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BTN's Laurinaitis, on Michigan: 'This is the year, right?'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Big Ten Network football analyst James Laurinaitis believes Michigan’s addition of quarterback Shea Patterson could be the difference for the Wolverines this fall.

Laurinaitis appeared Wednesday morning ESPNU-College Sports Talk on Sirius XM and was asked the direction Michigan is going in coach Jim Harbaugh’s fourth year, coming off an 8-5 season last year. He weighed his opinion heavily on confidence in Patterson, who transferred last December from Ole Miss.

New quarterback Shea Patterson could be the difference this season for Michigan, says Big Ten Network analyst James  Laurinaitis.

Michigan’s camp opens Friday, and Patterson will compete with Brandon Peters, who became Michigan’s starter late last season but missed the regular-season finale against Ohio State because of a concussion suffered a week earlier at Wisconsin, Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton. McCaffrey is a redshirt freshman and Milton a freshman. Patterson has by far the most starting experience among the four.

“If you’re a Michigan fan, you have to say, ‘This is the year, right? This is the year we beat Sparty and we beat Ohio State,’” Laurinaitis, a former Ohio State linebacker, said. “If you have a Shea Patterson transfer in, a guy who has credibility — they had (John) O’Korn throwing the ball last year. Ohio State got lucky they had O’Korn in early in that game (last season), because he couldn’t hit anybody that first drive. Honestly, if he was throwing out of a canoe and could hit water, they’re up 14-0 super fast in that game in Ann Arbor, and it’s a whole different ballgame.

“Now, with a formidable quarterback in Shea Patterson, you have (Karan) Higdon taking over the role at running back. I think he’s the stud there. They have wideouts in (Donovan) Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black who got hurt after the Florida game. They have talent and their defense, (coordinator) Don Brown has done a great job. If you’re a Michigan fan, you’re saying to yourself, ‘OK, we have a guy who has played football games in the SEC and has put great numbers and we have him as our quarterback now with Jim Harbaugh, with other pieces, great defense, great secondary,  we should be able to win these games against Michigan State and against Ohio State.’”

Laurinaitis thinks Ohio State could be vulnerable with a new quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, taking over as starter. Haskins played well in relief of injured J.T. Barrett in last year’s game at Michigan. Haskins was 6-of-7 for 94 yards and had 24 yards on three carries.

He thinks Michigan State’s balance on offense and defense are more concerning for the Wolverines.

“Michigan State has (quarterback Brian) Lewerke back and (running back) LJ Scott still, they’ve got a good young defense That could be a battle,” Laurinaitis said. “But when you’re looking at the Ohio State game from (the Wolverines’) perspective, if not this year, then when? Like if they don’t catch Ohio State this year, because if Dwayne Haskins comes out and he ends up being who everyone locally thinks he is, then what’s next for them?

“When they hired Harbaugh, I thought, ‘Goodness, this is a perfect hire. A prototypical Michigan man, he brings NFL pedigree, he’s great with quarterbacks. It’s going to be awesome, Urban Meyer versus Harbaugh.’ And it’s fallen so flat, that you’re kind of like, ‘if they ever get the seat hot for him and decide to move on, then who’s next?’ Because there’s really not any other Michigan guy I can think of that’s out there other than Les Miles who doesn’t have a job. When you have a prototypical (former Michigan player), you’re paying him a ton of money and he falls flat, I think Michigan is in a unique situation. You don’t want them to become a museum versus they should be in it year in and year out.”