On Saturday, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze did something that few people could have predicted at the outset of the season: He stripped freshman quarterback Shea Patterson of his redshirt.
Chad Kelly suffered a season-ending knee injury the previous week, thus giving the Rebels (5-5) an immediate need under center. Still, it’s rare to see a coach burn a redshirt in mid-November.
“I didn’t like it,” CBS Sports Network college football analyst Houston Nutt said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “The guy’s been playing scout team all year long, and now we’re going to wait (until) the last two games and take the shirt off of him? It just doesn’t make sense. But I can see (Hugh Freeze) calling the family in there – and it has to be a family decision on this thing – and (saying), ‘Look, if the young man thinks he’s going to leave after three years anyway, and he wants to play, and mom and dad and everybody is good with it, (maybe he should play now).’ I could see them saying, ‘Coach Freeze, take the redshirt off of me. I’m ready to go help the team win now so we can go to a bowl and finish this thing out right.’ Then I got no problem with it.”
Rebels fans probably didn’t have a problem with it, either. Patterson was sensational in his debut, going 25-of-42 for 338 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-28 win over No. 8 Texas A&M in College Station. He did throw an interception, but he also rushed 15 times for 64 yards and kept several plays alive with his legs.
“When you see him on the field, I swear I had to look twice to see if that wasn’t Johnny Manziel in disguise,” Nutt said. “The guy’s running around, he’s improvising. The one play he extended, it looks just like Johnny Manziel – except he threw better. The rotation on the ball and the RPMs on the ball, it looked better. Man, I’ll tell you what, they got to be excited about Shea Patterson. I heard a lot about him out of high school, but that’s the first time I laid eyes on him. What an unbelievable find, unbelievable quarterback. But getting back to your question, I wasn’t fired up at first, but now, hey, everybody’s happy. So we don’t get to make those decisions, guys.”
Patterson will lead the Rebels in another road game this Saturday. Ole Miss plays at Vanderbilt (4-6) at 8 p.m. ET.