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Moncrief mature beyond his years

Petre Thomas/The Daily Mississippian

 

In Saturday’s 29-24 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks, freshman wide receiver Donte Moncrief stepped up, snaggin five passes for 73 yards, including two touchdowns.

For the young Moncrief, Saturday’s performance has become something you expect week in and week out, regardless of the opponent.

“The one thing that you love about them is whether we play Alabama, Arkansas or Auburn, they are ready to compete,” head coach Houston Nutt said of Moncrief and freshman teammate Nickolas Brassell. “We saw that when they came here on campus in high school. We saw the competitive spirit and the fight they had.

“They have to keep adjusting to the speed of the game. They cannot expect that the ball is going to come to them or that they are going to make a catch without looking it in. This game is very fast, and defenders try to strip you all the way to the end. We need them to look it in, take care of the ball and keep playing the way they are playing.”

That is a message Moncrief will take to heart after he dropped a deep pass from junior quarterback Randall Mackey that would have put the Rebels in great scoring position when Ole Miss and Arkansas were tied 17-17 midway through the third quarter.

“The pass was an inside pass, and I tried to run before I had the ball,” Moncrief said. “I put that on me as a young receiver. Only thing I can do differently is look the ball all the way in and concentrate when the ball is in my area.”

For now, Moncrief said he is just concentrated on putting the Arkansas loss behind him and preparing for what lies ahead.

“It’s a disappointing thing, but we just have to let it go, come back, listen to the coaches and work harder to get ready for Auburn,” he said.

Part of that preparation will be in the film room – a place where Nutt knows Moncrief will continue to develop and adjust to the college game. 

“Film study is important,” Nutt said. “I’m sure that in high school they could get their scout report from their coach on Friday night and go out and be the best player on the field. Here it is a little bit different. There are a lot of good athletes on Saturday. They have to know and learn who they are going against while improving fundamentally. They have the talent to get it done.”

Ole Miss offensive coordinator David Lee has been trying to find some playmakers throughout the season, and he is glad to see Moncrief stepping up to fill that role on the team.

“He’s had a big impact on the football team,” Lee said. “He made the split-end position solid, especially since we lost Melvin Harris. We’re pleased and glad he’s here. He’s mature way beyond his years.”

Mackey has developed trust and belief in Moncrief after just three games as starting quarterback, Lee said.

“Our quarterback trusts him,” Lee said. “You see him looking him up in those critical situations – those fades. He believes in him.”

And for good reason. Through the first seven games of his collegiate career, Moncrief is second on team with 16 catches and leads the team with 304 receiving yards and four touchdown catches.

Because of that production, Moncrief anticipates defenses will start to scheme and play him differently.

“People are probably going to start putting more than one person on me and Nick (Brassell) now since they see we do deep routes good and other routes good,” he said. 

“So, we just have to be able to beat the coverage.”

For most freshmen, it would seem like a difficult task playing in the Southeastern Conference, but Moncrief has showed maturity and confidence beyond his years.

As Nutt said about the entire fraeshman class, Donte Moncrief can, and most likely will be “very special.”