Ole Miss football: Versatile Drummond thriving in Rebels' offense
Dontario Drummond surprised himself with his season-opening performance against Louisville. The senior wide receiver didn’t figure the football would find him as frequently as it did in the Rebels’ 43-24 win over the Cardinals on Labor Day night.
“I kind of surprised myself,” Drummond said. “I was surprised I got that many targets.”
Drummond caught 9 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown, and he followed it up with a 6-catch, 107-yard performance with 2 scores in a win over Austin Peay on Saturday. Drummond has been the beneficiary of Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby’s scheme. As teams have centered their attention on defending speedy deep threat Braylon Sanders, Drummond has taken advantage. He has been utilized in the slot, on the outside and at the H-back position as Lebby and Kiffin move him around to try to create mismatches.
While Drummond doesn’t necessarily have breakaway speed, the run-yourself-open kind of speed, what he does have is a pair of steady hands, great length and great chemistry with quarterback Matt Corral. Drummond’s versatility has been a key to Ole Miss’ offensive success. Some of it is the attention to Sanders, who has just 4 catches for 59 yards, and some of it is simply a product of the reads breaking in Jonathan Mingo’s favor so far.
“That’s not necessarily what I am trying to do,” Corral said after Saturday’s win when asked about spreading the ball around. “I’m not afraid to play any one of them. I trust every single one of them out there on the field. It definitely helps to get the ball around. From the outside looking in, it definitely looks like I’m trying to spread it out, but I’m just going through my progressions, playing ball.”
Drummond’s sure-handedness has garnered a lot of trust from his quarterback and makes him a great fit in stretching defenses in the middle of the field. With Sanders as a threat on the outside, and Mingo coming off a 7-catch, 2-touchdown performance opposite Sanders, Drummond is quite the matchup nightmare in the slot.
“He had a really good camp, and he’s worked really hard,” Kiffin said. “He’s done a great job, and you just never know. The system, when you’re going fast, you don’t know how they’re going to play. We can’t tell you who’s going to catch all the balls.”
Drummond showed flashes of being a No. 1 option last year. He caught a touchdown in each of the team’s final 5 games and caught 25 passes for 417 yards with 7 touchdowns on the season. Some clamored for more consistency from Drummond and Mingo. But in Drummond’s case, we are learning it was more about playing in the same offense as Elijah Moore and there being only so many targets to go around. With Moore now in the NFL, Drummond has stepped up in terms of replacing the production. A junior college transfer from Laurel, Miss., Drummond is in his third year at Ole Miss and looks more comfortable than ever.
The way Drummond is defended is likely to change soon, unless opponents are fine with letting him hit them for 100 yards and a touchdown every game. It will be interesting to see how that affects both his production and how he is used. The better Drummond is, the more beneficial it is for Mingo and Sanders, and vice versa. And of course, above all else, the better Drummond performs, the better this already electric Ole Miss offense is collectively.