Editor’s note: Chris Howard played running back for the University of Michigan from 1994-97. He started for the Wolverines’ 1997 co-national championship team.
I remember the excitement when John O’Korn transferred to Michigan. Everyone salivated at his freshman stats and swore by the football gods that he was “the one.”
O’Korn never recaptured the promise he showed in his freshman season at Houston, ultimately losing his job to a wide receiver who converted to quarterback.
Initially I thought the rumors of Shea Patterson transferring were preposterous, figuring it was typical message-board fodder. But once the NCAA announced sanctions against Ole Miss, and Michigan quarterbacks Wilton Speight and Alex Malzone said they would transfer, pictures of a maize and blue jet in Oxford started appearing across social media. What I thought was just a rumor is now real.
Patterson announced Monday that he will transfer to Michigan. He was the top-rated quarterback in the country as a high school senior. In 10 games spanning two years at Ole Miss, he threw for 3,139 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Assuming he is granted an NCAA waiver, Patterson will don a winged helmet in the Big House in 2018.
But what should we expect? Patterson tore his posterior cruciate ligament during the first half of a 40-24 loss to LSU on Oct. 21, and was out for the season. Depending on who you speak with in Oxford, they’ll tell you his backup performed better in his absence. Bitterness? Probably.
However, you must ask yourself: Are the Wolverines getting the 5-star, No. 1-rated QB coming out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., that had every college coach in the country chasing him? Or is Michigan getting another gun-shy quarterback who needs to be rebuilt from the ground up?
Shea Patterson’s strengths
There is a lot to like about this kid. First and foremost, he’s a playmaker. He has that nice compact release like Peyton Manning, which allows him to get the ball out quickly and on time. All of the recruiting services listed him as a dual-threat QB, but his college rushing stats won’t put fear into a defense.
However, like former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, he is elusive enough to turn a broken play into a huge gain. Another thing I like about him is he throws well on the run, moving outside of the pocket. Patterson is not afraid to tuck it and run and, what Michigan fans will love is, he can throw the deep ball.
Shea Patterson’s weaknesses
Patterson tends to throw off his back foot when his first and second reads aren’t open, and the ball will sail over his intended target.
I don’t know if this is a weakness for him, but Patterson has played in the shotgun formation for most, if not all, of his career. Michigan runs a traditional quarterback under the center pro-style offense. Everything Michigan does is based off the power run game with heavy play action. It will be interesting to see how well he does lined up under center and has to drop back 5-7 steps.
Patterson is a gunslinger, which could be good and bad. Michigan will return one of the top defenses in the country in 2018. The Wolverines need a guy who can make all the right throws and take what the defense gives them. Patterson doesn’t give up on plays and will try to make something happen. He will need to learn that sometimes the smart play is to not try and make one. Throw the ball away and live to fight another play.
He was sacked 19 times in 2017. How much of that was on him or on his offensive line, I don’t know.
Sorting through Michigan’s quarterbacks
Patterson is an absolute upgrade to a quarterback room that suddenly lacks depth and experience thanks in large part to Speight and Malzone opting to play elsewhere. That left Michigan with Brandon Peters and Dylan McCaffrey as the only two quarterbacks on scholarship.
Peters is the presumed future going into 2018, but after suffering a concussion that knocked him out of the Wisconsin game and unable to play in the Ohio State game, one must wonder how durable is Peters?
Durability and depth are key considering poor offensive line play resulted in two quarterbacks being knocked out of games and the Wolverines ranked 113th with 34 sacks allowed. McCaffrey, from what I hear, is as good as advertised, but will need time in the weight room to be able to take the physical punishment of Big Ten football.
Michigan has quarterbacks Joe Milton and Kevin Doyle committed in the 2018 class. Milton is the crown jewel of the two with the highest ceiling, but he is extremely raw and probably won’t play any time soon. Doyle is the 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year in the Washington, D.C., area and possesses some fine traits that will allow him to compete. However, with the addition of Patterson, both more than likely will redshirt, giving them time to develop as players and get acclimated to college life.
What Michigan hopes to get from Shea Patterson
What is Michigan hoping to get from Shea Patterson? Depth, competition, experience and leadership.
I’ve always said Michigan is an elite quarterback and offensive line away from being a true contender, and no “well this is his third year” mumbo jumbo is going to supersede the glaring holes in Jim Harbaugh’s quest to put this program in position to compete among the elites. Harbaugh is trying to rectify that. In his own words, “more is more.”
Patterson potentially could provide a one- or two-year stopgap that would allow the younger quarterbacks more time to develop. He has experience, presence, swagger and he isn’t afraid to compete. He could allow Harbaugh and his offensive brain trust to add a run-pass threat from the quarterback, which would open up the offense tremendously and keep defenses on their heels.
I could see Harbaugh adapting his offense to incorporate more spread or pistol formations to take advantage of his talents, just like he did with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. It wouldn’t be a stretch for the coaches offensively because Tim Drevno ran similar schemes in San Francisco and Greg Frey had tremendous success with this style of play at Indiana.
Of course, this all sounds great, but Patterson still needs to win the job because nothing will be handed to him. He could be a great fit at Michigan, but it’s going to take some fine tuning to make it a perfect it.
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