Kendall Patterson has grown accustomed to change throughout his University at Buffalo career. He came to UB as a heavily recruited 280-pound nose tackle and now he’s a 245-pound part-time H-back, part-time fullback who is learning how to run routes and catch passes.
But there are days when Patterson’s mind wanders to the other side of the ball.
“I do miss defense,” he said. “I miss that aggressiveness on defense and that defensive mentality, but some of those aspects of the game transfer over to fullback. You just have to think a lot more.”
Indeed UB’s fullbacks will be asked to do more than create space for the tailbacks as the position is incorporated into the passing game. With senior Boomer Brock (Iroquois) limited this spring with a knee injury Patterson, a 6-foot junior, has played well. So has Glynn Molinich, a 5-11, 232-pound redshirt freshman from Pittsford.
“When Boomer comes back, we’re going to have some extraordinary depth at fullback for a change, and it should help our football team quite a bit,” UB running backs coach Matt Simon said.
When Brock suffered a season-ending knee injury last season, Patterson moved from nose guard to fullback.
“It’s cool to see how sometimes you get a kid that’s playing a position and then you find out his opportunities could be increased significantly if he looked at switching a spot and that’s what we did with him,” Bulls coach Jeff Quinn said. “When Boomer went down, we were hurting a little bit and we needed a little bit more depth and he’s really come on.”
Said Patterson: “The thing that helped me out was I understood defenses really well. I could make my keys and locate the guy that I’m supposed to block.”
A product of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., Patterson was offered scholarships by UB, South Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan State and North Carolina State among others. He planned to visit South Florida and was considering visits to Michigan State, UCF, UCLA and Michigan before committing to the Bulls in January 2011. He was rated a three-star recruit by both Rivals.com and Scout.com.
“I came in thinking I was going to play as a true freshman,” Patterson said. “I came here to play.”
But once Patterson arrived at UB, there were more experienced players at nose tackle and torn ligaments in his left hand set him back even further.
“That took a toll on me mentally,” he said.
He redshirted as a freshman in 2011 when Richie Smith held the position, then watched behind junior college transfer Wyatt Cahill and Kristjan Sokoli a season later. During Patterson’s sophomore season a year ago, Sokoli won the job. When Brock went down with a season-ending knee injury, Patterson was asked to change positions.
“When the opportunity came to switch sides of the ball, I hopped right on it because it got me to the field faster,” he said. “I had some prior work at fullback in high school. In high school you’re just running over guys. You’re bigger than everyone else and you bully people.”
The system certainly wasn’t as complex as what the UB staff expects. The fullbacks will be part of the passing game more this season and they must learn the routes and route combinations.
“We’re not just blocking anymore,” Patterson said.
During 7-on-7 drills on Wednesday, Patterson dropped a pass and a play later lined up on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage.
“I was thinking too much,” he said. “It’s a lot more mental for the fullback position this year.”
But Patterson is adjusting.
“I’ve kind of adapted to the fullback lifestyle,” Patterson said.
Senior linebacker/safety Adam Redden was among several Bulls who didn’t practice on Thursday, although the others worked out on the sideline while Redden watched. Quinn, who didn’t disclose Redden’s injury, said Redden will return Friday afternoon when the Bulls resume practice at UB Stadium.
Others who didn’t participate were Brock, quarterback Joe Licata, right guard Dillon Guy, linebacker Brandon Tammaro, offensive lineman Dan Collura, defensive linemen Zach Smekal, tailback Joe Schillace and long snapper Corbin Grassman.