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Michigan Player to Watch: Shea Patterson

Some were stunned Michigan’s Shea Patterson decided to return to school for another year.

Michigan v Michigan State
Shea Patterson stepped into the Big Ten fire early on at Michigan. He lived up to his high school recruiting hype.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Shea Patterson left a chaotic situation at Ole Miss — which included a post-season bowl ban — in order to have a new opportunity to become a starting quarterback at a big-time football school.

He chose to attend Michigan, a team in desperate need of a steady hand at the quarterback position. Michigan needed a quarterback whose talent was matched by the maturity required to deal with the rigors of representing one the nation’s most scrutinized and nationally relevant/boisterous football programs.

As often as Michigan is in the spotlight, perhaps Shea Patterson was overshadowed last year by the 2018 Heisman Trophy hype and Big Ten accolades given (and frankly, earned) to then-Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins. In the matchup at Ohio State last season, Patterson wasn’t particularly bad, but it was easily in the bottom two or three of his overall performances in 2018.

Shea Patterson checks a lot of boxes

Arm strength. Check. Elusiveness with his legs. Check. Competitiveness and calculated emotion. Check. Leadership intangibles. Check. Head coach Jim Harbaugh (a head coach with background on the offensive side of the ball) is as fiery any head coach in the country, and in some ways his quarterback mirrors that intensity in the huddle and on the football field.

Shea Patterson’s experience

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Ole Miss at Texas A&M
Shea Patterson was thrown into the fire early at Ole Miss.
Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After watching most of his games last season and re-watching some highlights of his better throws in 2018, what sticks out most in Shea Patterson is his ability to scan downfield 100 percent of the time while on the run. He rarely gets tunnel vision and seldom locks in on one particular wide receiver. He does not panic nor does he decide to pull the ball down and run every time he feels the oncoming rush. He’s brave in and around the pocket and more often than not delivers a perfect strike. Patterson has 23 collegiate games under his belt — 13 in the Big Ten and 10 in the SEC. His experience shows and given the talent around him, it’s hard to imagine his game regressing this coming fall.

Shea Patterson’s played and lost games at the Horseshoe and at Notre Dame. He’s thrown passes at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Alabama and at Jordan Hare at Auburn. He won at Texas A&M as a true freshman. All of that experience, albeit most of it heartache, matters when the going gets tough particularly on the road in a primetime Big Ten game. He’s got something to prove, but being there before has to help.

Facing the Illini

We’re tired of beating the dead horse that Illinois’ defense was woefully horrible last season. Even if it improves by leaps and bounds, good quarterback play will almost always overcome good defensive play.

Patterson, through his own intuition and the coaching he receives from Harbaugh and new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, won’t force the issue and go for the home run each play. They’ll simply take what the defense gives them, especially in a no-huddle offense that Michigan will be running a lot of in 2019. The Michigan offense can wear the Illini defense (a defense that lacks depth) down by the third and fourth quarters. A lot of Michigan’s ability to do that depends on the running game heading into 2019, but Patterson is good enough in the short and intermediate passing game to make up for any shortcomings on the ground.

Illinois will be significant underdogs

Michigan will be heavy favorites when they come visit Champaign — a point spread likely to be the biggest of the season for the Orange & Blue — and possibly Michigan as well. The Illini will be hoping Iowa and Wisconsin (two teams Michigan plays prior to the Oct. 12 matchup) expose some weaknesses in Michigan’s offensive game plan.