Notre Dame will be without the literal and figurative center of its offensive line for at least this spring. Fifth-year center Jarrett Patterson reportedly tore a pectoral in the weight room this week, per multiple Saturday morning reports.
Patterson somewhat surprisingly returned to South Bend for a fifth season, becoming the fourth starter to return for the 2022 year. His stated motivation was to become an immediate NFL starter under returning offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s tutelage.
“I want to be ready Day One on the next level to be a starter,” Patterson said in January. “I wasn’t in a rush to go to the next level. I know there are things in my game I need to work on to get there.”
Those things will now need to wait. Notre Dame expects Patterson to be 100 percent healthy before the Irish face Ohio State on Sept. 3, but he will miss at least all of spring practices.
Notre Dame has been dangerously shallow at center the last few seasons, entirely dependent on Patterson, himself a (successfully) converted tackle prospect. When he suffered a foot injury late in the 2020 season, Zeke Correll and Josh Lugg both got starts at center, Correll the better technician but Lugg significantly larger.
Lugg spent 2021 at right tackle and is expected to move to right guard this spring. Correll spent 2021 at left guard, starting there until Andrew Kristofic rose above him. Kristofic, a rising senior, has worked at center in practices in the past, as well. But none of them have spent significant time in the last 12 months focused on the position, because of Patterson’s consistency.
Rising sophomore Pat Coogan was penciled in as the backup center.
This wondering becomes moot if Patterson is able to get up to full-speed and full-strength by September, but if that timeline lengthens at all, how Hiestand juggles the line will immediately become one of the biggest pieces of preseason intrigue.
With Patterson, Notre Dame returns 79 starts along the offensive line. Without the three-year starter, that falls to 45.