BOZEMAN — There weren’t many bright spots for the Montana State offense during Saturday’s Sonny Holland Classic, but a performance from a redshirt freshman stood out from the rest.
Redshirt freshman Willie Patterson led the offense in both receiving yards through the air and yards per carry on the ground. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound pass catcher is electric in the slot, looking like a seasoned veteran against MSU’s first-team defense.
But the Tacoma, Washington native did not play receiver in high school. He was the starting quarterback at Franklin Pierce High, leading the state in all-purpose yards as a senior. He does believe that his time spent at quarterback is helping him settle in to what will be a big role in 2018.
“I already know what (Chris Murray) is looking for,” he explained. “I feel like that gives me an edge on my defenders, of knowing exactly what my quarterback is thinking and what I have on my route.”
Patterson was Murray’s go-to receiver on Saturday, a sign that the two are building up a solid relationship in a short spring season.
“I would say (he is) probably one of the best receivers that understands the coverages,” Murray said. “He knows when to sit or when to cut and he knows those option routes so, most of the time, we’re on the same page.”
The second-year receiver doesn’t just learn his new position from his past experiences, but from Madden NFL video games.
“I love to play Madden, so when you play Madden, you learn a lot of little hole stuff, cover twos, and you learn a lot,” he said.
Video games are translating to reality, as Patterson is proving to be one of the most reliable wideouts on the roster. Through 12 practices in his new role, he feels comfortable and ready for the summer.
“I definitely made the progress I wanted to make — I knew I had to step up this spring,” he said.
Learning from one of the most decorated wide receivers coaches in the state has also helped the young man along. Helena Capital and Boise State graduate Matt Miller, who is among the all-time leading receivers in Boise, has had a profound impact on Patterson and his fellow position players.
“Having him as a coach really helps,” he said. “It’s a lot, but you can see — he was from Boise State (and) he leads all of the receiving (categories) there — so, what he is talking about is true.”
Alongside Kevin Kassis, expect Patterson to be a handful in the fall.