When Shea Patterson’s sophomore season with the Ole Miss Rebels suddenly ended after he suffered a knee injury against the LSU Tigers in mid-October, it seemed like the sky was falling. Yet when backup quarterback Jordan Ta’amu took the control of the struggling offense, the unit got better as the year progressed.
Once he became the starter, Ta’amu proved to be the better fit for offensive coordinator Phil Lango’s system. The offense did not miss a beat when he entered the LSU game — which was Ta’amu’s first FBS appearance — and he led Ole Miss to 21 points in just over a half of play.
Even though his first start resulted in a loss, Ta’amu completed 20 of 30 passes for 368 yards. He rushed for 76 more and two scores in a 38-37 thriller. Regardless, Ta’amu showed he can handle being a starter in the SEC.
In five and a half appearances in 2017, Ta’amu threw for 1,682 yards, 11 touchdowns to only four interceptions and rushed for 165 and four additional scores. Now, was that against Ole Miss’ toughest competition? No, because the best team he played was Mississippi State. However, keep in mind, those statistics were put up against five SEC defenses.
With a full offseason prepping as the starter, Ta’amu should finally step out of the shadows. He’s is already on his way out of Patterson’s shadow. But that isn’t the only shadow he’s trying to escape.
Growing up Pearl City, Hawaii, he, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton — all fellow Hawaiians — starred as high schoolers. Tagovailoa and Milton are both receiving considerable preseason hype, while Ta’amu is not. OIe Miss receiver A.J. Brown wants people to know that Ta’amu can ball. Brown reportedly said that he knew the Rebels had something special in the senior quarterback when he was immediately thrown in against LSU.
“We knew he had the arm talent but we really wanted to see him in the game, see how he would adjust to everything, the atmosphere, everything,” Brown said last week in a video posted by The Daily Journal’s Parrish Alford. “We wanted to see him after he gets hit hard, see how he’d respond to it because we feed off his energy.”
“That LSU game, he came in and moved us down the field real fast. I was like, ‘(Is) That Jordan? Okay, okay, we got a baller on our hands.’ He’s just kept going from there.”
Ta’amu is an unique talent. He is able to gash defense on the ground and through the air. Add that with Brown and fellow receivers D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge, Ta’amu could make Ole Miss’ offense a threat in the SEC West.
Despite the second year of a postseason ban looming, Ta’amu gives Rebel fans something to look forward to watching in 2018. Maybe he can help the team make some offensive noise, potentially ruining seasons for their SEC rivals.
Since Ole Miss’ Egg Bowl win over Mississippi State, Ta’amu reportedly said his goal was to become a more complete leader. Be smarter with the ball, making smart decisions — which he did, as he only tossed four interceptions, and to put the ball in the right place for potentially the best receiver group in the country.
Ta’amu proved he could be the leader the Rebels needed last year under trying circumstances. With Hugh Freeze’s departure in July, Luke’s interim status as the head coach and Patterson’s season-ending injury. With a full offseason as the expected starter, Ta’amu should be better than he was in 2017. Not only that, but he should become the third key that continues the Hawaiian takeover of college football at quarterback.
Jordan Ta’amu is ready to let the world know that he — like Brown said —is a baller and deserves the spotlight.