Rutgers returns playmaker to receiver group
When safeties were rolling over to double cover junior wide receiver Leonte Carroo, sophomore Andre Patton could do nothing but watch.
While sophomore John Tsimis was scoring the first touchdowns of his career, all Patton could do was congratulate him.
When sophomore Janarion Grant was making the transition from a key special teams player to receiver, all the injured receiver could do was give advice and help him any way he could.
Now that he is finally cleared to play, all Patton can do is finish the week of practice and work to earn back the co-starter role he won in training camp and spring ball.
Before last week, when he was able to run around, Patton was only able to do better off the practice field after sustaining an injury in training camp’s second scrimmage.
Head coach Kyle Flood described the injury as a freak accident when he dove for the ball and landed on it while catching a touchdown.
“No, I shouldn’t have any problems transitioning back into the offense,” Patton said. “I still went to meetings. I still made sure I knew everything and made sure I was on top of everything. All I could do was watch film, watch the team and correct the other guys, making sure they did their job. That was basically my main job.”
But Patton’s return didn’t come a moment too soon.
With the loss of arguably the offense’s main weapon in junior running back Paul James, Patton couldn’t have returned at a more perfect time.
At least according to Carroo, who appreciates his return in more ways than one.
“It means a lot to have him back as another playmaker. What he does is just great, and now, [senior quarterback] Gary [Nova] has different options and gives different looks,” Carroo said. “It will open up a lot. I always have a safety rolling to me, but now with Andre back, maybe things will change.”
Patton also feels he can make an impact on offense.
Whether it’s adding another weapon for Nova or allowing Carroo to get open, Patton is up for the challenge.
“I definitely feel like I can open the space for Gary. I can be another target for him,” Patton said. “Going into games, a lot of teams focus more on Leonte because he has such a big name and he does a lot. So I feel like I can definitely open that up.”
Last season, Patton played in 11 games — starting in two — while making appearances on special teams and at wide receiver as a true freshman.
While Patton managed to play effectively in the few snaps he played as receiver, scoring a touchdown as one of his three catches, senior fullback Michael Burton said he has seen improvement since then.
“He’s a guy who’s shown he can do it, last year and in practice,” Burton said. “It’s obviously great to have him back and in the mix. I’m sure he is going to help us out.”
Patton expressed a little frustration in being injured and missing time and knows he is going to have to work to get back in the mix.
Just because Patton is listed as probable to play Saturday against Tulane doesn’t mean he is necessarily going to start outright or even play all that much.
Tsimis, Grant, Carroo, sophomore Carlton Agudosi and senior Andrew Turzilli have all played snaps in the first four games of the season.
Still, Patton expressed a need to find his way back in.
“It was definitely disappointing, but right now, I feel we had people take my position,” Patton said. “They stepped up to the job, and now, I’m just trying to get back and work back into it. I have to get a little [rust off], keep running to keep my conditioning up and get back into the motions.”
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