Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss‘ star wide receiver, entered his junior season this fall with huge expectations after coming off a superb sophomore season (66 receptions, 979 yards, 10 touchdowns). Not only was he on various watch lists for postseason awards, but he was being billed as a late first round-early second round prospect should he decide to leave school early after the 2013 season and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
Well, six games into what is easily one of the most difficult schedules in the country, Ole Miss sits at 3-3 (after starting 3-0), and Moncrief is having a solid, if unspectacular season with 24 receptions for 358 yards and four touchdowns. That’s not where either he or the team wishes to be right now.
On the bright side, Moncrief’s draft stock hasn’t really fallen that far. He’s never been so highly thought of because of gaudy stats, because he’s never really had that gaudy of stats. He’s a highly ranked prospect because of his absurd skill set.
6-foot-3, 230-pounds of shred, with a reported 40-time of 4.4, he’s an absolute freak physically. He’s very strong in the short, intermediate and deep passing games, isn’t afraid to go across the middle and punish a safety, and can be a devastating threat in the red zone. All of this hasn’t changed this season, despite lower numbers than most were expecting.
Why have Moncrief’s numbers been lower than anticipated? Two main reasons: 1.) inconsistent QB play by Bo Wallace of late and 2.) the emergence of true frosh Laquon Treadwell, who actually leads the team in receptions with 32. By no means is that a knock against Moncrief; if anything, Treadwell has been open so much because every defense they’ve faced has been piling defenders on Moncrief.
The good news is that he’ll have an excellent opportunity this upcoming weekend against bitter rival LSU to begin a strong second half of the season and also raise his still-strong draft stock. Two weeks ago against Auburn it looked like Moncrief was the player of old hauling in six receptions for 122 yards and two scores, and then last week he took a step back against Texas A&M, only catching a single pass for three yards.
Against LSU Moncrief will go against a secondary that can be taken advantage of by either big or fast receivers. A few weeks ago, Georgia receiver Chris Conley (6-foot-3, 206-pounds) torched the Tigers for five receptions, 112 yards and a TD. The next week, against Mississippi State‘s Jameon Lewis, the Tigers surrendered seven receptions, 111 yards and a TD to the Bulldogs’ speedster.
Granted, the Tigers shut Florida down pretty well last week, but they also don’t have anything close to the talent starting at wide receiver as Moncrief or even Treadwell.
This could be a game where Moncrief absolutely explodes, helping Ole Miss get back on the winning track as well as sending an impressive message to scouts about showing up in a big game.