By KATHERINE SMITH email@example.com
Published: Apr 21, 2005
TAMPA - Ed Orgeron knows defensive tackles.
As the University of Miami defensive line coach from 1989-92, he coached eight All- Americans, including former Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
At USC the past seven seasons, Orgeron coached the Vikings' Kenechi Udeze, the 20th overall pick in last year's draft, and current draft prospects Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson.
Cody may be more highly rated in this weekend's draft, but it's Patterson who has all the attributes Orgeron covets.
``If I could create a nose tackle, it would be him,'' said Orgeron, now the head coach at Mississippi.
Patterson, who wore No. 99, isn't the size of prototypical NFL defensive tackles. But he explodes off the snap and quickly finds his way to the quarterback.
The similarities to the seven-time Pro Bowler Sapp prompted Orgeron to dub Patterson ``Baby Sapp.''
``Coming into college, that's one of the players I looked up to,'' Patterson said. ``He's a great guy and a great performer. I still watch him and everything, see what he does. You can always learn things watching experienced guys.''
Just like when Sapp entered the league, the knock on Patterson is his size. Some teams will shy away from the barely 6-foot, 292-pound Patterson this weekend, but others, such as the Bucs, know size isn't everything on the defensive line.
Tampa Bay's starting nose tackle last season, Chartric Darby, earned the nickname ``Shorty'' because of his smallish stature. At 6-foot, 290 pounds, Darby was one of the smallest nose tackles in the league.
Some draft experts, leery of Patterson's size, predict he would perform well in a one- gap defensive scheme. One NFL scout said Patterson could develop into an ``impact starter'' on a defensive line that rotates players to keep them fresh.
``I am not afraid of it,'' Patterson said of his size. ``I have been dealing with this since I got into college. I am kind of used to it.''
At USC, Patterson played backup defensive tackle as a freshman in 2001. He took over the starting duties the following season and started every game at either defensive tackle or nose tackle.
During his junior year in 2003, Patterson amassed 55 tackles, 13 1/2 tackles for losses, including seven sacks and recovered three fumbles, returning one 52 yards for a touchdown against UCLA.
He was part of the two-time national championship defensive line that also featured Cody, a projected first-round All- America defensive tackle.
``One of the hardest guys to replace will be Mike Patterson,'' USC coach Pete Carroll said after the Trojans' 55-19 Orange Bowl victory against Oklahoma in January. ``He's been there every single game, every single play. He's been a fantastic performer and we don't have anybody like him in the program.''
At January's Senior Bowl, Bucs coaches got a good look at Patterson, who played on the Jon Gruden-coached South team. Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin knew of Patterson before because of his ties to USC. His son, Lane, was the Trojans' wide receivers coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator in February.
And Kiffin is quite familiar with Sapp's impact on the game, so even a slight comparison to Sapp can only help Patterson in the Bucs' eyes.
But while their games may be similar, there's one big difference.
``Lots of people say I'm quiet,'' Patterson said.