When this 2016 football season began I did not expect Ole Miss to keep a red shirt on prized quarterback recruit Shea Patterson.

Here’s why: Five-star recruits don’t normally hang around four years, much less five. There have been exceptions but not many who aren’t named Manning.

Rick Cleveland Credit: Melanie Thortis

I just didn’t see any point in sitting out a player who likely would leave when he becomes eligible for the NFL Draft in 2019. (College players can declare for the draft after they have been out of high school for three years.)

No, I did not expect Patterson to beat out Chad Kelly, but I did expect him to get some playing time and be ready to step in if Kelly happened to get hurt.

After Patterson didn’t play the first four or five weeks, my assumption was that Patterson and Hugh Freeze had reached an understanding that Patterson would stay around past the 2019 draft and possibly even the 2020 draft.

And, if that’s the case, I would not pull the red shirt off Patterson nine games into the season with the Rebels holding a 4-5 record with games remaining against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

I just don’t think a chance at a bid to a lower tier bowl is worth a year of eligibility for one of the most prized recruits in Ole Miss history.

Yes, I know the goal is to win as many games as you can in any given season. But if Patterson is as special as we have been led to believe, then these are special circumstances. (And that’s without considering the possibility of going ahead and self-imposing a one-year bowl ban and getting that out of the way in case the NCAA’s investigation goes the wrong way.)

I’d play out the season with Jason Pellerin at quarterback. He has shown potential in limited playing time this season.

Just my opinion. We’ll find out Freeze’s soon enough.

Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 12 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.