Practice Tour: J.J. Patterson

ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. --- Roanoke Rapids will lean heavily on North Carolina verbal commitment J.J. Patterson this season as it builds on its success of the last couple of seasons.

"J.J. is a very important player for us," Roanoke Rapids head coach Russell Weinstein said. "He's the best linemen in our conference, no doubt, and one of the best linemen in the state, we feel. He's a very physical young man [and] he's strong at the point-of-attack – that's going to be very important for us.

"[His teammates] are very comfortable with J.J. – he shows leadership. He's not really a ‘rah rah' guy, so-to-speak. But he is a good friend to everyone on the team and he leads through his play and his example."

After winning just five games combined during Weinstein's first two seasons, Roanoke Rapids won back-to-back Northern Carolina Conference titles while going 9-4 in 2009 and 11-2 in 2010.

Patterson, a 6-foot-4, 310-pounder, started both ways – at defensive tackle and offensive tackle – the last two seasons. He ended his junior campaign with 62 tackles, one sack, a forced fumble, and two blocked kicks.

"We should be pretty good on defense, but we need to come together on offense," Patterson said. "But we should win conference again and go deep in the playoffs."

In addition helping Roanoke Rapids take the next step, Patterson wants to improve his backside pursuit this season.

"As a youngin', I used to think ‘I'm not going to catch a person who runs a 4.4,'" Patterson said. "But I've found out that you never know when they might cut back and you have to be there to make the hit. I don't want to see the running back make the cut back and have it on my mind, ‘I could have been there to make the hit.' So I'm going full speed all the time – 120-percent all the time."

"We worked very hard in the off-season on his lateral movement and redirecting on his pursuit," Weinstein said.

Patterson has been verbally committed to UNC since early April. However, since Butch Davis's dismissal, Patterson hasn't spoken publicly about the status of his commitment – and plans to keep quiet.

"I feel like, at this point in time, Carolina is still very much in J.J.'s head and in his heart," Weinstein said. "I just think J.J. has just decided to step back and stay out of the fray on this thing and be an observer right now and see what transpires during the course of the season and in October with the NCAA. And I think he'll make a good decision when it's all said and done at the end."

Besides Patterson, Weinstein coached current Tar Heel defensive end Kareem Martin. Thus, Weinstein has plenty of vested interests in UNC's coaching situation.

"I think the University of North Carolina has lost a great football coach," Weinstein said. "I think they've lost a good man. I hate it for the kids in the program. It's not that I don't think they won't be well coached, [because] Coach Withers is going to do a great job and all of his assistants are going to work as hard as they've ever worked – I know they will. I think the players are once again going to rally around this thing and move forward. It's just unfortunate that it happened this close to the season – it's kind of like knocking a little bit of the wind out of the sails for the kids. They're going through another season of uncertainty."

J.J. Patterson Profile

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