Three vital pieces on both sides of the ball have been fully cleared for fall workouts, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze confirmed at SEC media days on Thursday: Eric Swinney, Kendarius Webster and Javon Patterson will all participate, though Webster is still wearing a knee brace.
Swinney and Webster both went down in the Florida State game to begin the year last season, two keys on both sides of the ball that, with the hindsight of 12 games in the rearview, hamstrung Ole Miss’ depth chart right off the bat. The Rebs’ much beleaguered offensive line lost Patterson in spring workouts to a shoulder injury, and he underwent surgery back in April.
Patterson’s return is perhaps the most remarkable, since it was reported at the time of his shoulder surgery that he would in all likelihood miss fall workouts. Shea Patterson and company should certainly be thrilled that their talented and experienced left guard will return to the fold, if only to help bolster a line that was injury-plagued in 2016, but could see colossal improvement in 2017.
Swinney’s injury was certainly felt in the horrid production from Ole Miss’ ground game last year, which saw Chad Kelly as the Rebs’ leading rusher on more than one occasion. Without the services of Akeem Judd, Ole Miss was already without one of its top dogs in the backfield, and the loss of Swinney only served to place more the burden on Eugene Brazley, D’Vaughn Pennamon, and Jordan Wilkins.
The Rebs’ backend defense was also atrocious down the stretch last year, and the return of one of their best tacklers and defenders in the figure of Ken Webster will hopefully bring relief to a staff that was dominated by underclassmen in 2016. Webster, a four-star recruit out of football hotbed Stockbridge, Ga., started every game at corner in 2015, and as the most experienced player in the unit, he could shift into a more central role in the secondary. One wonders how, if at all, his lateral movement has been affected by the injury, but in any case it’s wonderful to see him back among the fray.
Finally some good news.