Patchan tries out new spot
Injury-plagued DL getting reps at tight end
CORAL GABLES — In his time at Miami, Scott Patchan has dealt with multiple injuries. He’s spent time on the scout team.
Now, the redshirt sophomore could be taking the first steps toward a position change that will, he hopes, give him more of the playing time that has been elusive for him as a Hurricane.
Patchan, who was a fourstar defensive end coming out of Bradenton’s IMG Academy, has played exclusively on defense at Miami. But ahead of the 18th-ranked Hurricanes opener on Saturday against Bethune-Cookman, Patchan has been spending some practice time at tight end.
Considering Miami’s lack of depth at the position — and its surplus of talent on the defensive line — the move is one that could benefit both Patchan and the Hurricanes. That’s why Hurricanes coach Mark Richt said Patchan approached his coaches about potentially making the move to offense. It’s part of the reason why Patchan approached Miami offensive lineman Kc McDermott to discuss the move initially.
That said, the Hurricanes don’t expect Patchan to line up offensively this week against the Wildcats.
“I would say there’s a greater chance of him playing defense than offense,” Richt said. “He knows more about our defense than he knows about our offense right now.
Added defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski with a smile, “Let’s call him a dual threat.”
Patchan, the son of twotime national champion Hurricane Matt Patchan, hasn’t seen significant playing time in more than two years. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first game of his senior season in high school in 2014. He suffered another knee injury during spring practice last year.
The hope after that was that extensive rehab work would get him on the field at some point during last season, but that only brought further frustration. Patchan missed the first four games on Miami’s 2016 schedule and after appearing briefly in the fifth — against Florida State — he was hurt again.
“I probably pushed myself. I probably shouldn’t have been in that game. I was medically cleared, and I was just so excited I pushed myself [to play],” Patchan said earlier this month. “I don’t think the coaches weren’t going to let me not play in that game because I pushed myself really hard. But after that, it was a minor setback. Tweaked it a little bit. Nonetheless, I worked hard, did whatever they asked me to do and it’s been a little long, but I’m finally feeling great now and getting my roots in the ground.”
Those roots could now mean a new position and so far, indications are that Patchan is eager to give tight end a try, especially with David Njoku in the NFL and Miami facing questions at the position behind starter Chris Herndon. Reserve Michael Irvin II has dealt with dehydration issues during camp and while he was out, only freshman Brian Polendey and walk-on Malik Curry saw time behind Herndon.
“He was doing good. He was doing real good [at defensive end]. It’s just a lot of guys there,” Kuligowski said. “We had some injuries and guys leaving tight end and he’s an athletic, skilled enough guy to help us in a couple different positions. He’s a selfless player and asked to move over there.”
Patchan’s 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame would be an asset at tight end, but whether he can catch passes there remains a question. On Wednesday, that question elicited a jovial smirk from McDermott, but Richt noted Patchan caught a handful of passes and didn’t look too out of place with the offense.
“The little swing passes we do and things like that, he did a really nice job,” Richt said. “He wasn’t fighting the ball. I would say he’s got good hands. He has to get used to catching the ball as you’re moving. It’s just such a different sensation.”
Mark Walton, who lost his mother earlier this year, says Saturday’s game will be an emotional one for him — his first without her.