OXFORD, Miss. – At the conclusion of practices this spring, Ole Miss secondary coach Jason Jones described Myles Hartsfield as the most improved player in the secondary. Throughout fall camp, the sophomore continued to shine, embracing his move from safety to corner.
When the Rebels begin the 2017 season this Saturday against South Alabama, they’ll start Hartsfield at cornerback. To prepare for his new role, Hartsfield used the summer to learn the ins and outs of lining up in front of a wide receiver.
“It’s more physical. We are not letting the receiver off the line,” Hartsfield said following Friday’s practice. “It’s more in your face, no bailing,” he added.
“We’re trying to lessen the backing off the line, (we) want to be in your face, using the hands, using your feet and on top of the route.”
Myles Hartsfield, Ole Miss cornerback
Working with the best
The 5-foot-11 Hartsfield is more than prepared prepared to defend against bigger receivers during the upcoming season. The Sayreville, New Jersey native has had plenty of practice for what’s coming by going up against the likes of Ole Miss receivers A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, and DaMarkus Lodge.
All three are 6-1 or taller, with Metcalf measuring 6-4.
“It helps us a lot because you don’t see receivers like that every week, so playing against them every day is definitely a great thing for us,” Hartsfield said, speaking for the himself and his fellow defensive backs about what it’s like to face the Rebels’ receivers each day in practice. “When we get into the game, we won’t be like ‘Oh, he’s big,'” he continued.
“We play against kids that are way bigger every day at practice, so going up against our wide receiver corps, I feel like we got the best wide receiver corps in the country.“
Hartsfield figures the Ole Miss receivers more than represent the types of players he’ll soon face on a weekly basis. “Lodge is just a shifty, get-on-top-of-you speed type of guy,” he said. “Then you got D.K. and A.J., who are more of the physical guys, and that also helps us. We have versatile receivers.”
It’s a good thing Hartsfield is testing the waters with the Rebels’ talented receivers, as the 2017 Ole Miss schedule features Southeastern Conference receivers who are among the most elite in the country.
SEC boasts some of nation’s elite receivers
Hartsfield will have the opportunity to go up against Texas A&M junior Christian Kirk, Alabama junior Calvin Ridley, and Mississippi State senior Donald Gray, to name a few. All three played huge roles last season for their respective teams and should have the same responsibility during the 2017 season.
Ridley: Ridley will be the first Hartsfield could face when the Rebels travel to Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Sept. 30 to take on the Crimson Tide. Ridley, who stands at 6-1, finished fourth in the SEC last season with six catches of 40 yards or more, and tallied a total of 72 receptions for 769 yards and seven touchdowns, while averaging 10.68 yards per catch.
Kirk: Ole Miss will host the Aggies on Nov. 18 before traveling to Starkville, Mississippi to play the Bulldogs on Thanksgiving. Kirk, who’s the same height as Hartsfield, finished tied for second in the SEC last season in pass receptions of 50-plus yards, with four.
Gray: The 5-foot-10 Gray averaged 17.29 yards per catch in 2016, which placed him at fifth-best in the league last season.
Hartsfield’s confidence growing after hard work in off-season
Hartsfield is coming off a spectacular season, himself. He was named freshman All-American at safety after notching 43 tackles in 2016 and starting all 12 games. He averaged 3.6 tackles per game —ranking him fourth among all freshmen in the league.
Hartsfield’s confidence has grown with the implementation of techniques he has learned from Coach Jones.
“I’m definitely way more comfortable at corner. Coach Jones has come up with a lot of techniques I can use during the game, so it’s made it easier,” Hartsfield said.
“Going into the summer, one thing I wanted to work on was technique. I had the speed to work with the wide receiver. I was more physical but it was the little things I had to work on. I worked on it this summer, and I am more comfortable.”
Hartsfield and the Rebels kick off the 2017 season as they host South Alabama on Saturday, September 2 at 6:30 p.m. Then game will be televised by ESPNU.
(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)