Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly made it a point during preseason camp to mention that the team’s young receivers were poised to make a big impact this season.
He wasted no time getting them involved in the offense.
Two freshmen — Van Jefferson and D.K. Metcalf — caught touchdown passes in the Rebels’ season-opening 45-34 loss to Florida State. Another freshman, A.J. Brown, caught two passes for 48 yards.
No. 19 Ole Miss (0-1) hopes to see more of the same when it hosts FCS-level Wofford (1-0) on Saturday in a non-conference game.
Kelly said he was impressed by the poise the freshmen showed against Florida State.
“First live action, hopefully they got in a little groove and got a good feeling about the game,” Kelly said. “They understand the plays and the speed of the game already. If they keep working, they’re going to be all right.”
Jefferson, Metcalf and Brown bring depth to an already loaded group of Ole Miss receivers. Veterans Damore’ea Stringfellow and Quincy Adeboyejo are listed as the starters, while senior tight end Evan Engram caught a career-high nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown against Florida State.
Kelly threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns against the Seminoles, but the senior also threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. If he can cut down on the errors, the Rebels appear poised to have plenty of success in the passing game.
“I definitely could have made some better decisions (against Florida State),” Kelly said.
Here are a few things to watch when Ole Miss hosts Wofford:
THE RENOVATED VAUGHT: Ole Miss will be playing its first game in renovated Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Among the major changes: The north end zone was bowled in and the seating capacity has been increased to 64,038. There’s also a new natural grass playing surface, three LED video displays, new lights and a new sound system.
PATTERSON’S DEBUT? If Ole Miss jumps out to a big lead against Wofford, expect freshman quarterback Shea Patterson to receive his first career action. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Patterson was widely viewed as one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits in 2015 and is the favorite to earn the job once Kelly — a senior — finishes his eligibility.
YOUNG CORNERS MUST STEP UP: Ole Miss lost arguably its best cornerback — junior Kendarius Webster — to a season-ending knee injury against Florida State. Seniors Carlos Davis and Tony Bridges are still around, but after that the Rebels will be very young. Redshirt freshman Jalen Julius and true freshman Jaylon Jones are probably the next two options.
FACING THE FCS: Ole Miss has won 11 of 12 games against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision since 2005, with the lone loss against Jacksonville State under former coach Houston Nutt in 2010. Freeze has a 4-0 mark against FCS teams. Wofford has a 1-18 record against teams in the FBS, with the lone win coming against Louisiana-Monroe in 2000.
RUN WOFFORD RUN: Wofford runs the triple-option offense, which is heavy on running plays. The Terriers ran for 346 yards and threw for 42 yards in their 21-7 season-opening win over Tennessee Tech. Wofford had a 5-6 record last season, but was still fourth in the FCS with 300 yards rushing per game.
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