The 2016 season is over, and SEC football rosters are starting to come together for 2017. It’s the perfect time to evaluate each team’s quarterback situation for next season.
Quarterback issues were a significant part of the SEC’s struggles last season, but the conference has starters coming back at 12 of the 14 schools. The turnaround should be immediate. That should continue to be true at Ole Miss, which has seen a string of quality quarterbacks since Hugh Freeze arrived.
To clarify, this grade takes into account a team’s entire quarterback situation, including backups. Just having a great starter isn’t necessarily good enough to earn a quality grade.
Make sure and read all our previous quarterback installments:
Alabama Crimson Tide | Arkansas Razorbacks | Auburn Tigers | Florida Gators | Georgia Bulldogs | Kentucky Wildcats | LSU Tigers | Mississippi State Bulldogs | Missouri Tigers | South Carolina | Tennessee Volunteers | Texas A&M Aggies | Vanderbilt Commodores
Ole Miss Rebels
Key returners: Shea Patterson (sophomore), Jason Pellerin (sophomore)
Key departures: Chad Kelly (graduation)
Key additions: Jordan Ta’amu (JUCO), Alex Faniel (true freshman)
Returning production: 83-154 for 984 yards, 8 TDs, 6 INTs; 70 carries for 259 yards, 3 TDs
Departing production: 205-328 for 2,758 yards, 19 TDs, 8 INTs; 81 carries for 332 yards, 5 TDs
Hugh Freeze took over at Ole Miss in 2012. Every year since, quality quarterback play has been a hallmark of the program. Even though starter Chad Kelly went out with a torn ACL during the season, the Rebels still reached 3,000 team passing yards for the fifth straight season.
When Kelly went down, Ole Miss unleashed its quarterback of the future despite having prior plans of redshirting him. Shea Patterson was the No. 4 overall player in the nation and top quarterback recruit out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
In his first start, Patterson led Ole Miss on a comeback from 15 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Texas A&M in College Station. He posted 338 yards and 2 touchdowns in the win. Unfortunately, the team performance was much worse against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, but the talent was obvious.
Ole Miss asks its quarterbacks to be super productive. Patterson had to throw 132 times in his first three starts against SEC competition.
Freeze runs a system conducive to quarterback play. Even though Kelly and Bo Wallace were good players, the simplified spread offense helped them become superstars. For that reason, inexperience isn’t the biggest concern.
Part of that is dependent on Ole Miss developing a couple wide receivers. Top receivers Damore’ea Stringfellow and Quincy Adeboyejo are gone to the NFL. So is reliable tight end Evan Engram, who led the team in receiving yards.
The Rebels do have a couple young options. Van Jefferson and A.J. Brown stood out as freshmen in 2016. DaMarkus Lodge also likely gets a shot after being rated the No. 42 player in the Class of 2015.
Ole Miss also has a few options at backup. Jason Pellerin is back, and he was okay in limited opportunity. The Rebels also added JUCO quarterback Jordan Ta’amu to the mix. Even though his experience isn’t at the FBS level, Ta’amu threw for 3,014 yards and 38 touchdowns at his junior college in New Mexico.
Freeze’s system will quickly turn Patterson into a star. If the backups work themselves out, the Rebels could have one of the better situations in the conference.