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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 Notre Dame at Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 13: Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson (55) during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Virginia Cavaliers on November 13, 2021, at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA (Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Listed measurements: 6-foot-4 ½, 307 pounds.2022-23 year, eligibility: A fifth-year veteran, Patterson technically has two seasons of eligibility remaining, but do not expect him to use the last of those.Depth Chart: Patterson will start for Notre Dame this fall. That much is certain. The most likely scenario remains a fourth year starting at center, but it is possible Patterson moves to left guard.Recruiting: Former Irish offensive line coach Jeff Quinn made Patterson his first focus. The three-star prospect had been a longtime Arizona State commit, but then reopened his recruitment and narrowed it down to Notre Dame and UCLA, choosing the Irish just before National Signing Day.

Patterson preserved a year of eligibility in 2018 before taking over as the starting center in 2019. Recruited as a tackle, moving him to center was an avenue to get the best five linemen on the field, always a focus at Notre Dame and doubly so now with Harry Hiestand returned as the offensive line coach.

Patterson excelled in 2019 before playing even better in 2020, not giving up a single sack in 536 snaps in eight games before a broken foot cut short his season.

2018: 3 games.2019: 13 games, 13 starts.2020: 8 games, 8 starts.2021: 13 games, 13 starts, captainship.

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Patterson’s torn pectoral that cost him this spring can be seen as a concerning loss, but there is every expectation he is fully healthy before preseason practices, at which point the injury may have even given Notre Dame a silver lining in in that it forced experimentation in the spring.

Regardless, it should not be viewed as problematic for Patterson’s long-term health. Missing this spring and the end of the 2020 season with entirely unrelated injuries does not make him injury-prone, though that was his biggest concern in returning to college for 2022 rather than jumping into the NFL draft.

“For me, a big concern was risk of injury because I had a serious one [in 2020], but putting it in perspective, it’s such a small freak thing that happened,” Patterson said in January. “Once I reached certainty and thought of other great O-linemen that came back for a fifth year here, I kind of knew that was the best thing for me to do.”

Patterson’s personal intention is to develop enough this season to be a clear starter from the outset of his NFL career.

“Just being more consistent, a dominant player on a consistent basis,” he said. “I showed flashes of that and had it, but just doing it all the time now and kind of reinforce the other guys in the group and the rest of the offense. That’s the next step I need to take.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same …

“Notre Dame’s complete faith in Patterson allows it to remain uncertain where he will play in 2021. With him, the Irish offensive line was the best in the country last year. Without him, it was merely very good. Some of that ties to the chemistry needed for an offensive line to excel, but some of it was also simply that Patterson is that good.

“Creating that chemistry anew will mandate Notre Dame come to a decision early in August. If not the first week of preseason practices, no later than the second week.

“It seems most likely Patterson ends up at right guard, forming a veteran tandem with (Josh) Lugg on the right side and a mauling interior with junior center Zeke Correll. In that alignment, the Irish will be able to buy the younger left side some time to adjust to the collegiate game by leaning on the right side in the most critical of moments.

“But by season’s end, Patterson’s success will be best demonstrated by the entire line succeeding. Quinn has proven an ability to develop such a line; it is just a bit murkier this time around. …

“The universal pandemic eligibility waiver means Lugg has two years of eligibility remaining and Patterson has three. If Lugg wanted to return in 2022, Notre Dame would not turn down that luxury.

“In that instance, Patterson could start at guard for two seasons, prove himself as a four-year starter with NFL abilities and multi-positional flexibility, and head to the draft along with Lugg after the 2022 season.

“But if Lugg instead follows a more normal timeline and tries his hand in the NFL after this coming season, then Patterson could finally get his chance at his originally intended position, tackle.

“One way or another, Patterson provides the Irish unique flexibility.”

Patterson will start. Let’s be clear about that. He has been ahead of the recovery timeline on his injury since April. Diligence this summer should have him looking like he did not miss a beat by August.

The easiest choice will be to start the possible All-American at center, where he has started for three seasons with great success. Doing so will give Notre Dame a known, trusted commodity at the pivot of its offense.

One would think the descriptor “returning starter” has a clear connotation, but preseason hype can misuse it a bit along the offensive line. Is sophomore right tackle Blake Fisher a returning starter because he started the season opener at left tackle and the Fiesta Bowl at right tackle? That may be a stretch. But even without Fisher, the Irish return four starters along their offensive line, and playing Patterson at center allows those four to be joined by Fisher.

Those five have 71 career starts. Leaning on that experience would be an easy choice to make, and a readily defensible one, at that. By no means should “easy” be misconstrued as “wrong.”

But Hiestand may get creative, hence the “easy” designation. If senior left guard Andrew Kristofic left Hiestand wanting this spring, then moving Patterson to left guard could create a better line in totality. (And the career starts along the starting line would actually rise to 72 by plugging in senior Zeke Correll at center.)

The choice essentially comes down to a math equation. Which is greater? Kristofic at left guard plus Patterson at center or Patterson at left guard plus Correll at center?

The thought remains a hypothetical until Patterson returns to the practice field. The only certainty is Patterson will start.

RELATED READING: Jarrett Patterson’s return gives Notre Dame four returning offensive line starters in 2022
Experience along Notre Dame’s offensive line lies in the eye of the beholder as Lugg, Patterson and Hiestand return
Center and captain Jarrett Patterson will miss spring practices with pectoral injury

Patterson so considered the NFL this winter, and likely would have been a mid-round draft pick, that it will be a shock if he does not take that leap after this season. He could work his way into second-round consideration under Hiestand’s tutelage.

Patterson wants to start in the NFL early on. If he is indeed at that level, he will not last long in the draft.

From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 89 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77* Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65* Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59* Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 57* Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing

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