Late last week, word came down from on high that Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson would be eligible this coming season for the Wolverines. The decision by the NCAA could immediately make Michigan a national title contender.
Patterson, a true sophomore last season, transferred from Ole Miss in the offseason and petitioned to the NCAA to be granted immediate eligibility. Normally, a transfer who has yet to graduate must sit out a season before being eligible to play.
So how did Patterson get the go ahead so soon? He basically claimed he was duped by then-Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze.
Imagine Ole Miss as luxury liner with a bunch of gouges in its hull and when it pulls up to Shea Patterson’s port, Patterson asks Freeze, “Hey, what’s with those holes in your boat. Those look like they could sink the entire ship.”
To which Freeze replied, “Those? Oh, those are ‘speed holes.’ They make the boat go faster. Now let’s get on board. Here, let’s get that life-jacket off of you. There’s no need for that here.”
And then seven minutes later the boat sank and Patterson found himself with a handful of other Ole Miss players on a life raft looking for help.
The NCAA eventually deemed Freeze’s “Speed Hole Gambit” unworthy of keeping Patterson out of competition this season, and now the Michigan Wolverines have the kind of title hopes that they haven’t had since…well…last September.
In reality, the passing game was never going to be where the Wolverines needed it to be a year ago, and not just because of the situation at quarterback. The receivers were too young to be reliable, even before Tarik Black’s season-ending injury.
Those receivers now, however, are a year older, a year better, and poised to be the best group at Michigan since maybe 2004 when Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant, Steve Breaston, and Adrian Arrington were running around.
And that’s where Shea Patterson comes in.
Patterson has only played in 10 games in his career. His redshirt was burned at the end of the 2016 season for three games. His 2017 season was ended after just seven games due to a knee injury.
Now he comes to Michigan with just 10 games under his belt and 140 years of history on his shoulders.
There is reason to be excited, however, as Patterson has thrown for over 300 yards in seven of his 10 career starts. Of course, Michigan’s style of play is just a smidge different than what Ole Miss does. The defenses are a bit different as well.
At Michigan, I don’t see Patterson needing to throw for 351 yards against a team like Vanderbilt in order to win a 57-35 shootout.
But I also don’t see Patterson as a shoo-in star for the Wolverines. The Rebels were 0-3 on the road last year with Patterson in the lineup, and his gaudy statistical performances have come against the likes of South Alabama, Tennessee-Martin, California, and Vandy. He did throw for 346 yards against Auburn, but that game was over early.
Patterson failed to complete even 50% of his passes against Alabama or LSU last season, throwing zero touchdowns and five interceptions. Alabama and LSU were both in the top 10 in pass efficiency defense, so poor numbers are expected. But for as many quick screens as Ole Miss throws, you’d like to see better numbers.
Speaking of numbers…
But if Shea Patterson is a star, then he is going to change everything at Michigan.
The running game has been better the last two years, but new offensive line coach Ed Warinner is going to make it even better. That’s just what he does.
If you add a talented passer to an improved offensive line, improved receiver group, and an already talented duo of running backs in Karan Higdon and Chris Evans, then this could be the best offense in the Big Ten.
Now couple that with what many expect to be the best defense in the conference as well and it is completely understandable to see why people are excited about the possibilities.
And the great thing about Patterson is that he’s relatively new to Michigan football. He spent two years being coached by somebody else, which as Jake Rudock showed in 2015, is the only way to be a successful Wolverine quarterback under Jim Harbaugh.
In all seriousness though, it is curious why Harbaugh’s quarterbacks have regressed at Michigan. Maybe the easiest explanation, however, is that they just weren’t very good and defenses didn’t have to work too hard to figure them or the UM offense out.
And after seeing this in the third episode of Michigan’s ‘All or Nothing’ show on Amazon Prime, I’m growing more convinced that not all of this is Harbaugh’s fault.
"Kill! Kill! Kill!"
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) April 24, 2018
How is a coach even supposed to succeed with that?
Patterson is certainly the most talented of the quarterbacks that Harbaugh has had at Michigan, and the Wolverines showed in 2016 that they are capable of having a lot of offense under Harbaugh.
Shea Patterson will allow the Michigan offense to do more in the passing game. Ed Warinner will allow them to do more in the running game. Together, they could make the Wolverines the best team in the Big Ten.
[Note: There isn’t much need to talk about the defense right now because the last time I checked, Don Brown was still planning on solving everything with aggression.]
I’m not jumping completely on the Shea Patterson bandwagon just yet because I want to see it first. But in reality, Michigan doesn’t need a superstar. They just need somebody who doesn’t check into the one play Jim Harbaugh told him not to. Or somebody who doesn’t lock in on a pre-snap read and get fooled worse than a dog chasing a tennis ball that never gets thrown.
The Wolverines don’t need an extraordinary quarterback. They would gladly settle for ordinary.
What I think will ultimately hold them back from contending for the playoffs, however, has nothing to do with the coaching or the offense or the defense.
I just don’t like Michigan’s schedule.
Road games at Notre Dame, Northwestern, Michigan State, and Ohio State are going to be rough. Can the Wolverines go 3-1 in those games and then hold off Wisconsin and Penn State in the Big House?
That schedule is too daunting for my liking, but I believe the talent that Michigan has on hand this year could be special.
[Shea Patterson photo courtesy OleMissSports.com]