Cocoa High School head football coach John Wilkinson has coached multiple Division I prospects during his time with the Tigers' football program, but 2010 offensive lineman Ronald Patrick, who recently committed to South Carolina, ranks among the best he's worked with, according to Wilkinson.
"He's been an unbelievable player for us. He's been a three year starter for us. He's just been outstanding," said Wilkinson in an exclusive interview with GamecockAnthem.com. "He's a competitor, he's relentless. He's a winner, and he's going to do whatever it takes to help the team win. He's just competitive by nature. He's competitive in the weight room, and he's competitive on the field. I just think that's the way he lives his life."
While Patrick did not garner the attention early in the recruiting process that he may have deserved, Wilkinson said the college coaches who did discover his star lineman were extremely impressed by what they saw on film.
"His athleticism stands out on film. When you've got a 265-pound kid out in space blocking DBs and driving them into the ground, it's impressive," he said. "He brings athleticism and real long arms. He has good feet. We run the Wing-T offense, and for him to be a guard in our offense, he's physical and he's real good in the open field blocking DBs. He's never on the ground. He's just a real good athlete."
One of the most impressive aspects of Patrick as a prospect is the length of his wingspan, which is generally seen more on a prospect who is 6-7 or 6-8 than one who is Patrick's size.
"He has an 80-inch wingspan, which for a kid that's 6-2 is very, very rare. Hopefully he's going to grow a couple more inches and fill out that wingspan," said Wilkinson.
While Patrick may be slightly undersized as an offensive lineman by SEC standards, Wilkinson believes he will add close to thirty pounds to his frame on the college level, as well as potentially grow a couple more inches.
"If you look at him right now, he doesn't have much body fat on him. A lot of (his weight) is in his backside, his legs, and his chest. He's 268 (pounds) right now, I definitely think he can get up to 290, 295, or maybe even 300. Plus there's the chance he could still grow a couple inches."
According to Wilkinson, Patrick is a workhorse in the weight room and is one of the strongest players he's ever coached.
"Ronald is a hard working kid. He's benching probably 315. He squats a house basically. I don't let him squat as much as he can because we don't have wraps for our knees. He gets up so heavy that it would be dangerous. He power cleans around 300. He's a strong kid, and with those long arms, to bench that much is impressive."
Wilkinson has known USC offensive line coach Eric Wolford for years, and he is comfortable knowing that Patrick will be working under his tutelage during his time in Columbia.
"Ronald fell in love with South Carolina when he went there. He really likes the coaching staff, and he's real happy with his decision," he said. "I've known Coach Wolford since back when he was at South Florida. He's a good coach. I've known him a while, and I think Ronald really likes the fact that he's going to push him to his limits to become a better football player. That's what he did up there at camp, and that's what Ronald is used to."
Wilkinson stated that Wolford is excited about the versatility and upside that Patrick will bring to the Gamecocks' offensive line when he arrives at USC next summer.
"I think he's excited about having Ronald there because he can do so many things. He can play a number of different positions, he's versatile," he said. "I think South Carolina is going to look at him at both guard and center, but he's got such long arms that if he does grow two or three inches, he could easily be a tackle. He's athletic enough to play on the edge. They know they found a good player in Ronald."
With all of the attention that high school football stars get on the field in this day and age, Wilkinson noted that Patrick is a special young man who is an even better person off the field than he is on it.
"I know it's cliché, but he's an even better person off the field than he is on the field. As much as he competes on the field, he's real soft spoken. He's a nice kid, very polite. It couldn't happen to a better person. South Carolina is getting a great football player and a great kid."
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