His offensive coordinator calls him “sneaky fast.” His head coach prefers the word “consistent,” with a few “dudes” thrown in. His quarterback uses a simple, two-syllable moniker: “T-Pat.”
Tyler Patrick may well be all of those things, but three games into his redshirt freshman season at Kansas, he has added another descriptor: You can call him the most pleasant surprise in the Jayhawks’ receiving corps. Patrick, a 6-foot receiver from The Woodlands, Texas, has amassed nine receptions for 108 receiving yards in three games, ranking second on the team in both categories despite not having a catch in the season opener. A redshirt last season, Patrick began the fall on the scout team. But in the last month, Patrick has climbed his way up the depth chart and cemented his status as a potential building block entering Kansas’ Big 12 opener at Iowa State at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
“He’s sneaky,” says Rob Likens, Kansas’ first-year offensive coordinator. “You look at him — you watch him run routes — and I was thinking about this when I watched the film the other day: He’s running by guys out there. And you don’t really see that until you put him in a game, and you see him out there making guys miss.”
Patrick’s rise has helped bolster a receiving group that was painfully short on proven playmakers in the spring and summer. When the season began, Kansas’ coaches were hopeful for steady production from senior Tre’ Parmalee and immediate help from graduate transfer Joshua Stanford. Parmalee has responded with a team-high 10 receptions, but Stanford has been limited by an ankle injury. That ailment offered the opportunity for playing time. Into the void came Patrick, a former two-star recruit who picked Kansas after receiving interest from schools such as Air Force, Lamar and Louisiana-Lafayette.
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“He just kept working,” Kansas coach David Beaty says. “I think the big thing that stuck out to us is what he was doing on special teams. When he wasn’t playing, he was still covering kicks for us at the gunner position and, man, he was out there showing up.”
The secret to Patrick’s early production is fairly straightforward, Likens says. He runs solid routes. His straight-line speed can catch defenders off guard. He has gained the trust of Cozart by snagging most of the balls thrown his way.
“He’s deceivingly quicky, too,” Likens says. “And he’s got great ball skills.”
Likens speaks of Patrick’s speed as a hidden strength, but for a former KU staff, it was that speed that landed him a scholarship offer. In the summer of 2013, Patrick attended a camp at KU, conducted by the staff of former coach Charlie Weis. On a Friday night in June, Patrick lit up the stop-watches, clocking a 40-yard dash in the 4.4 range. The KU staff quickly extended a scholarship offer, and a month later, Patrick accepted.
Patrick has now been on campus for more than a year, but his status as a redshirt freshman keeps him in an exclusive club: He’s not allowed to speak to reporters. For the moment, then, his teammates will speak for him. And for Parmalee, Patrick’s success has been no surprise.
“He’s definitely improved in his route-running,” Parmalee says. “His hands have gotten a lot better. He has really good hands. And then, overall, he’s one of our fastest receivers. Whenever he catches the ball, he can take it 60 yards for a touchdown. So that’s something that we like.”