Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football’s 25 Most Important Players: No. 13, Center Jarrett Patterson
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Notre Dame’s 25 Most Important Players: No. 13, Jarrett Patterson

Throughout July, BlueandGold.com is counting down the 25 most pivotal figures whom Notre Dame will rely on to get back to the College Football Playoff in 2020.

This is not necessarily about who is the best player or the top pro prospect. It’s more along the lines of individuals who need to either emerge, remain a centerpiece or significantly elevate their production to facilitate the Fighting Irish goal of climbing toward championship timber.

Much is based on talent and impact, but a premium is also placed on these questions: 1) If you subtracted this individual from the roster, how much of a setback would it be? 2) If this less proven player emerges and makes an impact, how much does that raise the ceiling (or lower it, if a breakout does not happen as expected)? The players and their ranking were determined by vote from five BlueandGold.com writers.

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At No. 13 in the countdown is center Jarrett Patterson, who earned 59 points in our poll.

Why Patterson Is Ranked No. 13

A position that felt like a potential problem spot last winter never became one. Notre Dame had a hole at center heading into 2019, vacated by Sam Mustipher, and proven replacement candidates were nil. Early enrollee Zeke Correll and redshirt freshman Luke Jones were the designated centers and presumed front-runners.

Head coach Brian Kelly threw a curveball at the first 2019 spring practice, though, when he tossed Patterson out as the first-team center. Patterson was a high school left tackle who redshirted 2018 while working at that same spot, and the coaching staff decided it liked what it saw. But both tackle spots were blocked, and creativity was needed. The junior has stayed put at center ever since, bringing short- and long-term stability.

“It’s one of the things I said to these guys, ‘If you’re best five players are all tackles, two of them are going to have to play guard and one of them is going to have to learn to play center,’” offensive line coach Jeff Quinn said last August. “I said, ‘Jarrett, that’s you.’ He embraced it,” Quinn said. “One thing about Jarrett, he’s got such a positive attitude about the game himself and wanting to contribute to this football team.”

Patterson sure looked like one of Notre Dame’s five best linemen even as the starting unit’s most junior member. He allowed zero sacks and two quarterback hits in 497 pass-blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus. He picked up snapping with ease. Center became a strength for Notre Dame. PFF gave him a 76.0 pass blocking grade and 73.2 run blocking mark, both safely above average on its grading scale.

Patterson’s Status Entering The Season

There is nothing to suggest Patterson’s grip on his spot is anything but superglue firm after winning Notre Dame’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year award in 2019. Patterson has been healthy ever since assuming the starting job last spring.

Sixth man Josh Lugg has played inside and outside for Notre Dame, but he has seen the least amount of work at center. Lugg is the clear backup if there’s an injury elsewhere on the line. At center, though, it’d be Correll — recruited specifically for this spot — or former walk-on Colin Grunhard.

Given how easily Patterson replaced Mustipher and Correll’s top-150 status, an injury to Patterson would be survivable. But Patterson earned a top-15 spot here because he’s one of the more consistent parts of an offensive line that is expected to have a big hand in Notre Dame’s offensive success in 2020. The five starters have been lauded all offseason as forming one of the nation’s best offensive lines.

Notre Dame junior center Jarrett Patterson
Patterson enters his second season as Notre Dame’s starting center. (Mike Miller)

What Would Be Considered A Successful Individual Season?

Patterson’s floor remains high because he rarely missed assignments, is athletic for the position and is a strong pass blocker, but he still has room for growth and can play himself from a nice college center into a clear draft prospect.

Consistency and execution aside, Patterson’s peaks as a run blocker were not as high as guards Aaron Banks’ or Tommy Kraemer’s best days. Those are two of Notre Dame’s most powerful linemen, and while they have had lows, they can move opponents at will when they’re in the right spot.

Patterson doesn’t have the same amount of power or finishing ability. Finding it would help Notre Dame’s line fulfill the expectations levied upon it. The entire line needs to be better in short-yardage situations and preventing run stuffs, and Patterson can do his part by adding some pounds and strength.

Behind The Ranking

The top 25 was determined in the same manner as the Associated Press poll. Five BlueandGold.com writers submitted their ballots, and each position on the ballot was given a point value. The top ranking was worth 25 points, No. 2 was worth 24, No. 3 worth 23 and so on down until No. 25, which was worth one point. The players with the 25 highest point totals made the list.

Individual rankings:

Patrick Engel: 12

Lou Somogyi: 6

Mike Singer: 20

Todd Burlage: not ranked

Andrew Mentock: 7

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Prior Top 25 Profiles

No. 14: Jafar Armstrong

No. 15: Nick McCloud

No. 16: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa

No. 17: Shaun Crawford

No. 18: Houston Griffith

No. 19: Lawrence Keys III

No. 20: Chris Tyree

No. 21: Aaron Banks

No. 22: Bennett Skowronek

No. 23: Tommy Kraemer

No. 24: Isaiah Pryor

No. 25: Kurt Hinish

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