When Rock Bridge star quarterback Chase Patton signed to play for Missouri, few would have expected him to be going into his junior season as a backup. Even less would have guessed he’d be battling for the No. 2 job with two redshirt freshmen.
An All-American in high school, Patton holds Rock Bridge career records for yards, completions and touchdowns. He was ranked the No. 4 quarterback in the 2004 class by Rivals.com.
Fast forward three years, and Patton has played in just one game in his Tigers career. The hometown hero and star prospect who delighted Missouri fans by choosing the Tigers over big-name programs like Tennessee has not even attempted a pass. Patton says that it’s been tough being a backup, but that he is doing his best to deal with it.
“I have to accept that,” he said. “I can push (Chase Daniel) and try to make him better and then, God willing, if anything happens, I just need to be ready to step up and carry the team like he does if that time comes.”
Many were surprised when Patton lost the No. 2 job behind Brad Smith to Daniel, a true freshman at the time, in 2005. Even more surprising was Patton losing the backup job to Brandon Coleman last year. As Patton struggled through early spring practices, it looked like he might fall to No. 3 on the depth chart again, behind redshirt freshman Dominic Grooms. Although Patton has seemed to distance himself from Grooms and fellow freshman J.P. Tillman with his recent play, he is quick to admit he has been sporadic this spring.
“I feel like I’ve had a decent spring so far,” he said. “I just really need to work on consistency, just coming out and eliminating the critical errors: the interceptions, sacks, stuff like that.”
Patton’s performance in Saturday’s scrimmage was a perfect example of his up-and-down play. He struggled early on, taking a Ziggy Hood sack for a safety and getting intercepted by Mack Breed. Patton’s frustration was evident as he stormed angrily off the field after his first series of reps, slamming his helmet down on the sidelines. Later, though, he lofted a perfect deep ball to Jared Perry for a 39-yard touchdown pass. Patton said he hopes he has made enough of those big plays to make up for his mistakes and keep his position as the No. 2 quarterback.
“I’ll let the coaches decide that, but I hope so,” he said. “I just want to come out here and do my best every day and try to make everybody around me better.”
With Daniel emerging as a star last year and seemingly locking up the quarterback job for the next two years, many thought Patton would transfer, but he says that he never really thought that.
“Honestly, no,” he said. “The Lord is a big part of my life and I really feel like I’m here for a reason, football and off the field. So I trust with all my heart that I’m here for a reason. I’m just going to go with that and do my best and hopefully I’ll get my shot.”
In the meantime, Patton is trying to make the best of the times he does get to play, like Saturday’s scrimmage, when he took the majority of the snaps.
“It’s just fun to come out here,” he said. “Mentally, in the past I just took practice as more like practice. If you come out with the mental attitude that it’s like a game, and just come out and have fun and play, you’re going to have fun. It’s just your attitude. You choose your attitude, so I just try to come out here and have the best attitude I can.”
Patton also said he enjoys getting to quarterback an offense full of playmakers.
“It’s great,” he said. “I threw that one to JP (Jared Perry), that was great. He’s so fast and gets off the ball, it’s amazing. You can just lay the ball out there and they’ll go get it. All our receivers are like that, tight ends even, so it’s fun to get out here and play with them.”
NOTES: The defense dominated most of Saturday’s partial scrimmage. In addition to Hood’s safety and Breed’s interception, safety William Moore made a great interception of a Chase Daniel pass, taking it right out of the hands of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Maclin redeemed himself with a leaping catch later in the game. The freshman went up between two defenders, taking two big hits, and managed to hold on to the ball.
The scrimmage was limited to 25 plays, instead of the planned 50. Coach Gary Pinkel said it was because he didn’t want his players to have to take too many hits on the hard turf at Dan Devine Pavilion. The scrimmage will be completed Tuesday.