If you were to ask Ole Miss fans who the most exciting recruit in Ole Miss history is, they would likely (and accurately) answer Robert Nkemdiche, the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2013 class who went on to earn all-American honors as a defensive tackle at Ole Miss. Perhaps more importantly though, was Nkemdiche's commitment allowing Ole Miss to re-enter the conversation as a top recruiting program. His commitment begat others - namely Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell - and helped Ole Miss earn a top-five recruiting class that would eventually result in Ole Miss' first Sugar Bowl win in over four decades.
For the 2016 class, though, answers might be divided. Perhaps Ole Miss fans are most excited about four-star wide receiver AJ Brown, who escaped his hometown of Starkville, Mississippi and the shadow of Mississippi State University to sign with the Ole Miss Rebels. Perhaps they'd say Greg Little, who many see as being capable of stepping in right away to replace the departing Laremy Tunsil at left tackle. Or maybe they'll offer halfback D'Vaughn Pennamon, safety Deontay Anderson, or any of the multitude of guys who committed or reaffirmed their commitment today on National Signing Day.
If they were to do so, however, it would only underscore just how quickly Ole Miss fans have begun to take for granted the fact that Shea Patterson, the top 2016 high school quarterback recruit, is already signed with Ole Miss and enrolled in classes. Not only that, but he's arguably the best Ole Miss quarterback recruit ever. He's been described as the best Ole Miss quarterback recruit since Eli Manning, but even Eli as a recruit was only listed as a three star by the few services that actually bothered to rank high school recruits (in the halcyon days before the internet morphed recruiting into a year-round spectacle).
Since Eli, Ole Miss has only signed one blue chip high school quarterback in Robert Lane, who was a four star dual threat recruit who finished his Ole Miss career as a tight end. Since then, a bevy of two- and three-star quarterbacks have been bolstered and, with a few exceptions, benched for high profile transfers.
Jeremiah Masoli, Jevan Snead, Bo Wallace, and even Chad Kelly have, in spite of whatever success they may have had, given Ole Miss fans the impression that our program simply wasn't one that was capable of luring high-quality quarterbacks fresh out of high school - that they'd end up in Oxford either due to diminishing playing time elsewhere or off-the-field issues.
Consensus five-star Shea Patterson, though? He throws that myth right out the window.
As his highlights demonstrate, Patterson is one of the more polished and skilled quarterbacks to come through the high school ranks in recent memory. Plenty of signalcallers have been bigger, or faster, or able to launch a ball farther downfield, but few have been as all-around talented as Patterson. Simply put, he's the real deal, and he's got the incoming offensive line and wide receiver classes to ensure that he'll be the leader of multiple prolific Ole Miss offenses.
And the most exciting thing about this commitment? He most likely won't play significant snaps this year with Chad Kelly still in the red and blue. The SEC's returning total offense leader should get one last year under center, giving Shea Patterson a year to grow and develop his game, perhaps even with a redshirt. In that sense, signing Shea Patterson was much more of an investment in the Ole Miss program than it could have been a shot to the arm, the very idea of which is still tough for Ole Miss fans to comprehend.
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