Yesterday, Oregon Ducks fans received the devastating news that confirmed our worst fears; junior safety Avery Patterson is out for the year with an ACL tear. Patterson suffered the injury on Saturday in the victory against the California Golden Bears, after he went down hard on his knee trying to make a tackle on Cal’s star running back Isi Sofele.
The Ducks already saw one of their star safeties suffer a season-ending knee injury, and that was veteran All Pac-12 standout John Boyett. Many wondered if the Ducks could play well without him; let alone fully replace him.
But that’s exactly what Avery Patterson was able to do. He did something that was nearly impossible, and that was replacing Boyett and making the transition at the key rover safety position seamless. Patterson plays the run as well as any safety in college football, and he also played himself into All Pac-12 consideration. He has a nose for the ball, but mostly, a nose for the ball-carrier and did an excellent job filling the leadership void back there.
Now, the Ducks will have to face life without both of their star safeties, and it’s also testing their depth. Sensational running back De’Anthony Thomas will even be getting snaps in the secondary to fill in the lost depth, and Oregon will certainly be tested now that they are down to the third man back there.
Thomas should be able to succeed back there due to his athleticism, and the fact that he was coveted at CB coming out of high school as the top prospect in the west overall. However, you never want to send a sophomore back there to get back into a position that he hasn’t played in two years; let alone played at the collegiate level.
The loss of Patterson is actually greater than Boyett, and it is easy to see why. The drop-off between Boyett and Patterson isn’t as huge as the drop-off between Patterson and sophomore Erick Dargan at free safety. Dargan has a huge task ahead of him against the Stanford Cardinal, and it’s a good thing Stanford is much better at running the football than passing. That does mean Dargan will have to try and make up for the loss in run support in the secondary as best he can, especially since Patterson and Boyett were so good in that role.
Oregon might also be without the always reliable DTs Wade Keliikipi and Taylor Hart against Stanford, with the loss of the former being a devastating blow to the team’s run defense. Sadly, all the injuries (Kenjon Barner, Dion Jordan, Marcus Mariota, and other DTs are injured) mean that Oregon’s battle for a national championship has become an uphill one. At this point, they might not even be better than Kansas State due to injuries, with the loss of Patterson for the season being especially painful.
Let’s hope Patterson can make a full recovery heading into next season and continue to work his way into a solid draft grade.
When he cried on his way to the locker room, I almost lost it. I know most Ducks fans felt the same way as well. At that point, I think we all knew that Patterson was done for the year. And yet, I still can’t believe it.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.