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Catching fire: Moncrief off to a hot start

Sophomore wide receiver Donte Moncrief is quickly emerging as sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace’s favorite target in head coach Hugh Freeze’s offense. Ole Miss leads the Southeastern Conference in total yards and ranks fourth in passing yards, with Moncrief leading the team with 11 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
Alex Edwards/The Daily Mississippian

Sophomore wide receiver Donte Moncrief has been the model of consistency since he stepped on campus, starting all 14 games of his Ole Miss career and leading the Rebels in receiving for the second straight season. 
With a new up-tempo, spread offense under head coach Hugh Freeze, Moncrief set career highs with eight catches for 104 yards in the season opener against Central Arkansas. After setting a freshman record with 31 catches for 454 yards and four touchdown, he already has 11 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns this season.
And he said the offense is going to be faster, it’s just now getting there.
“Once we get everything down, it should be more passes,” Moncrief said. “Right now, I’m glad with what I have. The offense is rolling good, and everybody looks pretty good. Just some small things that we got to fix to get even better.”
He credits strength and conditioning coach Paul Jackson for getting himself and the offense in physical shape and said everything the team does is fast and up-tempo from weights to running, to stretching. He also put in offseason work this summer with both sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace and junior quarterback Barry Brunetti.
“Me and Bo, we threw a lot during the summer,” Moncrief said. “It was hard to see who was going to play back then, so I threw with both quarterbacks. Things are just getting better for me and Bo. Chemistry is getting good, and our passes seem to be the best passes of the game. I’m ready to see what he can do later on.”
Moncrief is quickly becoming Wallace’s favorite target, as the two have connected for touchdown passes of 53 yards and 55 yards against Central Arkansas and UTEP, respectively, the past two weeks. Moncrief said it’s better knowing how the ball is going to be thrown, where Wallace likes to put the ball and how he reads coverages.
“I think Donte makes a good pair with anybody playing quarterback,” Wallace said. “Donte is a great player, and I tell him all the time if I give him a chance just don’t let it get intercepted. He is a big physical guy who can make plays.”
Moncrief is a key cog in the Rebels’ offense which leads the SEC and ranks 10th nationally in total offense (551.5 ypg) and fourth in the SEC in passing offense (269.0). The Ole Miss rushing offense leads the SEC and ranks ninth nationally (282.5 ypg), including 330 yards on the ground against UTEP, which Freeze said has affected his catches through two games.
“He’s done really well,” Freeze said. “We really felt like going into the game he would probably have more than (11 catches) through two games. It’s not his fault, we just didn’t call many passes last week. We had success running the ball, and when you rush for the numbers we rushed for, it’s hard to make yourself drop back and throw it around. He’s been very solid, and we couldn’t ask for any more. He’s a guy that when the opposing teams watch us, they have to account for.”
Wide receivers coach Grant Heard, a former Ole Miss wide receiver (1996-2000) and graduate assistant (2005-06) who coached future NFL player Mike Wallace, said earlier this fall that he has to remind himself Moncrief is only a true sophomore. He was quick to say on Monday that Moncrief making plays this season is not only a credit to the hard work he’s put in, but also the guys around him doing their job to make he gets open.
“He does a lot of good things,” Heard said. “He still has a lot of room for improvement. Playing hard, blocking his butt off and catching balls that come his way. I’m glad to see he’s making the plays. He still has a long way to go, but he’s going to be really good I think.”
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