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IU football's "best player" hasn't seen the field yet, but could soon


Camion Patrick had yet to play a down for the Hoosiers when IU Coach Kevin Wilson took a moment after IU’s win over Purdue in 2015 to call him the best player.

Patrick came to Bloomington last year by way of a transfer from East Mississippi Community College, where he caught 42 balls for 631 yards and 12 scores in 2014 and contributed to back-to-back national championship teams.

Although an academic issue kept him on the scout team, he made the most of his opportunity and by year’s end was named the offensive scout team player of the year.

The praise continued for Patrick throughout the offseason as the now-junior recovered from a knee injury sustained during spring ball. Originally, the target date for his return was Oct. 1, IU’s Big Ten opener against Michigan State.

But his presence in practice and in warmups for the home opener against Ball State could signal an earlier start.

“He’s no different than Dan,” Wilson said, referencing senior offensive guard Dan Feeney, who’s recovering from a concussion. “We’re waiting for the doctors to clear him. So he’s practicing. He’s cleared for practice. And you know, it’s not my call. It’s those guys that determine that.”

Wilson has said when Patrick does return to the field he would likely start out at wide receiver. The move will allow the junior college transfer to build up his stamina and strength if he does make his home with the running back group.

Neither offensive coordinator Kevin Johns nor running backs coach Deland McCullough would commit to a definite position for Patrick. Both did reference the already deep running back group, however.

Injuries to two receivers in sophomore J-Shun Harris II and junior Simmie Cobbs Jr. could necessitate Patrick’s use at receiver. He definitely comes in highly regarded by IU coaches and players alike.

“He can bring a lot,” junior running back Devine Redding said. “He can bring excitement, he can bring physicality. He brings a lot to the offense that we need and can help us.”

Senior wide receiver Mitchell Paige said Patrick adds another big, fast body on the outside that’ll take attention away from his fellow receivers and allow everyone to play faster. Paige also noted Patrick’s good hands, as did junior cornerback Rashard Fant.

Fant said he’s been going against Patrick for a year now, routinely matching up one-on-one against him, and attributes his success during Big Ten play in 2015 to that practice.

“That made me better because he’s so physical, so he brings that physical presence,” Fant said. “But, then he has strong hands, when the ball hits his hands he’s not letting go so you’ve got to be even stronger. And his route running — he’s faster than what you’d think.”

Fant said Patrick ran a 4.38 40-yard dash during spring ball, and was impressed he was able to do so at 225 pounds.

McCullough also discussed Patrick’s size and speed combination, but said Patrick isn’t hanging his hat on all the praise coming his way. Patrick wants to get on the field and make plays in a game, McCullough said, and ensure any tag placed on him is justified by game performance.

Still, that doesn’t mean Fant isn’t going to sing his praises.

“He’s ready to go and I can’t wait to see him out there because I’ve been going against him for a whole year and people don’t even know how good he really is,” Fant said. “I don’t think he knows how good he really is and can be.”

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