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Jason Pellerin back at former position to help Ole Miss’ depth at quarterback

Jason Pellerin is back at quarterback.

With news of Shea Patterson’s season-ending knee injury coming down Sunday, Ole Miss’ coaches have moved Pellerin back to his former position to be Jordan Ta’amu’s backup for the rest of the season. Ole Miss’ first taste of life without Patterson will come Saturday against Arkansas (11 a.m., SEC Network) at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Patterson’s injury left Ta’amu and true freshman Alex Faniel as the only available scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, so Pellerin’s move helps the Rebels’ depth and gives them more experience at the position. Ta’amu, a junior college transfer, has played in just three games as Patterson’s backup while coaches only want to pull Faniel’s redshirt in the event of an emergency.

Coaches felt comfortable enough with Ta’amu’s progress in the spring to move Pellerin to tight end in the fall. Pellerin played in nine games as the backup to Chad Kelly and Patterson last season, being used mostly as a runner in short-yardage and goal-line packages. He ran for 90 yards and three touchdowns while completing 11 of his 22 passes with two scores and three interceptions.

Pellerin hasn’t thrown a pass since the spring, but interim coach Matt Luke said he doesn’t envision the 6-foot-4, 234-pounder’s role changing from what it once was.

“We’ll have to have a little bit different packages and he’ll be able to do some things with his legs and Wildcat stuff,” Luke said. “But it won’t be anything new. It will be the same run schemes we already do. Just utilizing an extra blocker to get the quarterback running the ball some if he has to go in there.”

Bulking up?

After another poor effort trying to stop the run, defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff suggested Ole Miss could go with some bigger personnel against Arkansas.

The Rebels gave up 393 more rushing yards to LSU with 276 of those going to Derrius Guice on just 22 carries, dropping Ole Miss to 126th nationally in run defense. With Arkansas’ run-heavy offense coming to town, McGriff said the Rebels may scratch their base nickel defense in an effort to combat the Razorbacks’ bigger offensive linemen and tight ends with more bulk.

“One of the things we’ve got to do is get some bigger bodies on the field,” McGriff said.

That could include junior college transfer Brenden Williams (6-3, 227) and Jarrion Street (6-1, 212) getting more reps at outside linebacker alongside DeMarquis Gates or all of them being on the field at the same time. With backup quarterback Cole Kelley set to make another start for the Razorbacks in place of the injured Austin Allen, Arkansas could lean even more on a running game averaging 160.7 yards per game.

“If you’re Arkansas, you wouldn’t do anything else but come in and try to run the ball early and test our run defense,” McGriff said.

Injury update

Center Sean Rawlings is going through concussion protocol. Luke said it will likely be Wednesday until he knows whether Rawlings will play Saturday.

If Rawlings can’t go against Arkansas, guard Jordan Sims would get the start at center. Fellow guard Javon Patterson would back him up.

Running back Jordan Wilkins tweaked an ankle against LSU and is “probably questionable” for Saturday, Luke said. Defensive tackle Ross Donelly (knee) and safety C.J. Moore (calf strain) are also questionable for Saturday.

Street “looks like he’ll be back” against the Razorbacks, Luke said. Street missed the LSU game with a concussion.