If the Vikings could count on Cordarrelle Patterson to return to his rookie form, they wouldn’t have to consider drafting a wide receiver this week.
General Manager Rick Spielman agreed, saying that if the Vikings are going to improve offensively in 2015, the 6-2, 220-pound Patterson is going to have to play a key role.
“There’s no question he is, again there’s another young guy that came out early and made a splash his rookie year because of his unique speed and his unique athletic traits,” Spielman said. “Sometimes you have to go through some growing pains where you have to realize it’s more than just that. It’s more than just relying on your athletic skill set and what it takes to be a great receiver in this league.”
In 2013, Patterson caught 45 passes for 469 yards, had 12 carries for 158 yards, made 43 kickoff returns for 1,393 yards and scored nine total touchdowns. But last year, the No. 29 overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Tennessee had 33 receptions for 384 yards, 117 yards rushing, 871 return yards and only two touchdowns.
“There’s no question about the physical ability there. I think Cordarrelle has really grown up a lot,” Spielman said. “I know what he has done this offseason dedicating himself to being the best receiver he can be, and how serious he is taking that, we’re very excited about the future with Cordarrelle.”
Baggett expects improvement
Former Vikings and Gophers receivers coach Charlie Baggett was one of the head recruiters of Patterson when he was working at Tennessee, and he believes that last year will be an outlier in Patterson’s career.
“I don’t know what happened there, but I still believe that that kid has some of the best talent I have ever been around,” said Baggett, who retired from coaching following the Volunteers’ 2011 season. “I mean, he has Randy Moss-type talent. You know he flashed it.
“… I don’t know what happened because I wasn’t there. But talking to [Vikings wide receivers coach] George Stewart, George just really thinks he needs to grow up a little bit.”
Baggett still speaks with Patterson on occasion and said he believes the 24-year-old now understands what he has to do to succeed.
“I told him he has to be a better pro, study the game a little bit more and work harder in practice,” Baggett said. “He’s not a real practice guy and he just needs to study more and practice harder. That comes with maturity, you know he’s a young kid.
“I think he feels the same way. I think he feels he has to work a little bit harder. He has the right attitude. He is kind of a laid-back kind of kid, kind of a quiet kid.”
But Baggett remains high on Patterson. “I still think he’s going to be great,” he said. “I have never seen, except for Randy, the combination of size and speed and athletic ability that that kid has.”
Jones ready to play
Minneapolis Washburn product Jeff Jones, might be one of the most highly recruited players to ever commit to the Gophers, having offers from schools such as Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Missouri.
And while Jones has sat out a year to get his academics in order, he feels ready for a big role in the Gophers offense this season.
“I became academically sound and took care of my academics first, and football is second for me now,” Jones said. “I think it was great for me to sit out a year and get accustomed to academics. Now spring has really helped me get in the roll of things and now we just get ready for the fall.”
Jones might be the big-play threat the Gophers need to equal or improve on last years record, and coach Jerry Kill has said there’s a chance Jones, listed as a running back, might be involved in a lot of plays at wide receiver this season, a move Jones said he is OK with.
“I like it a lot, I think it’s good for the program,” he said. “Wherever coach Kill needs me to make plays, I’m willing to make the change.
“I played a little bit of it, formation-wise, in high school. It’s just me learning the concepts and then from there I think I could do at that position.”
Kill said Jones has showed very good hands and big-play ability, adding: “He dropped one during spring and I think that was the first one he’s dropped, but he also came back with a big catch and can do a lot of good things. With the backs we have coming in, you know, I think it’s a deal where he can be a guy that’s a little bit like [former Wisconsin running back] Melvin Gordon. He can play in the backfield and also play receiver, probably more so at receiver. But the defense, you go out there in five-wide and all of a sudden you shift him into the backfield, they’re going to have trouble with that.”
Asked if he gave consideration to any other college, Jones said: “I feel at home here in Minnesota and I don’t think anywhere else I’d get the type of love that I do here.”
He also can’t recommend Kill’s program highly enough. “Any kid that is from Minnesota, and Minnesota wants them, they better stay home,” Jones said.
• Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino might have recruited his first blue-chip player in Ahmad Gilbert, who led his Philadelphia Constitution High School team to the Class 1A (small-school) state title this season. Gilbert scored 28 points, going 6-for-12 from the three-point line, and had 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in a 85-53 victory over Farrell.
• Shattuck-St. Mary’s hockey graduates coached by Tom Ward that are in the NHL playoffs include the Rangers’ Derek Stepan, the Islanders’ Kyle Okposo, the Blues’ Chris Porter, the Ducks’ Emerson Etem, the Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews and the Wild’s Zach Parise and Erik Haula. On the present Shattuck roster are two players whose relatives played in the NHL: Niko Esposito, the grandson of Hall of Famer Phil Esposito; and Marcus Chorney, whose father, Marc, who played with the Penguins and Kings in the 1980s.
• The 2016 Gophers football schedule is favorable by starting with three nonconference games at home, against Oregon State, Indiana State and Colorado State. Their fourth game is at Penn State, one of five Big Ten road games they play as the conference begins a nine-game schedule.
• Bill Given reports his Minneapolis-based Prom Catering company will cater or has already catered 32 of the most prestigious golf tournaments this year, including the U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open, Greenbrier Classic, U.S. Women’s Open, 3M Championship, Bridgestone World Golf Championship and PGA Tour Championship.
• 2016 is a big year for conference championships at the University of Minnesota with the WCHA women’s hockey championship, the Big Ten men’s tennis championship and the Big Ten’s cross-country championship all set to be held on campus.