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Notre Dame Football

Offensive Line Notebook: Patterson’s Transition to Guard, Establishing Bonds

August 11, 2022
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Jarrett Patterson suffered a torn pectoral muscle in March. The injury required surgery and forced Notre Dame’s longtime starting center to sit out the spring.

Instead, he watched spring ball from the sidelines and saw senior offensive lineman Zeke Correll excel at the center position throughout the team’s 15 allotted on-field practices.

Correll played so well that, by the Blue-Gold Game, Patterson saw the writing on the wall. After three seasons as Notre Dame’s starting center, he would be asked to move to guard.

Shortly thereafter, his prognostication came true. 

“I met with all the coaches, and they brought up the idea,” Patterson said. “I said, 'yeah, let’s do it. I want the best five guys out there to help win football games. If me moving positions means we'll have the best five out there, then that's what I'll do.”

Patterson also understood the high value that NFL scouts and front office personnel place on position flexibility among offensive linemen, but he still viewed the move as a risk.

In his first four seasons in South Bend, he only played center or tackle. To him, playing guard was a foreign concept. 

Plus, he missed valuable practice reps that spring.

“When it comes to footwork and punching and things like that, I wasn't sure how it would go,” Patterson said. 

Over the summer, Patterson returned to the basics, refining his technique every chance he could with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.

“Every day during summer we're doing drills after lifts and runs together and really just working the basic fundamentals,” Patterson said. “It really prepared me for the first day, and it was a smoother transition than I honestly thought it was going to be.”

For Hiestand, it seems such a smooth transition was always expected. When requesting that Patterson make the move to guard, he had “zero concerns.”

“He’s a very good athlete, a very good football player,” Hiestand said. “He’s smart, he’s tough and he’s strong. And now he’s not snapping the ball.”

It’s still early, but thus far, Patterson's offseason gamble seems like it will pay off. 

Building Chemistry

This fall, Patterson will be one of the two most experienced players on Notre Dame’s offensive line. The other will be Josh Lugg, who’s heading into his sixth and final season in South Bend.  

Patterson and Lugg are projected to start at left and right guard, respectively. That means each will line up to the inside shoulder of a young-yet-uber-talented sophomore in left tackle Joe Alt and right tackle Blake Fisher. 

For the offensive line to take a leap in 2022, it will be key for each guard-tackle pair to develop chemistry and strong communication skills. The work to do so is already underway. 

During practice on Thursday, Hiestand ran drills where the offensive lineman work on combo blocks that finished in the second level of the defense. 

“It's going great so far,” Patterson said. “I'm still getting a couple of things down. But so far working with [Alt] is great. He sees a lot of things on the perimeter, and it helps us out who side. That's the biggest thing. We talked about this last year, Joe's communication is going to be huge for us this season.”

The guard-tackle duos are also putting in work off the field to further strengthen their connection. 

“Even though our whole offensive line is close, I never really started bonding with Blake until this spring,” Lugg said. “Blake and I've gotten very, very close. It's only helped our play, even from day one of camp to now out there now. 

“We're not roommates in the hotel, but I'll go to his room or he'll come to mine. [We're building a] connection by talking and watching film together. You start seeing things together through one set of eyes. Then you see that translate on the field.”

The Future of O-line U

As sophomores, Fisher and Alt will return to Notre Dame in 2023, but Patterson and Lugg will exit the Notre Dame program this January.

Fortunately, for Hiestand, the cupboard is far from bare, even if the gruff-sounding offensive line coach is unwilling to single out anyone as a future star.

“There’s really nobody stepping out above anybody,” Hiestand said, “but there also hasn’t been any disappointments as far as ‘Geez, he’s not playing close to what he’s capable of.’”

He says he likes the play of senior offensive guard Andrew Kristofic and junior offensive lineman Michael Carmody, who is banged up and sat out of Thursday’s practice. Junior offensive tackle Tosh Baker has progressed well since the spring, while sophomore guard Rocco Spindler is playing more aggressively.

Freshman Billy Schrauth sat out the spring due to an injury. He’s just getting his feet wet running a college offense, which can be a bit overwhelming for young linemen.

“His head is spinning,” Hiestand said. “We’re still putting plays in, and he’s trying to figure out the snap count. But he’ll eventually get there.”

Hiestand says as fall camp progresses, they’ll spend more time repeating plays rather than constantly installing new ones. Once that happens, he expects young players like Schrauth to perform better. 

Unfortunately, the future of the offensive line did take a hit this offseason. 

At the start of fall camp, Notre Dame announced that talented freshman offensive lineman Joey Tanona has medically retired from football at Notre Dame. He is no longer eligible to be on the roster. 

“It’s just unfortunate. What can you say? You just wish him luck,” Hiestand said. “He’s a wonderful young man and [comes from] a great family. [He’ll] go on and try to achieve what he’s capable of achieving and be the best at whatever you end up doing. He’s a helluva kid. It’s sad.”

 
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