The good news on the re-recruitment front for Notre Dame continued on Sunday when starting center Jarrett Patterson announced his return for his senior season. With his return, the Irish now return five players who started games for the Irish in 2021 and are poised to have one of the best offensive lines in all of college football.
Coming into the season, it felt like a forgone conclusion that Patterson would leave for the NFL after the season. 2021 was his third year in the starting lineup, he’d have his degree, and it felt like there wouldn’t be much to be gained for him. When the Irish line struggled at the start of the season, though, Patterson couldn’t stand out as much with the rest of the line around him crumbling at times. However, the return of Harry Hiestand, who developed four 1st round picks at Notre Dame between 2012-2017, and the chance to improve his draft stock appears to have pushed Patterson back.
During the 2020 season, Patterson looked like one of the best centers in the country before a late-season injury ended his season prematurely. Notre Dame fans found out just how vital a great center was for an OL with Patterson out for the ACC Championship and Rose Bowl.
Harry Hiestand Returns to Stacked Line
On Friday, we learned that Notre Dame was bringing back Harry Hiestand for a second stint to coach the Irish offensive line. When he officially walks through the door to the Gug, he steps into a loaded offensive line room now. For all the consternation over Jeff Quinn‘s tenure as OL coach, he recruited the hell out of the position and left Hiestand with a war chest of talent to work with.
With Patterson back, not only does Notre Dame return one of its 2021 captains, it returns five linemen who were starters for the Irish in 2021, even if the five didn’t all play together at the same time. Patterson is the lone returning lineman to start every game in 2021, but Joe Alt and Andrew Kristofic took over starting spots in the middle of the year and didn’t look back. Blake Fisher started and ended the year as a starter but missed 11 games in between due to injury. Josh Lugg, who announced his return for a 6th year last week, started the first 12 games at right tackle before missing the Fiesta Bowl due to injury.
How Hiestand chooses to align his line will be fascinating. Who gets the nod at left tackle between Alt and Fisher? You’d assume that Lugg moves back to guard and battles for a starting spot with Rocco Spindler, but could that be a three-way battle with Kristofic as well? The only lock right now is Patterson at center.
However Hiestand configures the line, Notre Dame is set to have one of the best offensive lines in college football. Between the experience returning and the star power from Patterson, Fisher, and Alt combined with the coaching of Hiestand, the recipe is there for a dominant offensive line in 2022.
Notre Dame Winning Their Re-Recruitments
Patterson’s return is another key re-recruitment win for Notre Dame in the last week. So far, only Kevin Austin would be classified as a loss for the staff. Every other player that Notre Dame was hopeful would return has, with Patterson and Isaiah Foskey being the most significant wins. Both would have been drafted for sure – so too would have Jayson Ademilola – but both can also elevate their draft status into early-round status with strong 2022 seasons.