So it’s understandable, then, that Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and staff are paying considerable attention to Patterson’s development in spring practices. The Rebels recently entered their fourth week.
“Shea has great leadership,” Ole Miss junior offensive lineman Javon Patterson said. “He’s done a great job from that point on to here. He took that role, and he’s done a great job being vocal.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Patterson, who was the No. 1 prep quarterback in the country in 2016, enters next season as the unquestioned starter. He started three games as a true freshman following a season-ending injury to Chad Kelly, with Patterson engineering a come-from-behind road win at then-No. 8 Texas A&M in his college debut. He finished with six touchdowns compared to three interceptions, averaging 293.3 passing yards per game.
Patterson is tasked with replacing the incredible production of Kelly, who accounted for an SEC-high 3,090 yards of offense last season. In his first season, he earned All-SEC second-team honors after breaking or tying 14 Ole Miss single-season records, including total yards (4,542), passing yards (4,042), passing touchdowns (31), touchdowns responsible for (41) and 300-yard passing games (eight).
Kelly's 4,542 total yards and 4,042 passing yards are both third-most in a season in SEC history, while his 41 total touchdowns are tied for seventh all time.
Ole Miss is installing a new offense this spring. Freeze replaced Dan Werner with Phil Longo, a discipline of the Air Raid. His Sam Houston State offenses combined for 22,243 yards over the last three years and smashed FCS records.
“There’s a percentage of things he’s questioning,” Freeze said. “You can actually see it. As I stand behind him he’s hesitant to give the cadence for the snap, because he’s trying to process it all, and that’s because all the verbiage is new, all the tags are new. I think he’ll have it down by the end of our 15 practices.”
Sam Houston State was ranked No. 1 in total offense and No. 2 in scoring offense and passing offense last season, which followed a 2015 campaign that saw the Bearkats set a Southland Conference season record with 7,975 yards of offense — a total that sits third all-time in FCS history.
Longo said he’s pleased with where Patterson is, development-wise, through eight practices.
“I know this is rhetoric, and I don’t mean to bore y’all, but he’s where I want him to be in practice eight,” Longo said. “He’s a gifted passer, and we all know how mobile he is. We’ve got to do a good job of making sure we utilize both of those things. Mentally, I think every day that goes by — and I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but just based on my conversations with him — he gets more excited every day. The light’s coming on. It’s getting brighter and brighter every day. He’s starting to realize how much he can do in the offense. That’s a good thing right now.”
Patterson is a former five-star prospect who was both an Army and Parade All-American as a high school senior. He led IMG to its first-ever undefeated season, completing 79 of 129 passes for 1,533 yards and 18 touchdowns to four interceptions. He completed 129 of 199 passes for 2,428 yards and 38 touchdowns to five interceptions for Calvary Baptist (La.) as a junior.