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August 1, 2012As the days without football linger on, RebelGrove.com will break down Ole Miss' 15 most important players heading into 2012. A new spot will be revealed each weekday leading up to the first practice.
At times, we'll cheat and combine a couple names into one spot, but it's our list, so we'll do what we want. The list focuses just on the upcoming season - not future career performance.
We continue the countdown with a wide receiver that has to be special for the Rebels this season.
Name: Donte Moncrief
Hometown: Raleigh, Miss.
Position: Wide Receiver
Career Stats: 12 games, 31 catches, 454 yards, four touchdowns
2011 Stats: 2 games, 31 catches, 454 yards, four touchdowns
Donte Moncrief quickly lived up to his billing as an impact athlete at wide receiver. While the Ole Miss offense was tepid at best last season, Moncrief proved his ability to get open and find the football downfield. The Rebels' best playmaker as a freshman, Moncrief is expected to flourish in Hugh Freeze's basketball-on-grass attack. If Ole Miss' quarterback(s) can deliver the football consistently, Moncrief should continue to make a name for himself in the Southeastern Conference.
Moncrief's route-running is his biggest negative, but that can be corrected, and he flourishes with his ability to control his body in the air and make the catch over and around defenders. He hauled in two touchdown passes during the recent Grove Bowl and represented Ole Miss at SEC Media Days. With a season under his belt and an offense more suited to his ability, it's easy to expect big things from the all-purpose wide receiver.
Moncrief was rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com out of Raliegh High School. In a loaded year at the wide receiver spot, Rivals had him the No. 17 player at his position and the No. 130 overall recruit for the 2011 class. It was also a stout year in Mississippi, as Ole Miss signed the top five recruits in the state - C.J. Johnson, Nick Brassell, Moncrief, Aaron Morris and Tobias Singleton.
Moncrief committed to Ole Miss in mid-July of 2010, and the Rebels held off a run from Oklahoma State, spearheaded by familiar face Gunter Brewer. When Brewer joined the Ole Miss staff two weeks prior to National Signing Day, any drama around Moncrief's recruitment ended, though the Rebels likely were never in severe danger of losing the wide receiver. He took few visits and helped Ole Miss land a class that finished 19th nationally in recruiting rankings.
In his first year, Moncrief started all 12 game and led Ole Miss in catches, yards and touchdowns. His four touchdowns were tied for sixth in the nation among true freshmen, and he consistently drew the opponent's best cornerback. He caught touchdowns in back-to-back weeks against Vanderbilt and Georgia and then had a career game with 73 yards and two touchdowns in a narrow loss to Arkansas.
Ole Miss doesn't need Moncrief to be solid. The Rebels need the sophomore to be dominant. Meanwhile, Moncrief needs a teammate or two to step up and complement the passing game. Whether it is Ja-Mes Logan or another receiver, the help will allow Moncrief to better exploit mismatches and maximize his ability.
The 6-foot-2 receiver possesses a great vertical and will continue to be used in jump-ball and goal-line situations, but he's also sure-handed and will be a confident target for Bo Wallace or Barry Brunetti. Moncrief is the most physically talented player on the Ole Miss offense, and we think the system and the personnel may be such that he takes a significant step after a noteworthy freshman season.
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