Aug. 16—OXFORD — A lot of the faces might be new, but Ole Miss likes what it has in its wide receivers room.
The Rebels lost its three top receivers from a season ago in Dontario Drummond, Braylon Sanders and Jahcour Pearson. Senior Jonathan Mingo returns after playing in six games last season, but outside of him, there wasn't a lot of returning, proven talent on the roster.
Enter the transfer portal.
Ole Miss picked up a handful of high-impact receivers this offseason with previous college experience.
The headliners are former Mississippi State receiver Malik Heath, former UCF receiver Jaylon Robinson and former Louisville wideout Jordan Watkins. The trio has a combined 2,666 career receiving yards. Combine that production with Mingo's (897 career yards) and emerging talents like redshirt freshman J.J. Henry and sophomore Bralon Brown, and the Rebels figure to have a formidable combination catching passes from whoever the starting quarterback winds up being.
"We all rotate a lot, we rotate like crazy," Watkins said earlier in the fall. "Coach (Derrick) Nix tells us all the time, 'Don't look at the depth chart. Because I think we have several guys who can run with the ones right now, if we were to play tomorrow.'"
That depth was on display in Saturday's scrimmage, when a handful of different receivers alternated in with the first and second-team offenses. The receivers all have different body types and skill sets.
Heath has been a matchup nightmare in practices with his size — at 6-foot-3, he has already won a lot of jump ball battles. Brown also has that type of length. Mingo is a physical presence himself at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds. Watkins, Henry and Robinson are all under 6-feet tall but make up for it with their ability to stretch the field; there's a reason Robinson averaged almost 18 yards per reception at UCF.
Part of Watkins' job, along with some of the other veterans in the room, is to help those young receivers understand what it takes to produce at the Division I level, he said.
A theme this fall has been the question of Ole Miss trying to figure out how all its talented puzzle pieces fit together. That has yet to be determined in the receivers room, either, but those puzzle pieces are more than capable of getting the job done in Watkins' eyes.
"I think we're a super talented group," Watkins said. "I think that we all bring different skills to the table.
"I think that we'll be really great."
MICHAEL KATZ is the Ole Miss athletics reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.