All-Metro Ryan Lewis was the consummate superback for Patterson last year.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder used his 4.4-second 40-yard -- speed to rush for 1,653 yards and 31 touchdowns, averaging 11.2 yards a carry.
So his graduation from a team that went 11-1 and reached last year's 4A state semifinals appeared to leave a huge void. Replacing him posed what many considered a large dilemma for coach Roger Wrenn.
But Wrenn has found the answer in perhaps the unlikeliest of players -- a compact package of dynamite named Dwayne Simmons.
Simmons is two inches shorter and 15 pounds lighter than his predecessor but claims to be as fast, if not faster.
And unlike Lewis, who rushed for 1,186 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior, there is little about Simmons last season statistically that would seem to warrant Wrenn's decision.
What Simmons accomplished as a backup last fall -- 148 yards rushing for a touchdown, two receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown -- might have equaled a game's worth of work for Lewis.
But stats don't measure Simmons' tenacity.
"Dwayne showed glimmers of greatness in a couple of games last year. Once he had a couple of real nice runs against Lake Clifton where he kind of ran over people," said Wrenn, who is 139-76-2 over 22 seasons -- including 3-0 this year.
"The fact that he's our linebacker says a lot. There aren't many 165-pound linebackers. But he's tenacious, a rabid hitter and a hard-nosed kid even for his size. Dwayne didn't know he was going to be our premier back, but we knew he had the potential."
Simmons made Wrenn look like a genius in No. 3 Patterson's season-opening 20-6 win over Poly, scoring the Clippers' first touchdown, a 90-yarder on their second play of the game.
Simmons also had Patterson's last touchdown from 14 yards, ending the day with 257 yards on 21 carries.
"When they told me after the first scrimmage that I would be the starter, I was like, 'Give me a job, I'll do it,' " said Simmons, who has scored six of eight touchdowns rushing on 461 yards, averaging over nine yards a run. "If I have to try and run over a guy, I will, but mostly, I try to shake them."
Simmons credits linemen such as Terry Otto and Pat Stafford for clearing the way.
"Superback's a position where you have to be very physical. You have to be able to take some pretty solid hits," said Otto, who is 6-2, 262.
While eschewing contact out of the backfield, Simmons, last year's fourth-leading tackler, loves making the big hit as an outside linebacker. He's got 24 tackles -- six solo and 10 first hits.
"I'm going to be underestimated by some people, so I try to bring TTC a lot of spirit and emotion to that position," said Simmons, who returned an interception for a score in last week's 14-8 win over Lake Clifton.
"I can hit harder than a lot of people might think. And if I can't take the guy down by going after his legs, I'll hold him up and wait for my teammates."
Among those is middle linebacker Rahim Booth, a second-team All-Metro pick who is 6-1, 227 pounds.
"My role is to make sure everyone knows the stunts and blitzes, and Dwayne's a big help in that area," said Booth. "He's the No. 1 guy when it comes to firing up the team. As far as I'm concerned, he's picked up where he left off last year."