The Rebels’ bad luck with injuries continued on Sunday, as it was revealed that quarterback Chad Kelly will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and lateral meniscus, an injury he suffered in the third quarter of Ole Miss’ win over Georgia Southern on Saturday.
With Kelly out and the Rebels pushing for bowl eligibility, the coaching staff has a tough decision to make in regards to replacing Kelly: play redshirt freshman Jason Pellerin, or burn the redshirt of highly-regarded true freshman Shea Patterson.
UPDATE: Hugh Freeze said during his Monday press conference that Pellerin would take the majority of the first-team reps but that Patterson hasn’t been ruled out.
Pellerin filled in on Saturday when Kelly came out, and looked decent doing so. He only completed one of his five pass attempts, but he didn’t get much help from A.J. Brown (who had a completed pass snatched out of his hands) and Evan Engram (who dropped a perfectly-thrown ball that would have been a touchdown). Still, Pellerin, who has served mostly as a situational runner this season, is far from a proven passer (even with the five attempts on Saturday, he’s only thrown 13 passes this season). He doesn’t have the arm strength that Kelly does, and the offensive game plan would undoubtedly have to change to work to Pellerin’s strengths.
During his postgame press conference on Saturday, Hugh Freeze insisted that “[Pellerin] would get all the reps, getting ready” if Kelly was unable to practice this week, suggesting that he wants to keep the redshirt on five-star true freshman Shea Patterson.
“You hope you recruited some people behind your starter, and obviously we’ve got one here (Patterson) that we think’s going to be really good also,” Freeze said. “But there’s three games left in the season, and you certainly don’t want to pull that redshirt.”
Yet Rebel Grove reported that it was Patterson working out with the first team during a scrimmage on Sunday.
There’s no doubt Patterson is talented. He was the consensus No. 1 quarterback recruit in the 2016 recruiting class and is likely a better fit for the offense. But do the Rebels really want to 1) throw Patterson into the deep end with no experience and 2) burn a year of his eligibility to push for a bowl game that won’t be of much consequence?
On the other hand, on the off chance that Patterson wants to leave school early for the NFL draft, getting Patterson some experience this season would be valuable, and so would the extra practices that come with making a bowl game. If Patterson looks good, it might also help with recruiting.
Regardless of who’s starting, the Rebels are down to just two scholarship quarterbacks.
“I may go see if Ryan Buchanan wants to dress this week, in all seriousness,” Freeze said on Saturday, referring to the former backup who quit the team during the offseason but is still on campus as an Ole Miss student. “I’m being dead serious. I hope Ryan heard that.”
The coaching staff is undoubtedly faced with a tough situation, and will be criticized regardless of the decision made. Ultimately, their outlook on the rest of the season will determine their course of action.