Even though Missouri’s preseason is two days old, quarterback Chase Patton has his hands full dealing with a faster game.
“(It is faster) all around. Just like the plays they put in, they put in a lot more than I’m used to in high school,” Patton said before Tuesday’s practice. “Then you get out there and the defense’s speed is different, a lot faster.
“The way that coach (Gary) Pinkel runs practice is real intense. You have to be on your toes for everything you do, so it’s awesome to get out there and work out with all those guys that are working just as hard as you. It’s been a lot of fun.”
After spending the spring practice period as a spectator because he had not finished his senior year at Rock Bridge High, Patton looked forward to the chance to join the Tigers on the field. Patton’s initiation to a Division I college football practice was evident Monday, for he committed some common freshman mistakes, including an interception in a 7-on-7 drill, some off-target passes and a fumbled snap.
Patton said despite the abundance of meetings and information coming at him, he isn’t worried about learning everything involved with becoming a successful quarterback for the Tigers.
“I know it’s a learning process,” Patton said. “It’s a lot coming at us at one time because they’re putting in the same kind of stuff in for us as they are the older guys.
“(Coach) admits it’s a lot to throw at us, but it’s the way you learn. It’s the way you learn fast. It’ll probably be pretty tough the first couple days, but I’m surprised how much I’ve already learned just from these first couple days.”
Patton finished his career at Rock Bridge as the 2003 Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year, passing for 2,622 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also led the Bruins to an 8-2 record and the North Central Missouri Conference title. His play attracted recruiters from Iowa, Tennessee, Kansas State and UCLA.
Patton, though, elected to stay in Columbia, drive up Providence Road and join the Tigers. Patton said the proximity to his home offers a foundation to build his career.
“I haven’t felt any pressure so far,” Patton said. “I’m just going to try to do my best and try to learn as best as I can. If anything I’ve just felt support, so it’s been a great experience so far.”
As he gets support from being near his home, anytime Patton has questions about the Tigers’ quarterback role he doesn’t need to go far to talk to starter Brad Smith, a probable Heisman Trophy contender.
“I’m actually getting a room with him, so it’s great. If I ever have any questions, he’s kind of big brother figure for both me and Darrell Jackson,” Patton said. “Any kind of questions, he’ll be able to answer, and he’s a great guy, too. He’s fun to talk with and try to pick his brain about anything.”
Patton also said Jackson and Mack Breed, the Tigers’ other freshmen quarterbacks, add to the learning environment he has encountered.
“It’s almost been more like a team-bonding experience because we’re kind of going through the same thing,” he said. “It’s been fun to kind of learn together and back each other up and just kind of help each other through it.”
Although Smith burst on to a national scene in 2002 as a redshirt freshman, Patton said he doesn’t enter his first year with tremendous expectations, which will alleviate pressure.
“Something crazy would have to happen for me to probably play, but I have to be prepared for anything,” Patton said. “I just want to make sure I’m doing my best at all times and be prepared for anything that could happen.”