Notre Dame football received a bit of bad injury news on Monday when reports surfaced that starting center Jarrett Patterson injured his foot against Boston College and will miss the rest of the 2020 season. Patterson hurt the foot in the first quarter of the BC game, but still managed to finish the game. Afterward, though, tests revealed surgery is needed leaving Notre Dame with a huge hole to fill with three games left in the regular season.
Losing Patterson is a significant loss for the Irish offensive line that could be the best unit in the country through eight games in 2020. He has started the last 21 games at center for Notre Dame and has been a vital cog in an offensive line that has paved the way for a power rushing attack.
Notre Dame has three different options to fill the void left by Patterson’s absence:
- Redshirt freshmen Zeke Correll
- Senior Colin Grunhard
- Reshuffle the current line
Zeke Correll has been listed as the backup center all season long, but it’s not certain that he will just slide into the starting lineup. The former 4-star recruit was considered the best lineman in his recruiting class, but to date, he has played just 46 snaps. For a team with College Football Playoff aspirations, that is not an ideal situation.
Correll has a bright future for Notre Dame and some even felt that he could have challenged for the center spot last year before Patterson put a stranglehold on it in spring football.
Former walk-on Colin Grunhard played in seven games in 2019 giving him more experience than Correll. That said, Grunhard does not have as high of a ceiling as Correll.
If Notre Dame doesn’t go with Correll or Grunhard, they could shuffle around the line a bit. Both Robert Hainsey and Josh Lugg could potentially slide over to center. If Hainsey did, Lugg would take over the right tackle spot for Hainsey as he did in 2019 when Hainsey missed the final four games of the year. Lugg could potentially take over for Patterson as well.
Luckily for Notre Dame, they have a bye week for extra time to figure out what alignment they want to move forward with. Given how well the offensive line has played as a group this year, it would be best if Notre Dame could just plug in Correll or Lugg into the starting lineup so that they don’t impact multiple positions. The question is whether or not Correll is ready or if Lugg can handle playing center every down. We don’t know the answer to either right now.
While Notre Dame certainly has its eyes on the ultimate prize this year, getting Correll experience at the end of the season here would bode well for 2021. Notre Dame is going to be replacing at least three starters on the offensive line next year (four if Aaron Banks were to leave for the NFL as well). Correll figures to be a fixture in the line next fall.
Notre Dame has three games left in the regular season before a potential rematch with Clemson in the ACC Championship. North Carolina, Notre Dame’s next opponent, didn’t appear to have much of a defense in 59-53 shootout victory over Wake Forest last weekend so luckily the Irish won’t face a stout defense again until that potential Clemson rematch.