CR: Under the shroud of a lot of secrecy, the Rebels embark on something they haven’t experienced in 22 games spanning over almost two years – playing a game without SEC total offense leader Chad Kelly at quarterback.
And while that’s not the only issue this 4-5 team has as they head to College Station to take on a Top 10 team in Texas A&M, it is the most pressing.
Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze has carefully been ambiguous about his plans for the signal-caller position, stalling on any firm answer about who the starter will be or whether or not he’s taking the redshirt off prized freshman Shea Patterson. He’s mentioned “emergency” QB alternatives in an attempt to throw the inquisitive off his scent, or are they real options? Evan Engram, Markell Pack, Jeremy Liggins, Dawson Knox – all guys who played the position in his school – have been tossed about by Freeze.
Be forewarned, this is just a guess, and not even an educated one since mum has been the word and practices have been closed, but what seems likely is that Jason Pellerin, the redshirt freshman who came in and did a nice job against Georgia Southern after Kelly got hurt, will get the starting nod with Patterson waiting in the wings in case Pellerin cannot move the team or gets injured. What also seems likely, and is definitely a guess, is that the Rebel offense, if Pellerin is guiding it, may look more like it did when Bo Wallace was the quarterback than with Kelly at the helm.
As stated, however, this is all conjecture. The truth will not be revealed until the Rebs tee it up against the Aggies Saturday night.
QB is not the only area the Rebs are having to make adjustments for and are keeping quiet about. The offensive line is still a question mark. Will Sean Rawlings or Rod Taylor be back from injury? If not, look for Javon Patterson to get his second start at center and the rest of the OL to round out the same as the Georgia Southern game as well, with Greg Little at left tackle, Jordan Sims at left guard, Patterson at center, Daronte Bouldin at right guard and Alex Givens at right tackle.
Givens, a redshirt freshman, and Little, a true freshman, will be faced with another big challenge, protecting whoever is at quarterback from All-American Aggie Defensive End Myles Garrett, who has been hobbled much of this year but is still dangerous, and other speed pass rushers on their roster.
On defense, well, every week is a challenge for this unit, ranked way down the ladder in total yardage and scoring defense. One advantage may be that A&M has a “new” quarterback as well as starter Trevor Knight was knocked out by Mississippi State in their game last week and will miss the rest of the year, just like Kelly. Jake Hubenak, a junior who throws well but runs little, at least that’s the scouting report, will take over.
The Rebs must do a better job of stopping the run attack that will feature a quality back in Trayveon Williams and jack-of-all-trades Christian Kirk is dangerous no matter where Aggie OC Noel Mazzone lines him up.
With 102,000 Aggie fans breathing down their backs, this is yet another major challenge.
Life in the SEC.
BG: Let’s cut to the chase, OK? I believe Shea Patterson will play Saturday at Texas A&M, and I’m quite confident in writing that. Will he start? I don’t know. I’ll leave the game analysis to Chuck and Sudu. I’m dedicating my space to Shea Patterson because, well, it’s my space. So, yeah.
A line of thought I’ve heard this week is the safe play is for Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze is to allow Jason Pellerin to open the game as the starter and to bring Patterson in if Pellerin proves ineffective. I don’t know how Freeze is going to ultimately decide this, but if it were me (and let’s all be thankful it’s not) I’d give Patterson the reins and let him sink or swim. There are many reasons I feel this way. First off, Ole Miss football, collectively, needs a shot in the arm. Fan morale is as low as it’s been in some time. The vibe around the coaches and players seems off, at least to me. Recruiting right now is kind of like Cousin Vinny’s 1962 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible spinning its wheels in the Alabama mud. Freeze has one card left to play to swing program momentum back in a positive direction: Shea Patterson.
A 6-6 record and the Liberty Bowl with Chad Kelly at quarterback, optically, doesn’t arouse much enthusiasm. Kelly will go down as easily one of the most accomplished players in school history. His contributions are undeniable, and he did re-write his story in so many ways. Him going down was brutal. He was the one constant this season, and if not for Kelly, an already disappointing season might have very well been a disaster.
But what if Patterson does well? A 6-6 record and the Liberty Bowl with Patterson leading the way, optically, matters quite a bit, in my opinion. Let me say, I very much believe in Jason Pellerin. I like him a lot both as a person and a player, and he definitely deserves a fair shot. And he was never going to just hand the starting job over to Patterson, people.
Still, Patterson was brought to Ole Miss to be the future. Kelly is gone. The future is now. All a redshirt allows is for the possibility of a fifth season, in 2020. Patterson and his family, as recent history has shown, have never stayed in one place very long. Even if he’s redshirted, there’s no assurance he stays five years even if the information in front of him says he should. Playing for the future is a dangerous game anyway in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of college football. Play him. I don’t know how good he’s going to be immediately, but I’d be shocked if he isn’t really, really good over the course of his career.
But if he is good immediately?
Man, he could be just what this program needs, and that could even include a win on Saturday.
SU: Who will start at quarterback for Ole Miss? That's the question on everyone's mind as the Rebels enter Saturday's matchup against Texas A&M. After losing Chad Kelly for the season to a knee injury, Ole Miss will need to find an offensive spark in College Station. Kelly not only gave defenses trouble through the air but was the Rebels second leading rusher behind running back Akeem Judd.
Without Kelly, Ole Miss will have to rely on either Jason Pellerin or true freshman Shea Patterson in a tough road environment. Pellerin provides a threat on the ground and has shown a big arm, but Saturday's game will be more than just clean up duty or a designed run for Pellerin. Patterson undeniably has the more talented arm and is the future of the Rebels' offense, but can we really expect him to go into a hostile environment at Kyle Field and win? Not to mention, Texas A&M has the second best sack defense in the SEC led by defensive linemen Myles Garrett, Daeshon Hall and Jarrett Johnson. Those three will be bringing the heat on whoever starts all game, and that pressure coupled with the road environment might prove to be too much to handle for Ole Miss' inexperienced QBs. There is hope for the Rebels' offense. The Aggies rank 84th in the FBS for passing yards allowed. If Pellerin or Patterson can escape Texas A&M's pressure, there's a good chance the Rebels can continue to be a force through the air as they have been most of the season. It would be great for Ole Miss if running backs Akeem Judd and Eugene Brazley have successful games, but this has been an area of struggle all season long, and isn't something I'm expecting to see improvements in against the Aggies.
Texas A&M lost its starting quarterback too. Trevor Knight suffered a season ending shoulder injury in last Saturday's 35-28 loss to Mississippi State. While, Knight will be missed, his replacement Jake Hubenak is capable of leading the Aggies offense. Hubenak has starting experience and played well against Mississippi State. He doesn't have Knight's dual threat ability but has the arm to get the ball to his talented receivers against Ole Miss' secondary. A&M should also see success on the ground with running back Trayveon Williams. Williams has 804 yards and six touchdowns on the year, and those numbers are sure to go up against the Rebels' struggling run defense.
While I think Ole Miss' offense will provide some surprises, losing Kelly will be too much for the Rebels to win in College Station. Texas A&M takes this one 45-24.