'I just said, 'Why not?'': Malik Heath discusses transfer from Mississippi State to Ole Miss

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Aug. 6—OXFORD — Yes, Malik Heath has had that conversation with Will Rogers.

Heath is a senior wide receiver for the Rebels from Jackson who prepped at Callaway High School. He began his college career at Copiah-Lincoln City College and was a four-star prospect. He played the last two seasons at Mississippi State, where he caught 71 passes for 749 yards and eight touchdowns.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Heath entered the transfer portal in January. He wound up at Ole Miss, a decision he knew was going to ruffle some feathers and potentially make some people mad. But at the end of the day, it was the best fit for him and his career.

"I just liked the offense. I think Lane Kiffin is a great play caller, (wide receivers) coach (Derrick) Nix is a great coach. They push me every day," Heath said. "At first I was skeptical about it, just committing over here, because of the rival school, and all that media and all of that. But I just (had) seen a lot of folks doing it, so I just said, 'Why not?'"

It was a little awkward telling Rogers — his quarterback at Mississippi State and a Mississippi native himself — and his other former Bulldog teammates his decision.

"(Rogers) just said we're still brothers," Heath said. "All of them will stay my brothers, but you know they're going to be in my head when it's time to play."

Heath has looked the part thus far in the first few days of fall camp, getting significant offensive reps with sophomore quarterbacks Luke Altmyer and Jaxson Dart and the first-string offensive line.

Heath said one of the things he likes about the Ole Miss offense is the types of routes within the passing game. While Mississippi State threw the ball a lot, many were shorter passes — Rogers averaged 9.38 yards per completion in 2021 (110th nationally) compared to 12.78 for Ole Miss' Matt Corral (45th nationally) — the Rebels throw the ball down the field more, which is a receiver's dream.

It hasn't been the smoothest transition for Heath, however, according to head coach Lane Kiffin. During Saturday's practice, the receiver had to take a second to catch his breath on the ground — a moment that was made public by Kiffin's internet-famous dog, Juice, via Twitter. Heath rallied, however, and shined toward the end of practice.

"Malik has had an adjustment period but has really flashed and made some really special plays. (He) actually came back after that period and scored a touchdown, long touchdown, on the last play of the day.

"He has a very high ceiling. A lot of work to do still."

Helping make Heath's transition to Ole Miss easier is his preexisting relationship with senior wide receiver Jonathan Mingo, who prepped with Rogers at Brandon High School.

"Malik, he reminds me a lot like (former Ole Miss receiver) Braylon (Sanders). Always has good energy. There's never a negative day when Malik's around," Mingo said at SEC Media Days. "So, he brings good energy to the receiving room, and he brings a dog mentality."

Heath would be lying if he said he hadn't already thought ahead to Thanksgiving's Egg Bowl showdown against his former teammates and coaches. Given his career, Heath said it is a relief that the game is in Oxford rather than Starkville this year.

"I ain't got to hear the crowd, cowbells, and all of that stuff. I've been thinking about (the Egg Bowl) ever since I came," Heath said.

MICHAEL KATZ is the Ole Miss athletics reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at michael.katz@djournal.com.