Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is reportedly going all-in this weekend at Texas A&M.
According to Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee, Ole Miss will remove the redshirt from prized freshman quarterback Shea Patterson against the Aggies.
The move was deemed necessary after All-SEC quarterback Chad Kelly was lost for the season following a knee injury last Saturday against Georgia Southern.
Freeze had remained non-committal immediately after the game, and again with reporters on Monday, but Sallee cited an anonymous source that believes Patterson will make his season debut on Saturday.
It’s unclear how exactly Ole Miss will handle the quarterback situation.
Jason Pellerin is the only other player with “significant” experience at quarterback this season. The redshirt freshman has mostly been used in wildcat situations. When he has been asked to throw, however, he has completed just 5 of 13 passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns. He has also thrown three interceptions.
Patterson is seen as the future at quarterback for Ole Miss. Considered one of the top quarterbacks in the country when he signed with Ole Miss last February, the plan was to redshirt him this season and then let him compete for starts as a redshirt sophomore in 2017 once Kelly had graduated.
With Kelly’s injury, however, and 4-5 Ole Miss scrapping for bowl eligibility with games against TAMU, Vanderbilt and rival Mississippi State remaining, it’s clear Freeze believes Patterson may give the Rebels the best opportunity to reach six games.
“That’s a very difficult thing to do this time in the year with three games left,” Freeze told reporters Monday when asked about the possibility of removing Patterson’s redshirt. “All options are on the table sitting here Monday morning. We have looked at (receiver) Markell (Pack) who has played quarterback, (tight end) Evan Engram can throw, and Kentucky played a whole game with a running back at quarterback. Hopefully Jason will stay healthy. I would rule nothing out at this point today.
“I am just trying to figure out what is best for individuals and for the team, that is not something I want to rush to make a decision on. It certainly would be difficult to do that, but I wouldn’t quite totally rule it out just yet, but I want to take my time and think through it for sure and we are looking at all the options.”
During Monday’s press conference Freeze even mentioned lineman Jeremy Liggins, who starred at quarterback for Lafayette High and has been used in wildcat and heavy packages at Ole Miss, as a possibility.
Patterson, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound true freshman, enrolled early at Ole Miss and immediately impressed the staff. Much of the thought surrounding Patterson’s potential debut is, if he’s as good as most think, he won’t be in Oxford for a possible redshirt-senior season.
“I can’t foresee what’s going to happen that far down the road. You never know how things are going to play out over three, four or five years,” Freeze said, asked if he thought Patterson would be at Ole Miss for five seasons. “That really doesn’t play into it for me. I just think you have to look at the whole scenario for what’s best for individuals and what’s best for the team and how many games are left, and if you want his first start to be in front of 115,000 at A&M or the first game next year. You want to set a kid up for success, we obviously believe he is a super talent, but those are all the kinds of things going on in your mind.”
Freeze later added: “Shea has been getting reps with the scout team and I am sure he will get some this week just until we make a decision as to what’s best for team first and individual kind of second, and that’s a really tough question when you get to this point in the season,” Freeze said. “When it is what’s best for the individual and what’s best for the team, that’s a difficult question that you have to answer.”
Patterson, who was ranked the No. 1 quarterback in the 2016 signing class by Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports.com, also has a Coast connection. His younger brother, Nick, is a freshman tight end for Bobby Hall’s Biloxi Indians, who open the 2016 playoffs Friday at Pearl.
Interestingly enough, TAMU will be without starting quarterback Trevor Knight, who was injured in last week’s loss to Mississippi State. Unlike the Rebels, the Aggies will turn to backup Jake Hubenak who has seen a bit more playing time.
In two seasons, the sophomore has completed 24 of 48 passes for 220 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Hubenak actually faced Ole Miss as a freshman last season, completing 6 of 11 passes for 46 yards in the Rebels’ 23-3 victory.
Kickoff in College Station, Texas, is set for 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network.