OXFORD – Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Werner is being patient with his offense as he mentors a lot of new talent in Oxford. He’s keeping a watchful eye on the young wide receivers—especially Van Jefferson and Damarkus Lodge, who might be just what quarterback Chad Kelly needs to have another outstanding season.
Before the 2014-15 season began, Jefferson and Lodge were praised during fall camp for their unbelievable athleticism. Neither receiver is afraid to run a short, cut-route through the middle because their upper bodies are built to take hits to the chest. Running deep route schemes is not unusual for either receiver and both of them effortlessly orchestrated those with Kelly under center at Tuesday’s practice.
Jefferson, who redshirted last season, brings a long history of excellence with him as his father, Shawn Jefferson, played in the National Football League and is now the wide receivers coach for the Tennessee Titans. Prior to his arrival in Nashville, Tennessee, the elder Jefferson was in the same position for the Detroit Lions for seven seasons.
Being around the NFL has helped the 6-foot-2, 181-pound receiver from Brentwood, Tennessee have a better understanding of the position his father once played.
“It was very beneficial to me,” said Jefferson, who has gained 11 pounds since his redshirt season, of his father’s profession.
Van Jefferson, Ole Miss WR
As for Lodge, he, too, has pleased Werner so far in spring training. “These guys will make some very great plays at times and you can just see they have so much talent,” the co-offensive coordinator said. Lodge played in eight games last season for Ole Miss.
Werner noted sometimes the speed of the game can be difficult. “And when you get going real fast, sometimes it’s tough on them. But I think those guys are going to be right there with the rest of the crew,” he added.
For the 2015-16 season, the Ole Miss depth chart will be loaded with athletic receivers who will all have opportunities to see the field in certain offensive packages. The Rebels return eight lettermen from last season at the wide receiver position.
But Ole Miss does have to replace Kelly’s No. 1 target Laquon Treadwell, who left for the NFL Draft as the Rebels all-time leading pass catcher with 202 receptions in three seasons. Not only does Ole Miss have to replace Treadwell, but Werner and the Rebels will have to find some talent to step in on the offensive line.
Last season Ole Miss averaged 517.8 yards per game on offense, with 334.7 of those yards going through the air. But the Rebels lost four veterans off the offensive line in Justin Bell, Fahn Cooper, Laremy Tunsil, and Aaron Morris.
Werner realizes the challenges he faces, especially with younger players who are still needing time to adjust to the speed of Division I football. “No, it’s not,” Werner quickly answered when asked if it has been easy to replace seven starters. “But obviously we have high expectations here, and we brought that on ourselves by winning more games each year, it seems like. But it’s going to be a lot tougher this year,” he added.
Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Dan Werner
Outside of Jefferson and Lodge, the Rebels will look to Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore’ea Stringfellow to replace Treadwell’s production. They finished second and third, respectively, last season in receiving touchdowns. Another solid potential contributor is Markell Pack, who had 31 receptions for 380 yards and three TD’s last season. Highly rated signees D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and Tre Nixon will join the team this fall.
Here is video of Van Jefferson following practice on Tuesday, March 29, 2016: