Injured Notre Dame lineman Jarrett Patterson races the clock to face Ohio State
SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame captain and starting left guard Jarrett Patterson (sprained right foot) remains questionable for Saturday night’s opener at Ohio State, but was able to participate in portions of practice Tuesday and Wednesday.
The preseason All-America, who had been out since suffering the injury on Aug. 15 at Penn High School in Mishawaka, took some practice repetitions with the scout team, Irish coach Marcus Freeman said Thursday, as well as some team reps.
“We still have a good amount of time before Saturday evening,” Freeman said on a video teleconference with reporters. “We will revisit it … as we get to Saturday.”
Sophomore Tyler Buchner, set to make first college start at quarterback after appearances in 10 games last year, was asked what it would mean to the Irish in terms of inspiration and the on-field operation if Patterson could play.
“It would be great,” Buchner said Tuesday. “I’m not sure what his entire medical (prognosis) looks like, but he’s done a really good job with his preparation. I know when and if he goes into the game, he’ll do great.”
Patterson has started 34 of Notre Dame’s past 38 games at center, but he willingly made the move to left guard before the start of training camp. Andrew Kristofic, who started the final seven games at left guard in 2021, had been working in Patterson’s absence during practice periods open to the media.
Running back Logan Diggs (shoulder) and wide receiver Joe Wilkins Jr. (foot), who returned to full contact work ahead of schedule after April surgeries, were on track to play in the opener, Freeman said.
The same held for backup receiver Deion Colzie, who suffered a sprained PCL in his left knee early in camp.
Big moment for Zeke Correll
Cincinnati product Zeke Correll, a 308-pound junior who reclaimed a starting job while filling in for Patterson last spring, will make his first start at center since the 2020 College Football Playoff semifinal against Alabama.
Along with Buchner, making his first start since his junior season at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, Calif., Correll must make pre-snap protection calls against Ohio State’s new 4-2-5 hybrid scheme of coordinator Jim Knowles.
“We have the utmost confidence in (Correll),” Freeman said. “If we didn’t, he wouldn’t be out there with the starting group at center. I think he’s shown the ability to make the correct decisions, to execute his assignment versus multiple different looks we have given him and as he prepared for Ohio State. I expect him to do a heck of a job.”
Tyler Buchner's first start in 33 months
Buchner’s last start came on Nov. 29, 2019 on a rainy night at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, Calif.
Despite 636 total yards and eight touchdowns from Buchner alone, the Knights blew a 25-point halftime lead and lost 75-59 to Oceanside El Camino in the San Diego Division II Sectional.
The eighth-seeded Wildcats ended the game on a 39-point tear to hand Buchner’s top-seeded team, which entered 12-0, its only loss of the season.
Buchner, who transferred to San Diego’s Helix High School for a senior season that was wiped out statewide by COVID-10 restrictions, scored on five straight first-half carries en route to 350 rushing yards (on 18 carries). He went 20-of-47 passing for 286 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw a game-turning interception deep in his own territory.
His team trailing late by eight points, Buchner responded with a 73-yard touchdown run that was wiped out by a chop-block penalty. The rest of the Knights’ offense produced 35 yards, while Buchner personally outgained El Camino (611 yards).
Southwestern’s Chet DeVore Stadium, opened in 2014, boasts artificial turf and a seating capacity of 7,000.
Ohio Stadium, which has newly installed FieldTurf, is celebrating its centennial season along the Olentangy River and set its attendance record of 110,045 in 2016 against Michigan.
Where is his confidence level as he prepares to face the second-ranked Buckeyes before the largest crowd of his career?
“My personal confidence, I’d like to think that it doesn’t waver,” Buchner said. “I like to have the idea that my confidence will stay the same, no matter the external factors. But honestly, since spring ball, through camp until now, my confidence has just kind of gone like this: up and up. I feel like I’m in a good spot.”
Message to recruits
With recruiting rival Ohio State welcoming a record bounty of uncommitted 2024 recruits for Saturday’s game, Freeman was asked what message he hoped his team would project on the field in the opener.
“More important than anything, it’s about making sure this team is ready to go,” Freeman said. “Hopefully that’s something that’s attractable to these recruits. They go out there and they see a competitive, tough, disciplined football team. Then they have to figure out if this is something they want to be a part of.”
According to 247Sports Composite, Notre Dame has the top-ranked recruiting class early in the 2024 cycle. The Irish have slipped to fourth in the 2023 rankings with the early signing period set to open Dec. 21.
“We’ll get to that,” Freeman said after a busy start to the new recruiting period that opened at midnight Thursday. “But probably the strongest message is a good performance.”
Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for NDInsider.com and the South Bend Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino and on TikTok @mikeberardinoNDI.