Longo liking his talent at quarterback and tight end
For sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson, everything is starting to click.
With eight spring practices in the books, the Ole Miss quarterback is starting to understand just how dangerous he can be in this new Rebel scheme, and that’s making new offensive coordinator Phil Longo happy.
“He’s where I’d want him to be at practice No. 8,” Longo said of Patterson. “He’s a gifted passer, and we all know how mobile he is. We’ve got to do a good job at utilizing both of those things. Mentally, I think every day that goes by, just based on my conversations with him, he gets more and more excited every day, because the light’s coming on. It’s getting brighter and brighter every day. He’s starting to realize how much he can do in the offense.”
While Patterson is blossoming in the new offensive system, he’s not the only quarterback who has impressed the new coordinator. Junior Jordan Ta’amu joined the Rebels this spring as one of the top junior college quarterbacks in the nation. Longo had digested plenty of tape on Ta’amu, but he was even more impressed with the Pearl City, Hawaii native in person.
“Jordan Ta’amu is a legitimate athlete,” Longo said. “He can make all the throws on the field. He’s very athletic, probably more athletic than I had expected him to be. You didn’t quite see that on his film. We’re doing a little bit more with him movement wise and he’s handling that very well. So I’ve been pleased with him so far.”
While Ta’amu has been showing off his athleticism at quarterback, another athletic Rebel QB is exploring a different role entirely. Sophomore Jason Pellerin remains a part of the equation for Ole Miss at quarterback, and he’s also putting his athletic ability and football IQ on display in a unique role as a hybrid tight end.
“He’s our third-string quarterback, and he’s a rotating, kind of a hybrid slot/tight end,” Longo said of Pellerin. “We’re using him in a lot of roles, one because he’s bright enough to handle it, and two, he’s just a football player. He’s a playmaker. So we’re going to continue to find ways to put him out there. I’ve got three really good guys in my room at quarterback, and hopefully, they can all contribute.”
Pellerin will bolster Ole Miss’ depth at both quarterback and tight end, where the Rebels are looking to fill the shoes of one of their foremost leaders, as well as their most productive pass-catcher from a year ago, Evan Engram. Both on and off the field, Longo is looking to a pair of returning sophomores, Octavious Cooley and Dawson Knox, to help fill the void.
“Cooley is a physical specimen and he plays that way,” Longo said. “We’re going to isolate a specific role for him and use him as much as we can. You rely on the offensive line and the tight ends to be physical, and he’s definitely that.”
While Cooley has impressed with his physicality, the all-around game of Knox has Longo excited about his tight end room.
“Dawson Knox has been, in my opinion, one of the brightest spots in camp,” Longo said. “The coaches who have been here are well aware of what he’s capable of. I’ve had the pleasure of watching him develop through the first eight practices, and I think he’s one of the weapons we’ll be utilizing this year. He’s a work-ethic guy. He’s a leader. With his height and the way he runs, it’s a mismatch problem for people.”
The Rebel offense has done well to impress its new coach through eight practices, but the work is only just beginning for this 2017 squad.
“I think when we go live or up-tempo, I’ve been happy with how fast we’re moving and how quickly we’re making decisions,” Longo said. “I’m happy with how physical we are up front. Receivers coach Jacob Peeler has done an excellent job with press/releases. The defense challenges us with that every day, so that has been a bright spot. Our running backs are running downhill, low pad-level. They’ve been very physical so far. I thought we were where we needed to be in Day 4, and I think we’re where we need to be in Day 8 now.”
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