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Digging in: Veteran Jarrett Patterson leads Irish’s inexperienced offensive line

| Friday, September 17, 2021

Jarrett Patterson has been a force to be reckoned with for opposing defenses since his arrival in South Bend. He saw action in three games his freshman year and would have an immediate impact on the team in his sophomore season. He has always filled big shoes on an offensive line that for the past few years has been notoriously impressive, but now the senior offensive lineman is filling in a different role. 

In his sophomore campaign, Patterson would start every game at center. He was surrounded by NFL talent, filling in a line with Miami Dolphins starter Liam Eichenberg, the Bucs’ Robert Hainsey, Detroit’s Tommy Kraemer and the 49ers’ Aaron Banks; now, Patterson is the only returning member of that star-studded position group.

The Irish finished the 2019 season ranked 13th in scoring offense, averaging 36.8 points per game. Patterson did not allow a sack and gave up only two QB hits on 854 offensive snaps played in 2019, and he ranked in the nation’s top 20 centers with an offensive grade of 74.2, per Pro Football Focus.

Patterson would only progress alongside this line corps in his junior season and he would help to establish a long-needed and heavily desired run game for the Irish. After the season opener against Duke in 2020, the Irish ranked first in the ACC while they still played in the conference, and 11th among all FBS teams in tackles for loss allowed. They were awarded Pro Football Focus’ offensive line of the week in both this game and the next, which saw a 52-0 blowout over South Florida. He would also start in the win over then-No. 1 Clemson that saw the offensive live carve 518 yards of total offense into the top-ranked Tigers defense. Unfortunately, Patterson would miss the last four games of the 2020 season with a left foot injury. 

With Patterson being the only true veteran returning on the Irish line, more pressure has been put on his shoulders. The line has already shown a stark contrast to their performance last year. Through two games last year the line had given up 3 sacks and 8 tackles for loss against Duke and South Florida; this year Notre Dame has already surrendered 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss against Florida State and Toledo. To make matters worse, the line is slowly dissolving as third-string sophomore Tosh Baker might get the start against the Boilermakers this weekend after freshman starting left tackle Blake Fisher got injured in the opener against Florida State and his backup, sophomore Michael Carmody, went down against Toledo. Though their backs are up against the wall, Patterson is not shying down from leading this group. 

“We definitely have some younger guys in key positions, but we have a lot of good football players and a lot of really good senior leadership as well on the offensive side of the ball,” Patterson said in a press conference Tuesday. “So really it’s just every day coming out and trying to get one percent better. I think that’s what the mindset needs to be for everyone on the team.”

Although this group certainly has a lot of pressure on them for the moment, they have the full support of everyone up and down the roster to navigate through to find their identity. Graduate student quarterback Jack Coan explained where he thought the line, headed by Patterson, was at. 

 “I think they’re doing an unbelievable job,” Coan said Tuesday. “I mean, they’re truly working as hard as any unit in the country right now. I know they wanna get better, just like I want to get better too. I think they are right where they should be right now, so I have total confidence in them with everything.”  

Patterson has the responsibility to head the charge for this Notre Dame offensive line, and he will be up against the strongest test he and his team has faced this season as they will see how they stack up against a Purdue Boilermakers squad searching for an upset on the road.

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About Jimmy Ward

Jimmy is a senior at Holy Cross College, where he studies English and sports management. He is originally from Westfield, Indiana. Currently, Jimmy serves as an associate sports editor at The Observer. You can find him at @jimmyyward on Twitter.

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