Football season feels so far away, and yet, there is so much to discuss. The biggest topics of interest these days seem to be assistants Tim Drevno and Pep Hamilton, and Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. So let’s get to the mail.
Question: Likelihood Patterson plays this year? @michmike69
Answer: Mike, so by likelihood he plays you really mean, what’s the likelihood he is eligible to play, right? My hunch – and if anyone tells you he or she knows for sure one way or the other, don’t bite, because no one knows for sure yet – is the NCAA will make the right decision and waive the transfer rule for all the Ole Miss transfers who are not rising seniors.
In a story I wrote for The Detroit News last month, Thomas Mars, the attorney representing several Ole Miss transfers – he represents former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt – suggested a decision might come from the NCAA in late January or early February.
The schools where the players are transferring must prepare a packet of information to submit to the NCAA for consideration. Michigan is still working on the one for Patterson as it continues to collect substantive kernels of information that could bode well toward swaying the NCAA, so the calendar for a response has been pushed back.
There is considerable evidence that former Ole Miss coach Huge Freeze and his staff misled players like Patterson when they were being recruited. Freeze and his staff were not upfront about how serious their violations were and the potential punishments the program would receive. Interestingly, the NCAA Division I Council this week indicated it will consider this summer a proposal that would give transferring athletes immediate eligibility.
Players often have pointed out the double-standard that coaches can change jobs without issue, and yet, the players are penalized when they transfer and must sit a season.
Q. Should we move Bredeson to tackle? And Brad Hawkins back to offense? We need some explosion on that side of the ball. @HoseaBulger
A. I’ve mentioned the possibility of Ben Bredeson to right tackle for a while, Donnie. Been trying to read the tea leaves – Cesar Ruiz said during bowl practices that he had only practiced at guard last season, and Michael Onwenu obviously started at guard before getting hurt and then losing the job to Ruiz.
Both played in the bowl and Stephen Spanellis came in at center. Bredeson wasn’t available for the bowl because of injury, which is why Onwenu was at left guard. Spring practice is when they will tinker and tinker with the offensive line, but Bredeson did practice a bit last fall camp at right tackle.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. As for Hawkins, I think he sticks on defense. He came in as a receiver, where you presumably want him to return, was moved to safety and then viper. Not saying there’s isn’t a need at receiver, but new receivers coach Dan Enos will have plenty to work with in Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, Nico Collins, Oliver Martin, and those are just the young players.
Q. Mom says, “How come we have the nation’s hardest schedule? Can’t M football ever have nice things?" @mbush_bush
A. Is it the hardest? Could be. It’s certainly going to be tough, especially with those rivalry games – Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State on the road. The home schedule is pretty good with Nebraska, Wisconsin and Penn State in Michigan Stadium, but you’re right. With the exception of just a couple “breather” games, this will be tough.
Didn’t Michigan have the toughest schedule in 1997? Just thinking out loud there. But wouldn’t you rather play a demanding schedule instead of a bunch of cupcakes?
Q. When considering the trajectory of improvement of the program, is Michigan improving at a rate to compete for a Big Ten title? A national title? If so, when do you think it will be in the running? @akim1026
A. This question makes me nervous because it feels like a physics exam, and that’s just not my wheelhouse. So, the trajectory was looking pretty good in 2016, wasn’t it, until the Iowa game, and that’s when the wheels came off.
They came off even more in 2017, but looked at rationally, it was tough for this offense to get going with its quarterback and offensive line issues. And then that bowl game -- that is still puzzling considering the month of preparation, and yet, they looked so lost. Jim Harbaugh probably wishes he could take a mulligan and forget about last year. This upcoming season is going to be pivotal, and that’s not breaking news.
Michigan has the type of schedule that could make them a contender if they’re winning, but there are still too many unknowns with the offensive line to get a good feel for where this team is going in 2018. I figured when Harbaugh was hired, it would be more like Year 4 when his program could make a real statement.
I feel like I’m about to start hedging on that, but it’s time for Michigan to be better than the third- or fourth-place team in the Big Ten East. It’s time for Michigan to have an offense that can match its defense.
Q. What really happened with Kareem Walker and will Kurt Taylor get any snaps this coming season? -- @JoshuaReynolds
A. Don’t really know for sure, Joshua. There was so much speculation and I was told all of that was bogus. Now, Isaiah Hole from 247Sports had reported a family issue, which is why he missed the bowl game, and I have heard things along that line, as well. Will probably know more about Kurt Taylor’s role going forward after spring practice. He is a hard worker, that was clear from his high school career, but my hunch is he won’t have a significant role just yet.
Q. With the multitude of new coaches being brought in, what does the future hold for Tim Drevno and Pep Hamilton? -- @Danny_Halling
A. Danny, as it stands now, both are in the roles they have held. Drevno is the offensive coordinator and coach of the offensive line, and Pep Hamilton is the pass-game coordinator. The newest, most intriguing member of the offensive staff, however, is Dan Enos. He has been a head coach and most recently an offensive coordinator and now he’s going to coach receivers? It just feels like he will have a bigger role at some point in the near future.