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Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman

Jarrett Patterson

Listed measurements: 6-foot-4 ½, 305 pounds.2021-22 year, eligibility: A senior, Patterson has three seasons of eligibility remaining.Depth Chart: Once recovered from a Lisfranc injury in his left foot, Patterson will start on Notre Dame’s offensive line, though where is not yet firmly established. Regardless, he is the best offensive lineman on the roster; starting is not a question of if, but only of where.Recruiting: A three-star prospect and longtime Arizona State commit, Irish offensive line coach Jeff Quinn made Patterson a priority when he moved into the assistant coaching role (previously an offensive analyst). Once Patterson reopened his recruitment, it came down to Notre Dame and UCLA on National Signing Day, a decision he made just the night before, much to Quinn’s joy.

To that point, and for a good bit afterward, Quinn’s promotion had been widely criticized. Pulling in Patterson was the first sign those concerns were misguided, a sign only strengthened as Patterson became a multi-year starter, proving not only Quinn’s recruitment was sound, but also his evaluation.

Quinn sought Patterson as a future tackle, but he moved to center as a sophomore in an attempt to get the five best offensive linemen on the field, a strategy that paid undeniable dividends. With Patterson at the pivot, the Irish had a group that has already produced three NFL draft picks and a fourth NFL signee, only Patterson still remaining at the collegiate level.

After starting all 13 games in 2019, Patterson started the first eight in 2020 before suffering the foot injury. To date, he has not given up a sack.

That foot injury kept Patterson entirely sidelined this spring, a complicating factor for Notre Dame as it figures out how to replace four offensive line starters but also an opportunity to get more players chances to impress in that process. The Irish know Patterson will reenter the lineup once healthy. Where may depend on those other players.

Food. It always comes back to food.

Throughout spring practices, Quinn and head coach Brian Kelly tinkered with offensive line permutations, giving every pertinent player a chance with the first team. From the outside, the assumption all winter was Patterson would be the de facto left tackle, but early-enrolled freshman Blake Fisher and sophomore Tosh Baker proved so adept at the position, the idea of Patterson then moved to right tackle.

But fifth-year Josh Lugg prefers to play at tackle rather than guard, and Notre Dame may feel he is at his best there. So then the idea of Patterson moved to right guard …

The point is, even after spring practice, Kelly was not sure where his most experienced and best offensive lineman would end up.

“So, as I sit here right now and answer the question, it’s a question, we ask it every day,” Kelly said after the Blue-Gold Game. “As we watch this film, we’ll continue to ask the question, ‘Where does Jarrett Patterson play? Is he a tackle? Is he a guard? Is he a center?’ All those things get to be determined as we kind of put this offensive line together.”

WHAT WAS SAID TWO YEARS AGO“Will Patterson spend four years at center? Possibly, but not certainly. For one thing, early-enrolled freshman Zeke Correll was recruited specifically to work at center. Asking him to bide his time for four seasons feels like a misappropriation of resources. Furthermore, the Irish will need two tackles and a guard in two years. Moving an experienced Patterson to one of those spots and sliding a grown Correll into the middle could serve to develop the line best as possible in 2021.

“Either situation is reasonable: Patterson becomes a career center, or he develops into a tackle. Forecasting two years ahead becomes difficult when this position switch was so unexpected just a few months ago.”

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 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.

DOWN THE ROADThe 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.

Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle

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