His final six-game stretch at Ole Miss, one in which he found the end zone seven times, certainly raised Mike Wallace’s profile heading into the 2009 NFL Draft. Still, though, ten other receivers, including the likes of Ohio State’s Brian Robiskie and Penn State’s Derrick Williams, were drafted ahead of him.
So Wallace came out of nowhere — in relative terms, at least — to become one of the league’s premier deep threats, running into the national conciousness after the Steelers drafted him in the third round of the 2009 draft.
Harry Harrison, Ole Miss football radio analyst, watched Wallace’s ascension in Oxford and his subsequent success in the NFL, and he spoke to The Finsiders recently to share his insight on the Dolphins’ new receiver.
Speed is the first thing that stood out when the young receiver arrived at school, of course. Wallace, at 4.28, ran the fastest 40-yard dash time for a receiver in school history, Harrison said.
“When you get down below 4.3, it doesn’t take a long time to call that roll.”
When an athlete has a skill as overwhelming as Wallace’s speed, it can cause observers to put that player in a box. Because “Player X” is such an impressive athlete, for instance, he must not be a polished route runner. That’s the most-levied attack on Wallace — that he’s a one-trick pony, only capable of out-running opposing defenders. But, even as a raw receiver at Mississippi, Wallace showed a willingness to play in different schemes, on different parts of the field.
There Wallace ran slants, went over the middle, eventually finding his groove when Houston Nutt arrived and helping lead the Rebels to a Cotton Bowl win against Texas Tech in January 2009.
“I wouldn’t call him a possession receiver,” Harrison said, “but he obviously could make all the catches, he could run all the routes. And he worked hard at it.”
Whether he’s running a nine route up the sideline or turning a short hitch into a long gain, Wallace has consistently flashed big-play ability at both the college and professional levels. That, for a Dolphins team that is looking to generate more points, is what was so appealing, and it’s what is always in a defenders head when he’s on the field.
“Everybody in that league has to respect him,” Harrison said. “When you’ve got that type of speed, that allows you to do all the other things they don’t even think about.”
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