ANN ARBOR — Michigan has its championship defense.
Does it also have its championship quarterback?
Fans sure seem to think so. Message boards, Twitter, and Facebook proclaim Shea Patterson as Michigan’s savior. When fans stop him on the street, the message usually isn’t, “What’s up?”
The Toledo native is aware of the stakes, and he’s embracing all that comes with the title of Michigan starting quarterback.
“It’s once in a lifetime,” Patterson said Thursday. “Not many people can look back and say they got the opportunity to be the quarterback at the University of Michigan.”
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Former Michigan quarterback and current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh made the rare move of announcing Patterson, a junior transfer from Ole Miss, as the starting quarterback before the season opener at Notre Dame. Throughout camp, players and coaches were forced to answer questions about the quarterback competition. Finally, the winner became obvious, and dancing through hoops was no longer needed.
Patterson, when asked if he ever felt like he wasn’t going to be the starter, said that mindset is a setup for failure. He approached the spring, summer, and fall as if he was going to lead the Michigan huddle, a group that already responds to his message.
“I definitely think [Patterson] brings some intensity to the offense,” sophomore wide receiver Tarik Black said. “He’s always trying to bring up the energy. I think it’s great for us as an offense having a guy that can make a few guys miss in the pocket and extend the play, just make plays with his feet. Definitely another addition to the offense that we really need and we really like.”
Thursday was the first time Patterson addressed the media since the team’s trip to Paris in April. He was peppered with questions for nearly 20 minutes, calmly answering and smiling throughout the back-and-forth with reporters. His teammates say his demeanor is similar in the locker room and on the field, where Patterson exudes a quiet confidence that gives him an unmistakable swagger.
But self-belief alone isn’t going to correct Michigan’s offensive distress. Patterson must make plays to eliminate any repeat of last season, when the Wolverines ranked sub-100 in total yards and passing yards per game.
In 10 career starts at Ole Miss, he threw for 3,139 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Patterson completed 64 percent of his passes last season before an October knee injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. He had 2,259 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 2017, while also rushing for a touchdown.
“We’re all men here,” Patterson said. “I think we all understand what lies ahead of us and what needs to be done. The work ethic has to be through the roof, and I think, as an offense, we understand how good our defense is. The biggest thing we stressed over fall camp is just getting better every single day. Don't make the same mistakes you made yesterday.”
There’s still no definitive answer on who is overseeing Michigan’s offense. Harbaugh has made comments about a collaborative effort between himself, passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton, and wide receivers coach Jim McElwain. Regardless, Patterson alluded to elements that will sprinkle in some of the excitement from Ole Miss.
“You can tell just from walking around, he has a presence,” sophomore fullback Ben Mason said. “He’s not afraid of anything, which is something very important you need in a quarterback. He just has this swagger that, honestly, it spreads throughout the team. It’s not a cockiness. He’s just a very confident kid.”
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