Clemson and USC went head to head for one of North Carolina’s top prospects in four-star DE Zaire Patterson (6-6 225) of Winston-Salem, and the Tigers came out the winners. Patterson announced his commitment to the Tigers Tuesday afternoon. USC seemed to have the upper hand with Patterson during the early phase of his recruiting, with North Carolina a primary competitor. But Clemson became much more involved after losing the commitment of Korey Foreman, and the Tigers were able to close the deal over the last two weeks.
Patterson is ranked as the #18 weakside defensive end nationally in the 247Sports Composite, and the #16 prospect in North Carolina. Last season he had 109 tackles with 27 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 9 forced fumbles and 4 interceptions. His coach DeRon Middleton says Patterson will arrive at Clemson prepared to help the Tigers as a pass rusher off the edge.
“First his stature, he’s legitimately 6-6 and 225 pounds now,” Coach Middleton said. “He has a very, very good get-off. He’s got one job. His job is to get sacks, and he’s done that really, really well. He’s long, and he has a knack for getting to the quarterback. First year he had 13 sacks. Last year he had 11 but he also had 4 interceptions. He can do pretty much anything, defensive end or outside linebacker.”
Patterson also plays basketball and because of that he has not been at his optimum football weight which his coach said should be around 250 pounds. And Middleton added that Patterson likely will finish as the #1 student in his class with an eye on aerospace engineering at Clemson. He will have no problems picking up the defensive schemes from Brent Venables.
“He’s super smart, and that’s going to help him on the field as well,” Middleton said. “Once you get him in that film room and he understands what you want him to do and how to line up, he’s great at play recognition.”
Patterson also held offers from Oklahoma, Michigan State, LSU, Auburn, Florida State, Louisville, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Colorado, Tennessee and others.
Patterson gives Clemson 13 commitments for the 2021 class, which Dabo Swinney has said should top out at 18. All but one of the commitments is rated at least a four-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite.