He’s obviously not #77 anymore. He tore his ACL last week, so unlike Mikey Dudek or Dre Brown, he’s definitely out for the season. But a list is a list, and when I sat down to do these rankings earlier this month, Patrick Nelson was at #77.
6′-0″, 205 lbs.
True Freshman (on scholarship, 5 years to play 4)
Hales Franciscian High School / Chicago, Illinois
What I Know About Him:
If you don’t follow these types of things – and why would you – this recruiting class was very close on social media. Very, very close. And not just on social media – these guys seem to be genuinely close. Came to nearly every game in the fall together. Came to the spring game together. Heck, Gabe Megginson picked Illinois partly because of his friendship with Dre Brown.
After he verballed, Nelson appeared to be at the center of it all. Who was our “join the fam, bro” guy on Twitter? Pat Nelson. Who was at the center of nearly every photo of a group of recruits? Pat Nelson. Who seemed to buy in to Our State Our Team the most? Brown, Megginson, Fitzgerald, and Nelson. Which is why it sucks so hard that three of those four have torn their ACL in the past few year. Get well soon, gentlemen.
What I Expect From Him:
Nelson was near the top of the true freshmen on this list because Nelson had a chance to play as a true freshman. Not a good chance, mind you, because safety seems fairly set, but there was a chance he would pick up the playbook like Mason Monheim picked up the playbook and be ready to go game 1. Let’s say that it was a 17% chance.
That 17% is now 0% with the ACL tear. Surgery is usually a month after the injury, so let’s say August 1 for surgery, six-to-eight months rehab, maybe they let him go full speed in the spring. Most likely, he’s limited in the spring and we’ll get our first viewing of him in Rantoul in 2016.
Where would he then fit on future rosters? Well, I’d say the top three safeties this fall are Taylor Barton, Clayton Fejedelem, and Caleb Day. Fej (FEJ!) will then graduate and the top three safeties in 2016 will be TayBar, Day, and maybe Jevaris Little (or Darwyn Kelly). So maybe there’s a spot for Nelson as the 4th safety in 2016, with a chance at a starter’s spot as early as his redshirt sophomore year.