CORAL GABLES — In four-plus years at Miami, Scott Patchan has switched from defensive lineman to tight end back to the defensive line, with a stop at linebacker somewhere along the way.
He has suffered repeated knee injuries that cost him all of 2016. And he’ll be playing under his fourth different head coach Saturday when his Hurricanes kick off the season against No. 8 Florida in Orlando.
But the head-spinning instability the former Freedom High standout has experienced at UM can be summed up best with one hard-to-believe number: Seven.
That’s how many different position coaches Patchan has had entering his redshirt senior season.
“It’s part of the game,” Patchan said. “You’ve just got to be able to take anything that’s thrown at you.”
And Patchan has caught a lot of it.
Although the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Patchan hasn’t enjoyed the volatility surrounding his career and program, he is, in some ways, thankful for it. All seven of those assistants taught him something valuable that put him where he is now — the starting left end on a loaded defensive front for one of the favorites in the ACC’s Coastal Division.
“Each of them has given me a different perspective and aspect to the game and what it takes to be a football player here,” Patchan said.
The first one, Jethro Franklin, taught Patchan what it meant to be a member of one of the most historic programs in the sport. It reinforced what he already knew as the son of Matt Patchan, who won two national titles with the ’Canes as an offensive tackle in the ’80s before a brief stint in the NFL.
Patchan dove into Xs and Os with his next assistant, Randy Melvin. Then Kareem Brown showed him the basics of playing outside linebacker. The position switch didn’t stick, but Patchan still uses what he learned about dropping into coverage or rushing from a two-point stance.
Craig Kuligowski followed with a stab-club-grip move that continued Patchan’s progression as a pass rusher.
There weren’t many obvious carry-overs from Patchan’s next position change, to tight end in 2017. But Patchan credits Todd Hartley’s drills for making him understand what hard work feels like and how to take care of his body.
That got Patchan ready to make the next step at his natural position last year under Jess Simpson. Simpson took the offensive perspective Patchan learned under Hartley and combined it with all the schematic and technical things Patchan had picked up along the way.
“Coach Jess really helped me put it all together,” Patchan said.
And that helped Patchan finally put it all together on the field. During a breakout 2018, he recorded a career-high 29 tackles (including six in the bowl loss to Wisconsin) and scored his first touchdown on a blocked punt against Savannah State.
Patchan is ready to do even more this year under his newest and (hopefully) final position coach, Todd Stroud. The St. Petersburg native has rounded out Patchan’s game by boosting his ability to stop the run — a skill he’ll need as he transitions from key backup to projected starter.
“He’s been through a crazy, crazy time,” Stroud said.
There were times during the last four turbulent years when Patchan doubted himself and where his career was going. But he kept going thanks to his family, faith and passion for football.
And now, with the wisdom accumulated from seven different position coaches, Patchan is finally has himself in a position to make the kind of impact he envisioned as a boy in Hillsborough County.
“To be a guy that’s relied on has kind of been like my whole dream,” Patchan said. “I wanted to be a guy, when my number’s called, I step up to it and accept the challenge and dominate. I’m ready for it.”