Standing just 5'7", Daz'mond Patterson has the speed necessary to get on the field and break open games. Whether he is taking a pitch to the outside or catching the ball out of the backfield, Patterson has a gear that few skill players in the in the MAC can match. That speed, coupled with his size, allows Patterson to make runs and pop out of holes without the defender even having a chance make a tackle.
The problem so far is that Patterson's speed and obvious talent hasn't fully translated into touchdowns. In his three years as a Bobcat, Patterson has found the end zone a total of five times. This isn't entirely his fault - he spend his freshman year behind an all-time great Bobcat in Beau Blankenship, Ohio's offensive line play has been spotty the past two years and coach Frank Solich has also favored playing a group of running back as opposed to one - but Patterson has definite room to improve. Last season proved that.
A year ago, Patterson was set to succeed Blankenship and be the guy in Ohio's backfield. But in the Bobcats first game -- a 17-14 win at Kent State -- Patterson was pulled early after fumbling twice and allowed for A.J. Ouellette, then a walk-on freshman without a scholarship. A week later, with the Bobcats in Lexington taking on the Kentucky Wildcats, Patterson dropped a pass while wide open in space. Had he caught it, there's a chance he could have scored due to his speed.
These two games set the tone for Patterson's entire junior season. After Ouellette emerged against Kent State, Patterson became the No. 2 back as well as Ohio's primary return man. He finished the year with a career high 86 carries and had a career high rush of 49 yards, but his average yards per carry dropped to an even four after sitting above five during his first two years. Meanwhile, Ouellette emerged as Ohio's best offensive player and the focal point of Ohio's offense. Ouellette's role figures to only grow in his sophomore season and that means Patterson's role figures to be designed to compliment Ouellette's skills.
In all likelihood, this means Patterson will spend more time in the slot as a receiver. This is made all the more likelier when you consider Ohio's depth at running back. Aside from Ouellette and Patterson, sophomore Dorian Brown, redshirt freshman Papi White and redshirt freshman Maleek Irons all are arguably deserving of carries. And as last year showed, Solich isn't afraid to switch things up if a back ins't getting it done or is turning the ball over.
Patterson, however, is unquestionably one of Ohio's top two or three playmakers. Whether he's in the backfield - two-back sets where Patterson and Ouellette share the field or in the slot are rather intriguing - or in the slot, Patterson needs to be on the field for Ohio to be at its most dangerous. Aside from his speed, Patterson is an excellent pass blocker despite being much smaller than almost every defender he comes across.
Patterson, along with corner Devin Bass, will likely handle Ohio's returning duties. Even if the opportunities are few and far between, this is another way for Patterson to make an impact on the game with his speed. Punt returns in particular stand out as an area where Patterson can shine, as if Ohio is going make any noise in the MAC East, it'll be because their defense shuts opponents down. Patterson can make their lives easier to spring past the opposition en route to the end zone.
Scoring touchdowns, however they may come, will validate all of the talent Patterson has teased to date.