Orion Sang: Patterson would be difference-maker at Michigan

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh may have a chance to add Shea Patterson to his roster this offseason, but it remains unclear if he will be eligible immediately.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh may have a chance to add Shea Patterson to his roster this offseason, but it remains unclear if he will be eligible immediately. Buy this photo
Evan Aaron/Daily

 

Sunday, December 3, 2017 - 4:19pm

Shea Patterson played eight games this year before suffering a season-ending injury. In those eight games, he threw for 2,259 yards and 17 touchdowns. 

Michigan’s rotating trio of quarterbacks? Well, they threw for a combined 2,023 yards and nine touchdowns — in 12 games.

There shouldn’t be any debate. If it’s on the table, Patterson and the Wolverines should get hitched.

And it certainly seems like there’s a chance that could happen — maybe even more than just a chance at this point.

Yesterday, the Ole Miss Spirit of 247Sports reported that the Rebels granted their star sophomore quarterback permission to contact other teams about transferring, with both parties signing a “permission to contact” form. That means that Patterson can reach out to teams like Michigan — and in turn, teams like Michigan can reach out to him.

The Spirit also reported that the Wolverines are “probably the favorite” for Patterson, if he does indeed decide to transfer.

Of course, Patterson’s decision to transfer is likely contingent on whether he’ll be eligible immediately. In fact, one of his teammates has already retained a lawyer to petition the NCAA for immediate eligibility. So for the sake of this exercise, let’s assume Patterson won’t have to sit out a year — giving him status as a coveted free-agent for any quarterback-starved teams.

Hello, Michigan.

As we all saw throughout the year — whether it was against Michigan State or Ohio State — the Wolverines have been in need of better quarterback play. One might argue Brandon Peters has done enough to prove he should be the team’s quarterback of the future, or that the praise for Dylan McCaffrey shows he could start next year. Maybe bringing in a hired gun like Patterson would ruffle a few feathers.

But Patterson would supply what the Wolverines have needed. He’s got a pedigree unlike that of any other quarterback on the roster.

People have been talking about him for years, long before he even joined the college ranks. He was ranked as the No. 4 overall prospect and the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in his recruiting class. He won a pair of national championships playing for Calvary Baptist Academy in Louisiana. Then he transferred to IMG Academy for his senior year, a football factory that plays top teams from across the country every year. All Patterson did was lead them to a perfect 9-0 record.

He didn’t face much of a learning curve once he got to Ole Miss, either. After Chad Kelly went down with a season-ending injury, Hugh Freeze chose to lift Patterson’s redshirt and start him on the road against then-No. 8 Texas A&M.

That stage wasn’t too bright for the highly-touted freshman. Patterson led the Rebels to a 29-28 upset win, throwing for 338 yards and two touchdowns and adding 64 yards on the ground. In College Station, he looked every bit the dynamic player he had been hyped up to be.

Patterson was well on his way to taking the proverbial next step this year, too, before a PCL injury against LSU ended his season prematurely.

Make no mistake about it: Patterson would be a perfect fit for Michigan. Watch the highlights, and you’ll see.

Patterson can hit all the throws required in Jim Harbaugh’s offense. The Wolverines couldn’t complete a deep ball this year. Patterson averaged 8.7 yards per attempt this year and averaged 33.1 yards per touchdown pass, a mark that ranked third-best in the nation according to Pro Football Focus.

He also brings more to the table than your typical pocket-passer. At times, Patterson looks like the second coming of Johnny Manziel, displaying an innate ability to feel pressure, dodge pass rushers and deliver catchable balls on the run. Consider him already well-equipped to deal with Michigan’s issues in pass protection.

It’s possible that Peters or McCaffrey could still lead the Wolverines to the promised land. But projecting that requires some squinting. You have to imagine one quarterback with 64 career attempts making a huge leap, or a quarterback who has never even attempted a throw in college doing the same. The man under center would still be a question mark, less of a sure thing.

And therein lies the difference between Patterson and Michigan’s current options. Shea Patterson doesn’t project to be good. He is good.

Add him to the roster, and you’ve got a winning equation. There’s no squinting required to predict a season that ends with Michigan’s first appearance in the College Football Playoff.