OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze hopes star receiver Laquon Treadwell scores a touchdown every time he touches the ball this season for Ole Miss.
“In a strange kind of way,” Freeze said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him get tackled.”
Because once Treadwell catches the ball this Saturday against Tennessee Martin, gets knocked to the ground and bounces back up, it will finally prove he’s back 10 months after suffering a gruesome broken leg and dislocated ankle that altered the Rebels’ 2014 season.
“I’m ready to score” a touchdown, Treadwell said. “I’m ready to feel that atmosphere all over again.”
The 17th-ranked Rebels need Treadwell to be just as dominant as he was last fall.
Even though he missed the season’s final three games, he still led the team with 48 catches for 632 yards and five touchdowns. His breakthrough sophomore year was cut short in agonizing fashion when he was tackled from behind against Auburn as he was trying to score a crucial late touchdown.
In a moment that was replayed over and over for months, Treadwell’s leg bent at an awkward angle, he fumbled the football and Ole Miss ended up losing. Just like that, the program’s hope of earning a spot in the inaugural college football playoffs was essentially over.
Treadwell’s return is one big reason Ole Miss believes it will have another chance this year.
Ole Miss cornerback Tee Shepard has been going against Treadwell throughout fall camp and says the receiver is just as dominant as ever.
He figures to be the top option among a group of receivers that includes Cody Core, Damore’ea Stringfellow, Quincy Adeboyejo and tight end Evan Engram. Shepard says Treadwell is in a class by himself because of a unique blend of talent and solid fundamentals.
“Treadwell is a beast as everybody knows,” Shepard said. “He’s different than any other receiver I’ve been up against us, just because his technique by itself is phenomenal.”
The Rebels are also curious to see how Treadwell’s trimmer physique holds up on the field. He played at about 230 pounds last year, which allowed him to overpower opposing defensive backs but limited his top end speed.
Now he’s 15 pounds lighter. Treadwell says he hasn’t lost any strength, but feels faster. He’s also hopeful that a little less weight is good for his surgically repaired leg and ankle.
“I’m just ready to go live, run around out there and have fun,” Treadwell said.
Treadwell will be getting used to a new quarterback this fall after catching passes from Bo Wallace during his first two seasons. Freeze said transfer Chad Kelly — the nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly — will start on Saturday against Tennessee Martin after a competition with Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.
Freeze expects all three quarterbacks will play against the Skyhawks.
Treadwell said he’s comfortable with all of them, but that Kelly’s willingness to take risks made him stand out during preseason camp.
“He’s a competitor — that’s really what made the difference,” Treadwell said. “He’ll take a lot of shots. Things we were doing in game situations, he looked good at doing it.”