ANN ARBOR, Mich. — This will be a marriage of compromise between Shea Patterson and the Michigan offense.
Patterson announced Monday that he will transfer to Michigan for the spring semester. The 6-foot-2, 203-pound quarterback spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons at Mississippi, where he threw for 23 touchdowns and more than 3,100 yards in 10 games.
Patterson is expected to contend for Michigan’s starting job, and is expected to file a waiver with the NCAA in attempt to play next season.
Patterson is a playmaker, what Michigan’s offense was missing in 2017 — someone who can make plays as opposed to simply managing an offense.
For Patterson and Michigan’s offense to be successful, both will need to make adjustments.
“The quarterback at Michigan hasn’t actually had the [quarterbacks] making plays, as opposed to simply running the offense they’re running,” said Brian Stumpf, vice president of Student Sports, which hosts the Elite 11 quarterback camps and The Opening recruiting showcases. “He’s going to have to compete, but they’re envisioning him as a playmaker, and one who will take their offense to the next level.”
Stumpf, a former wide receiver at California, explained the difference between a playmaker and someone who simply runs the offense when a play breaks down. (“And it will, 60 to 70 percent of the time,” Stumpf said.) Sometimes a quarterback may not be able to follow through on the play that was drawn up; he might have to improvise.
“That’s where you have a guy like Shea, who can buy time with his feet, and have a second reaction,” Stumpf said. “When something goes wrong, instead of having a guy who might take a sack or throw it away, now you have a kid with his ability who cannot only buy time and throw it away, but can throw a 60-yard TD.
“His ability to improvise is really special.”
Making the transition
If the NCAA clears Patterson to play immediately in 2018, expect him to get every chance to compete for the starting position — competition is a hallmark of Jim Harbaugh’s program at Michigan.
But Patterson will need to transition to a new offense. He has primarily worked out of the shotgun and will have to acclimate to playing behind center in a pro-style offense, to reading defenses and making calls.
“What you see in college, players are getting plays called in from sideline,” said Chris Howard, a running back at Michigan from 1994-97. “Teams that run the spread, quarterbacks look to the sideline to get a play from the offensive coordinator or the head coach, to make sure they’re in the right formation.
“You don’t do that at Michigan. You have to read the defense and get the offense in the right play on your own. That’s a transition for him.”
A good quarterback has the ability to do that. Jake Rudock did, when he transitioned from Iowa’s offense to Michigan’s offense. He threw for a career-best 3,017 yards in 2015.
“Initially, it takes guys a little bit to get used to that,” said Dan Shonka, general manager of Ourlads.com and a former NFL scout. “They have to get their footwork right when they drop back. In the shotgun, you see the whole field immediately, but under center, you have to drop back and see things.
“Patterson will get that in spring ball. That will be another place where he can refine that.”
Does Patterson’s arrival at Michigan mean that the offense will undergo a complete makeover? Not necessarily, but it could open the door for Michigan to wield a more versatile offense.
“It remains to be seen,” Howard said. “What I can see happening, Harbaugh and [offensive coordinator Tim] Drevno and [passing game coordinator] Pep Hamilton tinker with the offense so that they’re not trying to force Patterson to fit into the offense.
“I can see Harbaugh transitioning to an offense he ran with Colin Kaepernick [in San Francisco]. Some spread, some power, maybe the pistol formation, to take advantage of Shea’s athleticism.”