Michigan could compete for the conference if they had a real quarterback. That statement was believed by a lot of people in the past couple of years, ranging from Michigan detractors to the disappointed fans of the Wolverines. It was a statement that made sense, too.
While Michigan invested in a big time addition at head coach, they couldn’t change the fact that John O’Korn and Wilton Speight were their quarterbacks. Even 2015’s quarterback, Jake Rudock, wasn’t the kind of player that you expect to win the conference with. But now, the situation is different for Michigan.
The Role of Shea Patterson:
Entering the scene this season is Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson, who will be eligible to play and is the favorite to take the starting job. It’s not that the other quarterbacks on Michigan’s roster are terrible. Brandon Peters is believed to be somewhat promising, after attempting 108 passes last season and completing 52% of them, throwing four touchdowns and two interceptions in the process.
But Patterson is already tested in the SEC, and looked good for an Ole Miss team that was trending downwards last year because of off the field reasons. Patterson isn’t just a good quarterback because of not blowing games, either. He’s the type who can take the game into his own hands by creating a big moment using his arm and legs.
Patterson has been compared to Johnny Manziel for his elusiveness, but Patterson has a better arm than Manziel and a very slight height advantage. Even in the game where Ole Miss was destroyed 66-3 by Alabama, Patterson had some of their brighter moments and was able to avoid getting sacked before fitting the ball into tight areas and getting surprising completions.
Against some of the better teams in the conference, Patterson might need to work on his discipline a bit. Teams like Ohio State and Penn State aren’t very forgiving when it comes to bad decisions in the passing game. Against the middling teams, however, it looks like Patterson should put up huge numbers with his mix of elusive pocket presence and arm strength that allows him to connect with his receivers deep down the field.
His best games versus power five opponents last season were against California, Auburn, and Vanderbilt. He threw three interceptions while only getting two touchdowns against the Golden Bears, but his performances against the other two teams featured no turnovers. Patterson threw for a combined 697 yards and six touchdowns against Auburn and Vandy, and also had a rushing touchdown in the latter game.
So what does this mean for Michigan? It means that while the other quarterbacks aren’t complete pushovers, Patterson brings something that they just don’t have. His versatility makes him a better weapon than Brandon Peters, and Patterson is more tested than any of the quarterbacks on Michigan’s roster.
He’s the clear cut starter. The big question for Michigan fans isn’t who will start, but whether or not Patterson will adapt to the different offense quickly enough to lead the Wolverines out of the extremely tough Big Ten East and into their first conference championship game appearance under coach Jim Harbaugh.