UM mailbag: QB derby takes new turn with Shea Patterson

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

It’s been a busy week with Michigan finding out it is heading to the Outback Bowl and then Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio engaging in an entertaining Twitter exchange. Oh, and then there’s all the activity involving Harbaugh encouraging Ole Miss players to transfer to Michigan, including quarterback Shea Patterson. So let’s get to some mailbag questions.

Question: Why is Harbaugh going after another transfer quarterback when he has three of his own guys already in his system? It’s like he doesn’t trust his own process. — @MrESPN

Answer: Hey there Jimmy, three of his own guys? I count two right now, Brandon Peters, a redshirt freshman, and Dylan McCaffrey, a freshman. With the decision of Wilton Speight (who was not recruited by Harbaugh), to transfer, Michigan lost experience, considering his 16 starts. That’s huge. Peters has tremendous upside, as does — from all accounts — McCaffrey, a freshman. Maybe you’re counting Joe Milton, the early-enrollee freshman who will sign in a couple of weeks, so in that case those are the three you're referencing, but Milton hasn’t been in the system yet.

Harbaugh trusts his process, but with an opportunity to secure the quarterback rated No. 1 in the 2016 class, why wouldn’t you go that route? Peters is the No. 1 quarterback in bowl practices and presumably will start the Outback Bowl, which would be his fourth start on the college level. He missed the Ohio State game because of a concussion. Patterson made 10 starts at Ole Miss, and this season in seven starts — before suffering a torn posterior cruciate ligament — completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 2,259 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Could Harbaugh have Peters ready to start the 2018 season at Notre Dame? Of course. But with a redshirt freshman backing him up in McCaffrey. In this latest potential scenario, Patterson would start at Notre Dame with Peters and his four starts backing him up. The objective is to win games, and this seems like a sound approach.

Q: Thoughts on Mississippi poaching? — @MikeCandela33

A: Saw your follow-up to this, Mike, and you’re wondering who’s coming and eligibility and what now at quarterback. While I didn’t like the idea of bringing in a graduate transfer quarterback for a one-year band-aid, this move with Patterson makes sense from the aspect of adding valuable experience. It’s about competition, too, and this can only make Peters better, while also making Patterson better.

Now, Patterson isn’t the only Ole Miss player paying a visit to Ann Arbor this weekend. Receiver Van Jefferson and safety Deontay Anderson also are expected. Feels pretty certain no one is making this visit without knowing that immediate eligibility is happening.

Q: How much blame/responsibility do we place on the OL coach and WR coach for those units’ lack of development? — @Danny_Halling

A: Hard to blame Pep Hamilton for Tarik Black, then the team’s leading receiver, for getting hurt early in the season. That was a tough loss. But beyond that, yes, of course receiver development should be questioned while also understanding that expectations should have been tempered a bit for someone like freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones. Peoples-Jones, the No. 1 receiver coming out of high school, wasn’t “there” yet early on like Black was, but by the end of the season he was showing signs of improvement.

Still, I wonder about Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom, because it felt like coming off last season they would make a jump this year. Of course it’s impossible to dismiss the quarterback situation and that effect on the receivers, but there were a lot of passes dropped.

The offensive line definitely showed the effect of losing Grant Newsome during last season. It forced Mason Cole to play out of position at left tackle and three spots had to be filled with first-time starters. Hate to keep saying next year is the year to really evaluate, but next season is really when it’s on the table — have they recruited good, athletic linemen. Are they being developed? Stephen Spanellis seems like the real deal, Michael Onwenu got better as he had more starts, freshman Cesar Ruiz stepped in at right guard and clearly has a future. Now it will be about identifying and developing the tackles.

Q: Did something unknown preempt the Harbaugh Twitter dig on Dantonio? Because I just don’t get it. Why? Why poke the bear? — @GoBlue1131

A: The response Mark Dantonio gave Sunday night when asked about the Holiday Bowl and if it was a slight is what triggered the Harbaugh tweet. Dantonio said: “The records are what they are. I’ll just continue to concentrate on beating Michigan and let things sort of sort out.”

Harbaugh has frequently, as we all know, responded when he thinks something is a “shot over the bow” and this was a perceived slight. I can see your point about poking the bear, and the only thing I can surmise is Harbaugh is really confident — maybe because of Shea Patterson? — going into next season. Still, if you don’t have a winning record against your rival, why?

But that hasn’t stopped him before. If you recall he once tweeted at Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith for what he considered a “shot over the bow.” Sitting back on the sideline and watching the Twitter exchange, it was fun to see some fire from both of them. Can’t wait until next season.