Ohio State may be on their way to developing a new pipeline state. After years of ignoring it, due to a lack of talent, Ohio State landed their fourth commitment from Tennessee under Urban Meyer, as linebacker Kane Patterson announced his pledge to the Buckeyes on Twitter.
Patterson joining Master Teague III (2018), Max Wray (2018) and Jake Wray (2020, though he has since moved to Georgia after his commitment) is a big deal for more than just on the field reasons. It solidifies a trend we’d been seeing for the past year or so; Ohio State is starting to pay attention to The Volunteer State. This is happening for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the state is starting to produce far more talent. For years, Tennessee produced one or two blue-chip prospects, and generally, they were essentially a lock to UT. That hasn’t been the case in the past couple years, and that leads me to the second reason. To put it frankly, Tennessee is not the program it used to be.
As the Volunteers struggle, Urban Meyer is flourishing, and may continue to do so, as Ohio State is still looking at Tennessee natives Cormontae Hamilton and Trey Knox in the 2019 class. They may look to add even more in 2020, as top talent like Reggie Grimes and Chris Morris express interest in the Buckeyes.
Focusing back on Patterson, what does the Nashville linebacker bring to Ohio State?
On the field
Patterson is a familiar kind of linebacker for Buckeye fans. Just like many linebackers that have headed to Columbus under Meyer (and Schiano), Patterson is an elite athlete, a hard hitter, and he looks like he could play any position on the field. For his high school, he pretty much does, lining up at running back and linebackers primarily, but doing a bunch of pass rushing, man coverage and run stuffing as well.
Essentially, Patterson is a hybrid linebacker, and that’s exactly what Ohio State wants. At 6-foot-1, 212 pounds, he’s a bit of a tweener between middle and outside linebacker, but his speed and pass rushing acumen lead me to believe he’ll end up on the outside at the next level.
That pass rushing ability may be the most impressive part of Patterson’s game. He plays with the kind of aggressiveness, speed, and reckless abandon that you love to see from a linebacker. His highlight film is filled with him blowing through the line and disrupting the play, either with a sack or by forcing the quarterback to throw before he was ready to.
That’s exactly what Ohio State wants from their linebackers when rushing the quarterback, and Patterson’s play style is not dissimilar from Darron Lee’s, or more recently, Jerome Baker’s. That speed and athleticism also makes Patterson an asset when stopping the run. He’s able to get to his gaps quickly, and is strong enough to stuff backs consistently.
The main things Patterson will need to focus on improving at the next level juxtapose each other a bit. Firstly, 212 pounds isn’t big enough to play linebacker at Ohio State. If the past is any indication, the Buckeyes will likely look to get him up to 230 before he sees the field. Secondly, he needs to work on his zone coverage skills.
He doesn’t seem very comfortable against the pass, and seems to get a bit lost when he’s not able to play downhill or aggressively. He likes to hit, and can make some big plays in the middle of the field against the pass, but he’ll have to improve his technique and ability to read the offense at the next level.
In the class
Patterson is the 14th member of Ohio State’s 2019 class. He’s the third and likely final linebacker, along with Craig Young and Cade Stover. All three players are pretty similar, and this commitment just furthers the idea of what Ohio State wants at linebacker. The future of this group is basically positionless, and filled with athletes, rather than traditional linebackers.
Patterson’s commitment moves Ohio State up to sixth in the country, just barely behind Michigan for the top spot in the Big Ten. I expect this class to finish with 23 or 24 commitments, so we’ll likely see about 10 more commitments before or on Signing Day next February.
Patterson picked Ohio State over 27 other offers, from some of the best programs in the country. This recruitment was down to Ohio State, Alabama, Tennessee, and to an extent, Texas A&M, but Ohio State has led for a while. The Buckeyes jumped to the top of his list when they offered in January, and despite visits to each of his other three finalists, Ohio State never really fell out of the top spot.
His visit to Ohio State on June 14, paired with a constant effort from Schiano, Tony Alford and Bill Davis were enough to seal the deal. You can watch Patterson’s highlights below, and read his commitment piece here.