Ole Miss receiver Jonathan Mingo eager to see Lane Kiffin outsmart more opponents

Ole Miss Athletics photo / Ole Miss senior receiver Jonathan Mingo was able to enjoy some of last year's 10-3 season that included a trip to the Sugar Bowl, but he missed seven games due to an ankle injury.

The Ole Miss Rebels enjoyed a sizable uptick last season, producing a 10-3 record that included a thrilling 52-51 outlasting of Arkansas, double-digit downings of LSU and Texas A&M, and emotional road wins against Tennessee and Mississippi State.

If only receiver Jonathan Mingo could have enjoyed all of it.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior from Brandon, Mississippi, was three games into the year when he broke his foot in practice, sidelining him for most of the landmark victories. He did return for the final three contests, finishing the shortened season with 22 catches for 346 yards and three touchdowns in Lane Kiffin's up-tempo offense.

"It's always frustrating being injured, because you work so hard during the offseason," Mingo said at the recent Southeastern Conference media days event. "It was right before the Alabama game, too, and that's a game you look forward to all season."

The Rebels were no match for the Crimson Tide in a 42-21 loss, and playing Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU on consecutive Saturdays took its toll during a 31-20 loss at Auburn, but those were the only two setbacks in the regular season. Ole Miss traveled to the Sugar Bowl for only the second time in the last 50 years and went flat offensively when quarterback Matt Corral was knocked out of an eventual 21-7 loss to Baylor with an ankle injury in the first quarter.


Last season: 10-3 (6-2 SEC)Opener: Sept. 3 vs. Troy in Oxford (4 p.m. on SEC Network)Fun fact: The only Ole Miss coaches recognized with winning SEC records since the legendary Johnny Vaught are David Cutcliffe (25-23) and Lane Kiffin (10-7).Up next: Mississippi State

Luke Altmyer replaced Corral in New Orleans and is battling Southern California transfer Jaxson Dart for the opportunity to start Sept. 3, when the Rebels host Troy.

"It's a good battle," Mingo said. "Both of them are young quarterbacks, and both of them have been working pretty hard as a whole all offseason. It's always a blessing to have two quarterbacks instead of one. You have two people you can depend on.

"Whoever Coach picks at the end of fall camp, I'll be behind them. My job doesn't change. I just have to be open and catch the ball. The goal remains the same."

Though the Carolina Panthers snagged Corral in the third round of April's NFL draft, Ole Miss has been picked a respectable fourth in the SEC West for a second straight year.

"Our job, I think, is really challenging this year, because on paper we may look like we should be decent because we filled a lot of holes through the transfer portal," Kiffin said. "That is a good system when you lose really good players and you haven't been somewhere long enough to develop a lot of classes of depth, so we are grateful for that. At the same time, you have kids coming from different situations and different parenting, and we have to put them all together as this blended family, and that is challenging.

"In fall camp, it won't just be about teaching X's and O's like it always is. We have a lot of culture work to do that you don't really have to do as much if it's already established, because your best players normally have been in your program for a year or two."

Mingo is entering his fourth year in Oxford, so he certainly qualifies as a veteran, and he's ready to contribute for an entire season in Kiffin's offense. He is also eager to become that next great Rebels receiver, following the recent run of A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and Elijah Moore.

"It's a blessing to be a receiver for Coach Kiffin," Mingo said. "We're his babies, and he puts us in the best position every week. In his offense, you just have to play fast, and you have to be ready for a change every other drive. He's always cooking something up.

"It's hard to outsmart Kiffin. You've got to be ready for everything."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.