For now, Ole Miss remains home. At the moment, quarterback Shea Patterson sees himself staying in a Rebels uniform and pushing through his program’s purgatory with uncertain days ahead.
But what if the NCAA allows Ole Miss players to transfer without sitting out a year?
What if the storm surrounding the investigation of the school presents a chance for Patterson to end his college career elsewhere without delay?
“He should go,” Dan Shonka, a longtime NFL scout and general manager at Ourlads.com, told SEC Country. “Then you know they’re going to be bailing out of there like rats off a sinking ship. Then he would have his pick of schools.”
Would there be options for Patterson if he left Oxford in the rear-view mirror? Yes.
Would the detour be ideal? Perhaps not. But the skilled young player has a bright future and a big bank account to consider.
“If there’s nobody there for him, hey, you’ve got to have people block for you, because that could end his career … if you don’t have any blocking up front [or] a running game and receivers,” Shonka said. “I guess it all depends on what happens this year.
“I think there would be a lot of respect if he stayed there and hung in there. But also, the other side of it is, hey, the NFL teams will say, ‘Hey, the kid is smart for getting out of there, because he would have got annihilated if he stayed.’ The ball is in his court.”
Patterson is one of the more fascinating yet-to-be-written stories within the SEC. There are more unknowns than discoveries when discussing a player whose situation at Ole Miss has been flipped upside-down, shaken and stirred in recent weeks.
On the field, the former 5-star prospect is a tantalizing work in progress, having thrown for 880 yards with 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in three games as a freshman last year. Still, more is expected from him this fall as he tries to lead a program stuck in quicksand because of factors beyond his control.
Patterson must take steps forward even with Ole Miss’ top two receiving targets from 2016, tight end Evan Engram (926 yards) and wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow (716), gone to the NFL. He must develop with a new offensive coordinator, Phil Longo, and little more than personal pride at stake because of the Rebels’ self-imposed bowl ban for 2017.
Off the field, Ole Miss’ situation has grown darker since Hugh Freeze’s stunning resignation on July 20. It’s hard not to wonder what will become of Patterson if the current mess in Oxford becomes a Category 5 nightmare.
Patterson must understand he holds the power, not Ole Miss coaches or school officials, to determine his direction.
“I think it’s all dependent on what happens around him,” Shonka said of Patterson. “If you don’t have anybody to block for you and your receivers are gone – of course, they lost [tight end Evan] Engram and the offense that’s going to be run [is new] – a lot of times guys have to look out for themselves. As much as you’re a team guy, whenever everything else breaks down around you, you want to rise above it. He could be the glue to hold everything together, too, because he is an outstanding player.”
A silver lining in Ole Miss’ monsoon is that Patterson is willing to be that glue. How long that stance will last remains to be seen. Recently, Patterson’s father, Sean Patterson Sr., told SEC Country’s Alec Shirkey, “As far as our family and everything else is concerned, we support the university. Shea’s not going anywhere.”
That’s fine, and there’s nothing wrong with showing support at this time. But Patterson would be wise to keep his options open as events unfold.
After all, it’s Patterson’s life. It’s his future. It would be silly to damage a promising professional outlook because of mistakes committed by adults above him who should have known better.
Given recent events, Patterson would be smart to use Ole Miss for his benefit for as long as he deems it beneficial. He should stay with the Rebels until they can’t provide him the best possible chance to increase his NFL draft stock and future earnings.
And the choice should be a no-brainer if the NCAA provides a chance to transfer to another school without sitting out a year.
Let’s be real: The Rebels won’t compete for SEC and national titles during Patterson’s college career. So why not constantly evaluate what Ole Miss is doing to prepare him for Sundays? Why not make the program work for him?
Patterson should view the Rebels as a vehicle for professional preparation and little more. If circumstances evolve to the point where he won’t enhance his future by staying in Oxford, if key parts around him leave, he should depart as soon as possible. He owes Ole Miss no loyalty.
“Obviously, it’s in disarray,” Shonka said of the Rebels’ situation. “But sometimes when things are in disarray like that, that shows the true character of a quarterback if you pull everything together.”
Right now, Patterson is willing to pull everything together at Ole Miss, even with questions continuing to build.
He should realize that stance doesn’t have to be permanent, especially if the landscape grows darker than it already appears.