It was only a matter of time.
Shea Patterson will start at quarterback for the No. 14 Michigan football team, as confirmed by UM spokesperson Dave Ablauf after coach Jim Harbaugh made the announcement during a U-M Club luncheon in Ann Arbor on Monday.
Wolverines coaches and players were careful to promote a healthy quarterback competition publicly, complementing the strides of Patterson, redshirt sophomore Brandon Peters, redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffery and true freshman Joe Milton throughout the spring and summer.
“That position has been very competitive, probably (one of) our most competitive position battles going on,” Harbaugh said Aug. 8. “And like I said, none of them have given in. None of them have dropped off. So, (the competition) rages on.”
But the Wolverines didn’t sign Patterson to be a backup, and vice versa. The former 5-star recruit came to Ann Arbor to play.
So it makes sense that this is the earliest Harbaugh has announced a starting quarterback in his Michigan tenure. The Wolverines had quarterback battles during the past three offseasons — the first of which was won by another transfer in Jake Rudock. Peters, Wilton Speight and John O’Korn, meanwhile, fought for the role last August. But a series of injuries and poor execution left the group mostly ineffective, combining for for just 2,226 passing yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2017.
That created the need for Patterson. He, by comparison, threw for 2,259 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in seven starts for Ole Miss a season ago. And after a lengthy review by the NCAA last spring, Patterson was determined eligible for the 2018 season in late April.
So began another Michigan quarterback “battle” — though this time with Speight and O’Korn gone to UCLA and graduation, respectively — but rumblings about Patterson’s ability and corresponding changes to the offense had already gained momentum.
“(Patterson) has the ability to do things with his legs,” said defensive coordinator Don Brown earlier this month. “He’s got a quick release. I just like the guy. I just like him. He’s a good guy. He’s a confident guy as I said and a very good athlete.”
Patterson’s legs give fans another reason to be excited about Harbaugh’s announcement. The Wolverines haven’t started a quarterback with competence both inside and outside the pocket since Denard Robinson from 2010-2012. Cornerbacks coach Michael Zordich explained what kind of pressure Patterson’s dynamic has already put on his defense during practice.
“You’ve got a guy like Shea that can move the pocket, so yeah, it’s definitely tweaked,” Zordich said. “You play different defenses, although (defensive coordinator) Don (Brown) doesn’t change much.
“We’ve done some things different (to defend Patterson). I don’t want to talk about them because of the opponents coming up. We don’t change too much. I’ll just say that.”
The Wolverines open their season at No. 12 Notre Dame on September 1st. Shea Patterson, now officially, is Michigan’s starting quarterback.