk hero at Ole Miss by season’s end in 2012. Music videos were rampant on the internet, t-shirts of “Feed Moncrief” became Christmas presents, and that particular battle cry became one for Rebel fans almost as common as Hotty Toddy as the surge of the season headed toward a bowl game in Birmingham against Pittsburgh.
While Moncrief said he enjoyed it all, he said he has to stay grounded and not get swept up in it.
“It was a big thing, but you have to stay focused and not let it get to your head,” he said. “You’ve got to stay humble and keep working.” — Jeff Roberson, OMSpirit.com