For Michigan QB Shea Patterson to fly, ‘there better be guys helping him,’ analyst says

Sen. John Blutarsky and Shea Patterson share a kindred spirit and, Lord willing, not much else. Because nothing — not the window, not the down, not the possession and sure as hell not the play — is over until No. 20 decides it is:

Michigan’s newest savior and Jim Harbaugh’s newest toy is a classic play-extender, an improviser, a scrambler and survivor who has an optimist’s arm and panicked hare’s feet, one who is stubborn to the last.

When your uncle waxes about Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach in their prime, quarterbacks who’d zig for 25 yards to their left then zag for 30 yards to their right to try to find a 20-yard gain downfield, that’s Patterson, a former 5-star prospect who joined the Wolverines’ revolving quarterback door on Monday after two seasons at Mississippi.

“I love his scrambling ability,” Pro Football Focus Big Ten analyst Josh Liskiewitz said of Patterson, who wound up fifth in the SEC in touchdown passes (17) and passing yards (2,259) this fall despite playing in only seven contests. “He has a knack for sensing and avoiding pressure.”

He also needs help once the fire drill starts, which could make this an interesting marriage, whether it’s consummated in 2018 — Patterson has filed for a waiver with the NCAA in hopes of playing immediately — or the autumn after that. Because, lest we forget, the Wolverines’ struggles this season in the passing game were a team effort: If the offensive line didn’t spring a leak, then one of the young wideouts whiffed on executing Plan A, let alone Plan B.

“One of the things Michigan receivers really struggled with is the scramble play,” Liskiewitz noted. “The line should be better. But I don’t think they need to be dramatically better. [Patterson] is going to be looking downfield, and there better be guys helping him.

“So that’s an adjustment they’re going to have to make with him, because he’s going to be looking for that more so than [John] O’Korn, who was basically, [if] the first read’s there, he’s going to throw it, or if not, he’s going to eat it.”

On Planet Shea, eating the rock is for chumps and squares. The play goes until every possible avenue is exhausted, including your patience.

“It’s one of those things where you always have to remember the kid was a sophomore playing on a bad team that was a mess, and he still had a lot of production,” Liskiewitz continued.

“Were there some issues? Sure. No one should be pretending like he’s the completed product. What you see is what you get.”

You get a delivery that sometimes looks spurtive. You get a base that can get too wide during throws, along with a propensity to overstride and look smaller in the pocket than his 6-foot-2 frame would suggest.

You get a QB rating that, in the heat of a rush, PFF found to have dropped 25 points off its overall 2017 mark. When pressured, Patterson’s completion rate was under 50 percent, the site noted, while at a 68.2 percent clip when the pocket was clean.

“That’s lower than some, but they let him throw downfield and intermediate [routes],” Liskiewitz said. “The guess is that’s a little tougher than an Oklahoma quarterback that’s [always] throwing within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.”

‘Cause when the going gets tough, Baker Mayfield …

“I don’t remember his fumbles being bad, but he holds the ball loose,” Liskiewitz said. “That’s something he has to work on. I’m talking little, fine-tuning things.

“In general, he has enough to make every throw. I think he has a pedigree Michigan just hasn’t seen yet under Harbaugh.”

And a ceiling we haven’t seen, either. If you gave up on this offense when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, No. 20 would like a word. And the ball.

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