There’s a long layoff between the end of the one college football season and the beginning of the next one. First you have to wait out the winter, then survive the spring and summer before fall brings football back.
So by the time the last week of August and the first week of September roll around, most college football players and fans are starving for some real action.
Imagine, then, how it must feel to be Matt Patchan.
A former five-star recruit at Florida, the 6-foot-6, 300-pounder played in just 27 games over five years for the Gators because of injuries, including a torn ACL and a strained pectoral muscle.
He played in 12 games, starting the last seven, in 2011 before injuring the pec and missing the entire 2012 season. He graduated from Florida in December, and with playing time unlikely in Gainesville, Fla., this season, he decided to take advantage of an NCAA rule allowing graduates with eligibility remaining to transfer and play immediately.
“Excited about playing the game on Saturday,” Patchan said after practice Monday. “It’s been a long time for me.”
Boston College has never been the kind of school that attracts five-star recruits.
While the Eagles have had success on the field, producing a string of 12 straight bowl appearances from 1999 to 2010, it has mostly been built on taking underappreciated assets (read two- and three-star recruits) and developing them into functional teams strong on defense and in the run game.
There is little glitz and almost no glamour at a place nicknamed “O-line U” for its ability to churn out NFL-caliber offensive linemen.
But for Matt Patchan, it was a perfect fit.
Turns out new Eagles head coach Steve Addazio played a big role in recruiting Patchan to Florida originally. The All-American recruit out of Armwood High School in Seffner, Fla., was ranked as high as fifth at his position and 18th nationally by Rivals.com, and reportedly had a pile of offers 60 high from top schools across the country.
But he chose Florida in part because of Addazio, so when he decided to transfer from Florida after finishing his degree it was only natural to follow his former coach to his new locale.
“Coach Addazio was the biggest factor,” Patchan said. “He’s a great coach and I have a ton of respect for him. He’s like a second father to me. So coming up here was almost an easy decision for me.”
For his part, Addazio raves about both Patchan’s ability and dependability.
“Well, with him I know exactly what I’m going to get on game day,” the coach said. “He’s going to be at competitive excellence. What you call competitive excellence is when your number is called, you’re going to make your play.
“Everyone is different. Some guys can do it on Monday but sometimes under the bright lights on Saturday they find a way to cave under the pressure of the whole thing. With Patchan I know exactly what I’m going to get -- a hard, physical-playing guy. That’s what I’m going to get.”
And when he steps on the field for the Eagles against Villanova on Saturday at Alumni Stadium (noon ET on ESPNEWS, WatchESPN), BC will get something else, too: Patchan will be just the second five-star recruit to play for BC (after former linebacker Brian Toal).
After not playing for more than a year, Patchan has immediately been entrusted with a great responsibility in 2013: protecting Chase Rettig’s blind side.
Entering his fourth year as the starter under center, Rettig is a proven talent who in 2012 became the fourth BC QB to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a single season. He’s also proven to be fairly immobile, which means that the O-line has its work cut out keeping him upright in the pocket.
In 2012, the offensive line struggled with that task, ranking tied for 102nd in the country and 10th in the ACC in sacks allowed with 34.0.
“The whole O-line’s trying to take steps forward here and get better,” Patchan said of the unit’s performance in training camp. “You’re never as good as you think you are on film and you’re never as bad as you think you are, either. Every day you’ve just gotta get better.
“Nobody’s perfect. Even the best teams in the NFL, they’re not perfect. They can still get better at things.”
His mates on the line believe Patchan will be a big help if he stays healthy.
“He’s a great kid, he works really hard,” fifth-year senior co-captain Ian White, the bookend tackle with Patchan, said. “Real focused on what he needs to do to make this team better. He just got here, and he’s already leading, he’s already calling guys out and making sure the young guys are coming along. You can tell it’s really important to him.”
It has to be important to put up with as much aggravation and deal with as much pain as Patchan has just to get onto the field. Dogged by injuries throughout his career in the SEC, the big man hasn’t gone untouched so far at BC.
This week in practice, Patchan sported a cast on his right thumb. But it would take a lot more than that to stop him from playing this weekend.
He’s waited too long to get back on the field.
“It’s been a different ride for me than for a lot of guys, but I think right now my goal is just to make it to Saturday and play as good as I can,” he said. “I’m excited to get back on the field, to be back in game day.
“It’s been a long time coming for me. So I’m excited, I’m ready to go.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.