Van Jefferson excited about being a part of Rebels’ offense
OXFORD – A year ago Van Jefferson was a bit frustrated with the idea of being redshirted and sitting out a full season of college football.
A year later, Jefferson can’t stop smiling.
On Saturday, the 6-foot-2, 181-pounder won the Eli Manning Award for most improved offensive player during Ole Miss’ spring training.
Much of the reason for Jefferson’s excitement about the upcoming season was evident at Saturday’s final scrimmage.
Jefferson took a lot of reps with the first team, pulling in short and deep catches from backup quarterbacks Jason Pellerin and Shea Patterson–who each had additional opportunities in the final stretch of spring practices with senior quarterback Chad Kelly out following recent sports hernia surgery.
One of Jefferson’s star moments on Saturday came late in the Rebels’ scrimmage when he caught a deep touchdown pass towards the sideline from Patterson. Everyone cheered the acrobatic reception, and afterwards Jefferson jumped up with his hands high in the air in celebration as he made his way back to the line of scrimmage.
It was something Jefferson had been waiting for. “It felt good,” Jefferson said, smiling. “Coach (Dan) Werner called some plays in there that are like ‘purple two’ and all of that stuff, so it was good to catch those.”
Being redshirted motivated Jefferson
After the scrimmage, head coach Hugh Freeze called Jefferson one of the standouts of the spring, saying the 6-foot-2 Brentwood, Tennessee has kept a solid mindset from the beginning of spring to the end.
“That means a lot, but there’s still work to be done,” Jefferson said. “Of course you want your coach to mention you and that’s great, but I’ve got to keep working, stay focused and stay up on my academics; then I will be fine.
And what has been the driving force behind Jefferson’s solid work ethic?
Maybe it was the fact that Jefferson didn’t play a single down for Ole Miss last season, as he sat and watched the likes of Laquon Treadwell, Markell Pack, Damore’ea Stringfellow and Quincy Adeboyejo dance their way into the end zone. Or perhaps it was Jefferson’s patience, faith in God and support from his family that guided him to the position he’s in today.
Saturday afternoon Jefferson discussed how hard it was to sit out a season when he wanted so badly to play.
“Most definitely,” Jefferson said when asked about difficulties of being redshirted.
Van Jefferson, Ole Miss WR
Now the opportunity is here and Jefferson is seizing it. In the fall, he’ll be joined by incoming freshmen D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and Tre Nixon and, together, the newcomers and the returning receivers will work to help the Rebels duplicate the 334.7 passing yards the offense averaged last season.
And so far, everyone in the receiving corps is on the same page.
A little help from Dad
Jefferson’s father, Shawn Jefferson—currently the wide receivers coach for the Tennessee Titans—continues to play an important role in his son’s emergence as one of the top targets for next season’s Ole Miss’ offense. From time to time, when schedules don’t conflict, father and son will chat about football.
“We talk a lot, but he has other obligations to do. But we talk here and there,” Jefferson said. “He’s pretty busy, but I send him film every once in a while. He corrects me on it, so I still get a text from him.”
Feature image courtesy of Rebels247