OXFORD – Among the many story lines of August camp for Ole Miss is replacing arguably the top wide receiver in school history.
And Laquon Treadwell was just one-third of the Ole Miss players who heard their names called in the first round of the NFL draft in April.
However, when the Rebels’ starting quarterback considers the weapons at his disposal it’s like nothing’s changed. It’s like just another operating system from Apple.
“A.J. Brown looks like Laquon Treadwell 2.0,” senior quarterback Chad Kelly said. “That’s who I thought he was when he was out there on the field the first day. I thought Laquon was back there.”
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Brown is part of the 2016 signing class that Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze believes could be his best one.
“From top to bottom this 16 class, for whatever two days are worth, I haven’t been disappointed,” said Freeze, speaking to a group at the school’s campus media day today.
For now, freshmen and newcomers take the field before the upperclassmen. They go for eight periods of intensive learning then mesh with their older teammates.
The Rebels are coming off a 10-3 season that included a 5-1 mark against the SEC West, a second-straight win over Alabama, a Sugar Bowl victory and a No. 10 finish in the AP Top 25.
The return of Kelly, whose 4,042 passing yards last year were the third-most in SEC history, is the biggest reason there are high expectations surrounding the 2016 Rebels.
It’s the new in-flux of talent, however, that Freeze believes can help the program build the depth necessary to keep it competitive on a national level.
“We’re continuing to try and elevate our program to where we can compete year in and year out for the Western Division and the Southeastern Conference,” Freeze said.
The chemistry among his coaching staff and support of the Ole Miss administration are key factors in helping accomplish that, he added.
The discussion of recruiting, though, is never far away.
Kelly also cited freshmen D.K. Metcalf and Tre Nixon. The Rebels are losing a second 2016 start in wide receiver Cody Core, and Kelly’s believes there will be key roles for his young targets.
It’s not only about the receivers with the Class of 16.
Tackle Greg Little is a leading candidate to replace Laremy Tunsil, another first-rounder, at left tackle.
Defensive tackle Benito Jones and defensive backs Myles Hartsfield and Deontay Anderson are also expected to help out. So are transfer linebackers Rommel Mageo and Detric Bing-Dukes.
“There’s a learning curve right now,” Freeze said, “but in the first two days I really like what I’ve seen from those guys.”