Trio of receivers head Rebels' explosive offense

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2018
Mississippi wide receivers D.K. Metcalf (14) A.J. Brown (1), celebrate Metcalf's 41-yard touchdown pass reception against Kent State during the second half of the NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. Mississippi won 38-17. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Mississippi wide receivers D.K. Metcalf (14) A.J. Brown (1), celebrate Metcalf's 41-yard touchdown pass reception against Kent State during the second half of the NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. Mississippi won 38-17. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

— Arkansas' secondary has faced its fair share of talented receivers this season.

Ole Miss' trio of A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and DeMarkus Lodge, who head the Rebels' group of 'Nasty Wide Outs,' might just be in a class of their own. Quarterback Jordan Ta'amu's top targets have combined for 1,492 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns on 94 catches this season.

They are the only trio of teammates in the country to average 75-plus receiving yards per game and a big reason why the Rebels have hit for a 20-plus-yard score on nearly 20 percent of their offensive possessions this season, according to CFBAnalytics.com.

Arkansas senior safety Santos Ramirez, who finished with 12 tackles in the loss to Alabama last weekend, said the group's crisp route running and route selling has stood out in preparation this week.

"They do a great job of sticking their routes at the top. They can get very elusive," Ramirez said. "They’re very strong, as well, with their hands, so you have to be very careful with how you play those guys. You can’t just go in there with unsound technique because they really take advantage of that.

"Those guys are NFL receivers."

Brown is the statistical leader of the Rebels' receiving corps, averaging 97.7 yards per game on 44 catches. He has also proven to be Ta'amu's top option through the first half of the season having been targeted 58 times – 17 more than second-most on the team.

Razorbacks coach Chad Morris said Brown is as talented as any receiver Arkansas has faced or will face all season.

"There’s no question on that. He’s very explosive," Morris added. "He’s a great competitor. He’s a guy when he gets the ball in his hands, A.J. is electric with it."

While Brown is lauded as Ole Miss' next potential first-round draft pick, Metcalf and Lodge are capable of putting up gaudy numbers as well. In the Rebels' win over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, the two combined to catch 13 passes on 15 targets for 294 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Defensive back Kevin Richardson said the Rebels' top threats can make a living attacking 50-50 balls, particularly Metcalf, who stands at 6-4, 230 pounds. Entering last week, his three contested receptions led the team, according to CFBFilmRoom.com. He recorded only one in 2017.

One of defensive coordinator John Chavis' chief complaints following Saturday's loss was tackling. Ramirez admitted to taking a few poor angles against the Crimson Tide, namely on Irv Smith Jr.'s touchdown catch on the first play from scrimmage. The strength of Ole Miss' receivers also has Arkansas' secondary working on cutting down stiff arms.

"It's nothing, regardless of what people say, about athletic ability and whatnot it's all about a game of inches and a game of angles, man," Ramirez said. "I am the last line of defense. ... We have to be technically sound and be able to tackle well against these guys."

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