OXFORD – Wide receiver Van Jefferson continues to impress Ole Miss coaches, making a name for himself both in spring workouts and fall camp, and he now admits taking the redshirt option last season wasn’t so bad after all.
But that doesn’t mean it was easy for the 6-foot-2, 187-pound receiver out of Brentwood, Tennessee to adjust to watching from the sidelines.
Van Jefferson on the decision to redshirt
And it took more than just a talk with Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze for Jefferson to decide to wait his turn. His father, former NFL wide receiver Shawn Jefferson, mentored his talented son on the difficult decision to redshirt and play behind receivers, such as Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core, who had spent a great deal of time learning the playbook.
But at one point, the former Brentwood High standout admitted he was not sure how helpful the decision to redshirt would be. However, he was fortunate to have the support of his family who helped him keep it all in perspective.
In the early days of fall camp, Jefferson has been getting reps with the first team, having opportunities to catch footballs from Rebels’ senior quarterback Chad Kelly. He has also been a tough receiver to stay in front of, according to his teammate Jalen Julius, who said Jefferson is “going to be a top receiver.”
Julius, a redshirt freshman defensive back out of Winter Garden, Florida continued by saying, “he’s just got great routes, great technique, and is patient.”
At Ole Miss Media Day, head coach Hugh Freeze echoed Julius’ comments, saying of Jefferson: “He’s the best route runner we have, as far as getting in and out of breaks, and his hands are very, very steady.”
That is certainly high praise considering the top-quality receivers on Ole Miss’ roster.
Jefferson put his redshirt season to very good use. He spent most of his time learning the playbook, getting comfortable with each route he’s supposed to run. He has spent tons of hours learning how to create separation coming out of the break and says “quick feet” are the key ingredient.
Van Jefferson on how his dad has helped him
Jefferson wants to prove he has the ability to be an elite receiver in the Southeastern Conference and feels his success from the spring has helped him move into more of a comfort zone. He has grown so comfortable with the offensive schemes that it doesn’t matter which cornerback goes up against him.
“I like to go against all of them,” he said following Thursday’s practice. “They are going to make me better.”
And whenever Jefferson needs any type of advice, he looks his father’s way, despite the fact the elder Jefferson is busy in his position as the wide receivers coach for the Miami Dolphins. After each accomplishment or hurdle he overcomes, Jefferson says he always takes some steps back to thank his father for the knowledge he believes is helping him earn his spot on the depth chart.
“I owe that to my father with him playing in the NFL and coaching some high-talented guys,” Jefferson said, when he was asked about his efficient route running. “When I was growing up, every day I was in the field with him going through drills and everything like that. God blessed me with some raw ability, and my father helped me hone it from an early age.”
Rebels will have an opportunity to see Jefferson in action when No. 12 Ole Miss takes on No. 4 Florida State at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on September 5. The game is set for 7:00 pm CT and will be televised on ESPN.