Earlier this season, Shea Patterson sat on the turf at Notre Dame Stadium, powerless as the Irish swarmed the football he had just relinquished. Over the following week, intermingled with their criticism of Michigan?s offensive line, fans questioned whether Patterson was indeed the savior he was deemed to be when he transferred to Michigan in the offseason.
Three months later ? despite a bitter, season-ending loss to Ohio State ? that same fan base rejoiced when Patterson announced that he will return for his senior season next fall.
Over the ten weeks spanning the gap between those two losses, Patterson displayed all the attributes that made him a prized recruit when he announced his transfer from Ole Miss. His accurate passing, pro-level pocket awareness and impressive mobility had him projected as a second-round choice had he declared for April?s NFL draft pick.
Instead, Patterson will be returning to Ann Arbor, aiming to avenge last month?s defeat and take the Wolverines to heights they haven?t touched in two decades. And he?ll do so with a year?s worth of experience in Michigan?s offense under his belt.
?That?s gonna bring another dimension to the offense,? said senior wide receiver Grant Perry on Wednesday. ?The coaches know what they have at quarterback and they?re gonna be able to work with that and develop more, add more.?
Perry continued: ?I think he grew into his leadership role. ? As the year went on, he really just said, I got us, let?s go. And just kinda led us. So his leadership role definitely stepped up, and just his overall grasp of the offense as well.?
In the early stages of an offseason that should be filled with optimism ? off a 10-win season and with a highly touted recruiting class secured ? one concerning trend has marred the bright spots is former top recruits transferring. But Perry says that Patterson?s return has helped slow the exodus.
?He?s already talking to guys, trying to get ready for next year,? Perry said. ?I know he?s trying to recruit some guys, who are maybe on the fence of leaving or not and he?s going for it all next year. So I?m happy to see him come back and I want him to do well.?
The first impacts of Patterson?s return will be seen in Saturday?s Peach Bowl. Senior running back Karan Higdon ? one of the unit?s key leaders this season ? is sitting out to protect his draft stock, setting Patterson up for a bigger leadership role against Florida.
Perry says that the whole team has stepped up in Higdon?s absence. But Perry is on his way out ? next year, this will be Patterson?s team. And while the Peach Bowl may officially be part of 2018, that takeover starts on Saturday.