OXFORD, Miss. – There was little doubt Jason Pellerin could make a successful transition to tight end – in a certain sense – after serving as backup quarterback for Ole Miss last year. He already had the size (6 feet 4 and 237 pounds) and the athleticism to make it happen.
Now, though, the former quarterback is asked to be a traditional tight end, not solely a stretch the field player in the Evan Engram sense.
Engram was an All-American and one of the most decorated tight ends in school history before being drafted by the New York Giants during the first round of this year’s NFL draft.
Ole Miss had several leading candidates to help replace him until the starter, Dawson Knox, went down with a foot injury in the middle of camp.
Suddenly Pellerin, who was used in a sort of H-back capacity in the spring, has to be more than a pass catcher. He has to block.
“I played quarterback my whole life except for receiver a few years in high school,” said Pellerin, who signed with Ole Miss as a three-star quarterback from New Iberia, Louisiana in the 2015 recruiting cycle. “I was never asked to get as physical as this, but that was never something I was scared to do, and with camp that just passed, we had 16, 17, 18 practices. I feel like I’m adapting to it.”
Not much will change from the Hugh Freeze era under interim coach Matt Luke. One thing that will be different, though, is how the tight end is managed. Freeze used Engram almost exclusively as a big slot receiver, not a player with his hand in the dirt. Now, Ole Miss tight ends will be asked to play both ways.
Pellerin played in nine games in 2016 mostly as a change-of-pace quarterback in short-yardage and red zone situations. He was 11-for-22 passing for 104 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He rushed 29 times for 90 yards and three touchdowns.
Luke has high expectations for Pellerin.
“He’s just a good athlete,” Luke said. “He’s got that hybrid body at 230 pounds. Going from quarterback to getting in there and mixing it up is something he’s going to have to get used to, and he’s getting better at it. He’ll be fine outside, but for him to be effective for us we need him to be physical in the box, block the powers and isos.”
(You can follow Parrish Alford on Twitter @parrishalford)
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