Shea Patterson was buried in the corner when Donovan Jeter’s turn came to answer questions.
Michigan’s spring game was still going on, and about 100 yards up the tunnel, Patterson was standing in a room off to the side, wearing a tank top and a cap turned backwards, the reins at quarterback turned over to early enrollee Cade McNamara.
Jeter looked over at the senior quarterback, or what he could see of him behind a scrum of reporters that reached four deep.
“They got Shea,” Jeter said, loud enough to hear over the clamoring. “They ain’t worried about me.”
And, well, he wasn’t wrong.
A few weeks ago, offensive line coach Ed Warinner called Josh Gattis’ offense, “tailor-made” for Patterson — and on the first drive of the spring game, Patterson hit Ronnie Bell on a crossing route, then Mike Sainristil for a touchdown, both balls thrown exactly where they needed to be.
Spring games are inherently farcical, even without the added stipulations Michigan football puts onto them. Trying to extrapolate anything from a scrimmage is hard. Trying to extrapolate anything from a handful of drills with some non-tackling scrimmage snaps tacked onto the end is fool’s work.
Later though, with the pocket collapsing, Patterson stepped up, saw Oliver Martin alone near the end zone. Another dart. That play got blown dead on an artificial sack, and it was in a setting that shouldn’t matter. But, of course, it does.
Last year, Jim Harbaugh’s offense hit a wall. Good. Not good enough — especially when it counted. The Wolverines shredded Wisconsin and Penn State. They fell short at Ohio State and did next to nothing against Florida.
Whether or not this offense is where Patterson will thrive is a question that will be answered in November and December. To hear him tell it, there already seems to be a conclusion.
“It’s just, it feels natural,” Patterson said. “… I think the game’s slowed down a little bit.”
This offense, at least for now, lived up to all the hype built in the form of pent-up frustration. Michigan went fast. Michigan didn’t huddle. Michigan ran shotgun. Michigan ran speed options and RPOs. Michigan seemed to click on all cylinders, doing something completely different than it has in the duration of Harbaugh’s time in Ann Arbor.
So, when Patterson was asked about the truthfulness of Warinner’s description, it really wasn’t all too surprising when he gave a one-word answer.
As Patterson pointed out, Gattis is the sixth offensive coordinator to coach him in the last six years. He ran something similar at Ole Miss, but at this point, he’s used to learning something different every spring.
“(Patterson) looked pretty comfortable today,” said senior tight end Sean McKeon. “He’s been licking his chops all spring with this offense. Just getting new stuff right now. He said it was pretty similar to some stuff he did at Ole Miss, so he was already pretty used to most of the stuff we ran.”
Gattis’ system makes things simple for everyone else, but the quarterback needs to do a little more compared to last year. There’s more reading the defense — on RPOs, Patterson needs to pick out the option player, often based on alignment, then figure out what he’s doing. He’s required to know the protections, the runs, the running back’s footwork, the receivers’ routes.
Harbaugh’s offense was complicated, too, albeit in a completely different way. Everyone had to think about everything, all the time, which meant things could get too slow and too complex. This, at least for now, is different.
“It’s night and day,” Patterson said. “… As far as similarities, I think there’s very few.
“It’s gonna be fun.”