OXFORD – With Pat Patterson now subtracted from the Ole Miss roster, it’s hard to figure exactly what the Rebels lost, because it’s not clear exactly what they had.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt booted the former Noxubee County star earlier this week for undisclosed team rules violations.
For Ole Miss, the absence of Patterson isn’t as much about lost production as it is lost potential.
It comes at a very thin position, but hey, what position on offense isn’t thin right now? The Rebels lost a couple of linemen, their quarterback, the SEC’s top receiver and, at running back, one of the most dynamic players in league history.
Thin is what they are, and the offense is going to have find a groove early. The schedule allows for that, and if it happens, the Rebels could be playing with more savvy and maturity down the stretch.
In the meantime. it’s those losses on offense, specifically Shay Hodge, that gave Patterson such a great opportunity at receiver.
In spite of previous indiscretions, he had a chance to really assert himself, and there was reason to believe he would.
Even while suspended during spring drills, he was around for the “mental reps,” and when coaches talked about Patterson, it was with the expectation that he would rejoin the team.
Early last season he showed toughness at the position, good hands in traffic, the ability to match the hype that arrived with him as Rivals’ No. 4-rated wide receiver.
Patterson showed what might have been with a diving touchdown grab on a fade route against Southeastern Louisiana, the play covering 29 yards.
But there was the mid-season suspension against UAB, and his season never recovered. Balls thrown his way were less of a sure thing. He finished with 12 catches for 180 yards but had only three catches in his last six games.
Patterson isn’t the only Ole Miss receiver with “potential.” No one on the roster really showed out last year, because quarterback Jevan Snead zeroed in so much on Hodge, who caught an SEC-high 70 balls.
Certainly, that’s getting your best players involved, but it stunted growth elsewhere. Now the team’s top two returning receivers are seniors Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux, who combined had only 30 catches last year.
Summers and Breaux do, however, bring experience to a group that needs a playmaker to emerge.
Perhaps that’s Ja-Mes Logan, a 6-foot-1 redshirt freshman with a nice blend of speed and power. It could be 155-pound sophomore Jesse Grandy, a flanker who Nutt worked hard to get the ball in space during the spring.
One man’s folly can be another man’s good fortune, and junior college transfer Randall Mackey comes to mind here. He’s listed as a quarterback, but he’s an impact athlete. He probably would have played some receiver anyway, and now it looks like his role could increase quickly. The problem with Mackey may be deciding exactly what you want him to learn, how much you’ll throw at him and what – and how quickly – he’s capable of processing that.
An injury or two would be devastating, but healthy this can still be a productive group.
There are pieces and parts to work with, and newcomers who hit the ground running will have a chance to get in the rotation.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal