When head coach Jim Harbaugh named junior quarterback Shea Patterson starter two weeks before the season kicked off it made some think that the QB competition in camp wasn’t close. Passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton pushed back on that narrative Wednesday during media availability.
“It was an extremely close competition,” Hamilton said. “Coach Harbaugh had talked throughout the off-season about the possibility of making that decision right up to game day at Notre Dame — it could possibly take that long. Ultimately, coach decided to go with Shea. I don’t know that we’ve known for a while.”
That said, there was a reason Michigan coaches lured Patterson to campus. Hamilton mentioned that the staff knew Patterson could be a starter well before he transferred and that experience was a big part of Patterson winning the QB battle.
“We saw it on his film prior to him being here in Ann Arbor,” Hamilton said. “It was just a matter of Shea developing some comfort in how we communicate our plays and getting a feel for the players around him. It (seeing Patterson’s impact on tape) has an impact not just on me but the entire program. The quarterback position is really the centerpiece for our success, so having a play-maker, having a guy that can do what’s prescribed and then some is an important element in a successful offense.”
The “and then some” part is probably in reference to Patterson’s legs. For an offensive line that finished last season ranked 117th in adjusted sack rate and lost its left tackle, who was not part of the problem, Patterson’s escapability will be key to a successful season on offense.
“Shea has shown in big games over the course of his short career that he can make plays,” Hamilton said. “Shea has the ability to make the on-schedule play and the off-schedule plays, and we’re excited about having that element in our offense.”
Defensive line coach Greg Mattison likes what he’s seen from Patterson during camp going up against the defense and alluded to Patterson’s speed but somewhat humorously made it clear that his d-line never exactly had the chance to get to the new quarterback.
“I’m impressed with Shea,” Mattison said. “If the head football coach would let us hit him as hard as we could, we would try to do that. That’s what my scouting report would be. You may not be able to catch him, but that’s what I would do. But we aren’t allowed to touch him.”
On Tuesday, redshirt junior tight end Zach Gentry said that Michigan pass-catchers have paid a lot of attention to coming back towards the ball when Patterson extends plays.
“It’s been great (working with Shea),” Gentry said. “Route timing, things of that nature are getting better. He’s been more comfortable recognizing people when they come in and out of their breaks, so I think that chemistry’s just getting better every day. He’s so mobile, and he can extend plays so that’s definitely something that we kind of have to get used to, try and mirror him.”
Patterson’s chemistry with his receivers and tight ends wasn’t instantaneous, but the quarterback worked on it extensively this off-season.
“You have to really meet with him to get the timing down, and Shea was really great about, ‘Hey let’s meet up and throw some balls around,'” Gentry said. “There’s an adjustment period, but I think we’re bridging the gap pretty well.”
Patterson’s ability to break the pocket has Wolverine fans drooling about his potential impact.
“Maybe him being able to get out of the pocket allows us to be able to make a play that maybe we shouldn’t be able to make.,” Gentry said.
We’ll find out on Saturday.