DE Zaire Patterson (6’6, 230) is from Winston Salem Prep in Winston-Salem, NC. The Clemson Tigers commit marks the 13th commitment in the class of 2021 and fills the space of the lone de-commitment of the class (DE Korey Foreman). Patterson is the composite 245th player in the country but the 99th on 247 after a big jump and 266th on ESPN (although they don’t even have a Clemson offer on their site, so I’m not sure they are really trying to keep things up-to-date this cycle). Rivals still has Patterson as a 3* player, which drags down the ranking. I expect he will jump to a 4* soon on Rivals and continue a march toward the top 150. I have him right where 247 has him, just inside the top 100. I think his potential is greater, but you always want to see how a player reacts to the added weight as they grow and mature.
North Carolina pursued heavily and was long regarded as the leader. South Carolina also worked Patterson long and hard for his commitment. Just as of two weeks ago they thought they had him in their camp. LSU tried to jump in late, but Clemson had quietly and patiently built a relationship with the family. Muschamp continues to struggle for another cycle on the recruiting trail and Clemson continues to be able to go into North Carolina and pluck out the talent it really wants.
WHAT CLEMSON GETS
Patterson is all about length and potential right now. The wingspan is ridiculous. He profiles as a weakside defensive end, which is where he likely sticks in BV’s 4-3 base, but he can also stand up and play in the flats like an outside linebacker (something Venables loves to do with his DE’s). Plays with a hand in the ground or standing up in high school. In fact, one of his real strengths is being able to bat balls down and get into passing lanes. Really good in coverage against short routes and even some intermediate coverage. Has the speed to track down on the backside and cover short passes.
His primary role is going to be rushing the passer. Zaire is very flexible and can dip and bend. Bendy. Bendy. This means that when he is pass rushing he is flexible enough to get around the arc (or slip around an offensive lineman) to get to the QB. This is why I think his stock will continue to rise, this class lacks many pure pass rushers who can bend and have length.
Zaire is listed between 215-230 pounds and is trying to get his weight up. This will be a process, but he has the frame to fill out and if he is already gaining some weight, getting into the 250 range won’t be that difficult. I see the KJ Henry comparisons because of length, but Henry had grown more and doesn’t have the quick change of direction that Patterson has (but needs to keep as he continues to gain weight). I think he profiles as a Brian Burns or Josh Sweat type of defensive end in college. Agile, bendy, gets in pass lanes with long arms, bats down balls, and gets to the quarterback.
Needs to improve against the run. Definitely not a run stuffer and will be challenged as he plays against better competition and bigger, stronger Olineman consistently. Needs to be a more consistent tackler, but does do a good job setting the edge.
Clemson has commitments from DE’s Cade Denhoff and now Patterson. Patterson is someone the staff has always held in high regard and wanted to add to the class. With Denhoff and Foreman that didn’t look likely (Patterson would’ve had to wait until the end of the class to see if there was room). When Foreman decommitted I said that Clemson could still take three defensive ends in this class and I maintain that it is a very real possibility. Swinney wants 18 in the class but the number could go to 20 easily (which is where I think it ends up) or even as high as 22-23 depending on attrition. Could Foreman ultimately end up at Clemson—the door is still slightly cracked but he hasn’t done himself any favors and will need to make amends with Clemson coaches. Not likely, but not impossible. Dallas Turner is a name to watch as an oversign target. I do think taking three quality defensive ends is warranted in the class to keep the cupboard fully stocked.
To quote a football genius: Mad bro? Let’s Goooooo. #ALLIN...