Hugh Freeze: Still no decision on Shea Patterson
Published 12:55 pm Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has yet to decide if he’ll pull the redshirt off Shea Patterson and play the freshman Saturday at Texas A&M (6:30 p.m., SEC Network). It will likely be a freshman taking a bulk of the snaps either way as Jason Pellerin is in line to get his first career start unless Freeze makes a change.
Amid the Patterson speculation, Freeze mentioned earlier in the week that receiver Markell Pack, tight end Evan Engram and Jeremy Liggins, an offensive lineman, could get looks at quarterback during practice, revealing Wednesday morning on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference the list of possible options has grown.
“We’re fixing to go into another meeting and see how practice went with (walk-on tight end) Dawson Knox, Jason Pellerin and some other guys who took some reps and see what kind of game plan might be effective,” Freeze said. “I have confidence in Jason. I thought he played well last week. You have to do the right thing for the team. It could be Thursday or Friday when we make that decision.”
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Freeze reiterated Wednesday night after practice that everything will be evaluated Thursday before a decision is made, but he added Patterson has been getting some practice reps after spending most of the season on the scout team. Freeze said he’s using the reps between Pellerin and Patterson to find out what they’re capable of handling.
“We’ve got to be careful what we’re asking,” Freeze said. “We may think it’s a really good idea, but if they haven’t repped it enough, it’s probably not a great idea. We’ve got to really, Thursday after practice, look at what Jason can do and Dawson can do. Is it enough to win the game with that stuff?
“It’s not that it’s bad. It’s probably a lack of understanding and a lack of reps.”
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Pellerin, who’s been Kelly’s backup all season, has been used primarily as a runner (96 rushing yards, three TDs) while attempting just 13 passes this season. He went 1 of 5 for 19 yards with an interception last week against Georgia Southern after coming on for Kelly in the third quarter.
Ole Miss didn’t score a touchdown with Pellerin at the controls, though one of his passes would’ve been a touchdown had Engram held on in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter.
Does Freeze stick with Pellerin or turn to Patterson, a five-star signee, with the Rebels fighting for bowl eligibility with three games left? A&M, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State are left on the schedule, and Ole Miss needs two wins to get there, something Freeze didn’t dismiss as a small deal.
“That’s something we have talked openly about and been transparent about. It’s important to us,” Freeze said. “It’s got our attention for sure. We need to continue to get those extra practices, and a bowl game is vital to continue our rebuilding process.”
A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said he’s aware of what his team will be dealing with should Patterson play.
“He’s very talented and a guy that we recruited heavily,” Sumlin said.
Alabama recently used former quarterbacks Blake Sims and John Parker Wilson on its scout team to help the Crimson Tide prepare for Texas A&M and LSU. California also brought back a former player, former All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch, to its scout team in the preseason.
Freeze said he’ll start formulating a list of former Ole Miss players he’d like to help in future practices.
NCAA bylaw 22.214.171.124 allows former student-athletes to return to participate in practices on an occasional basis as long as the school doesn’t publicize their participation beforehand.
“Hate I didn’t think of it first,” Freeze said. “It’s something that I think is thinking out of the box. Just this week, I’ve tried to find the exact rules that allow you to do that.”