Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze raised a lot of eyebrows when he chose to pull the redshirt off highly touted freshman quarterback Shea Patterson with only three games to go.
That’s when the season ended for Chad Kelly, the starter in an often-explosive Rebels offense, because of a torn ACL.
Freeze said he considered other options – there weren’t many – but played Patterson because it gave the Rebels the best chance to win. It did, but that decision had to be made with several factors in mind. Among them was what the decision would mean for Patterson as an individual.
There’s a widely held belief that regardless of what happened in 2016, Patterson would not be around for a senior season, of either the fourth-year or fifth-year variety.
Guys who arrive on campus as celebrated in recruiting circles as Patterson don’t typically expect to play out an entire college career. Coaches, though, aren’t ones to turn loose of a fifth year easily.
At times in his three games, Patterson exhibited an awareness and field presence beyond what would be considered normal for a freshman and gave legs to the declare-for-the-NFL-early line of thought. He had his erratic moments, too.
If you’re looking for a picture of what Patterson might have looked like for a full season, consider Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason. Either Patterson or Eason was the No. 1 quarterback in the 2016 class, according to most recruiting websites.
Eason played from the beginning, appearing in 13 games and starting 12. Eason completed 55.1 percent of 370 pass attempts, Patterson 54.5 percent of 132 attempts.
Eason threw 16 touchdown passes. Patterson threw six and would have been in the neighborhood of 16 had he maintained that pace.
Eason showed a lot of poise in leading a comeback win at Missouri and appeared to have led another against Tennessee, but a celebration penalty helped put the Vols in position to win with a prayer. Eason was inconsistent at times as well.
If there’s a difference in Eason and Patterson as freshmen, it might be ball protection.
Eason threw 11 interceptions. I didn’t see every one of them like I did see the three that Patterson surrendered. Patterson threw a third-quarter interception at Texas A&M that belonged to him alone. The other two go on his record, but he had help in achieving them.
He underthrew a ball to the end zone against Mississippi State. It would have been a difficult catch for Quincy Adeboyejo, but Adeboyejo didn’t turn quickly enough to prevent the pick by MSU safety Jamal Peters. Later in the same game, Patterson’s well-placed screen pass to Akeem Judd was bobbled and juggled long enough for the Bulldogs’ Cedric Jiles to grab it and run 74 yards to the end zone.
© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.