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Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh discusses why he named Shea Patterson the starting quarterback. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

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Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News breaks down Michigan’s offense.

Shea Man

That was Shea Patterson’s family nickname when he was a kid – “Shea Man.” Well, now Shea is the man at Michigan, transferring from Ole Miss in December, finally getting cleared by the NCAA in late April for immediate eligibility and winning the job early in camp. He will be Michigan’s starter at Notre Dame Saturday night in the season opener and he will lead a tweaked offense that will showcase his skills. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said this week on his radio show that Patterson does “a lot of things really well” and because of him the staff “opened up the playbook even more.” Because he can extend plays and is mobile, the offensive line has learned it’s always interesting blocking for him.  “You’ve got to keep your feet moving,” guard Ben Bredeson said. “It’s a different quarterback than we’ve had in the past. You can say it’s a challenge, but it’s really exciting for us because he can make plays all over the field. We just hold our blocks, that’s all we can do. He’s faster than we are so sometimes when he gets out there, you’ve got to trail the play. You never know what’s happening with him. He’s an exciting player.”

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No punching bags

Since the hiring of new offensive line coach Ed Warinner, who built impressive lines at Ohio State, the Wolverine linemen have been walking with their chests puffed out a bit more. They don’t want people pointing their fingers at the line anymore. Yes, they know the offensive line has been a unit that has lacked consistent play and has been porous. But Warinner arrived and simplified things for the linemen. Immediately, the players responded positively. “I’d say the way he teaches is the main difference,” guard Ben Bredeson said. “He simplifies a lot of things, makes it really easy for us, so when we get on the field, we’ll only have one check and that makes it simpler for us so we can play faster.” The interior should be solid with sophomore Cesar Ruiz at center, Bredeson to his left and Mike Onwenu to his right. The tackles are the questions marks. Jon Runyan Jr. has impressed coaches and teammates at left tackle, and Juwann Bushell-Beatty is at right tackle.

Next receiver up

For the second straight season, Michigan’s receiving corps has suffered an early loss. Tarik Black, leading the team in receiving last season, broke his left foot in the Air Force game early in the year and did not play again. He broke his right foot last Saturday and is out for an undisclosed amount of time, although coach Jim Harbaugh has hinted he could return before the end of the season. Nico Collins will have to step up along with Donovan Peoples-Jones. Grant Perry brings experience to the group. “That’s a really tough loss,” Perry said. “My heart’s out to him. I know it’s tough for him. It’s a dangerous sport. Every time you strap on that helmet you have to be ready for the unexpected. I know whoever is going to step up whether it’s Nico, Donovan, (Nate) Schoenle, Oliver (Martin), they’re going to do really well because we’re all prepared.”

Running away

Running backs coach Jay Harbaugh says he has a “1-1 punch” in Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. They are “both starting running backs,” he says. Higdon was just shy of 1,000 yards last season (994), while Evans rushed for 685. “They're a great duo,” Harbaugh said. “The best thing about both of them is just the consistency day in and day out. They both have added strength and have improved in pass protection.” Michigan will have to determine is No. 3 running back. At fullback, Ben Mason has taken hold now but had been pushed by Jared Wangler. Wangler was not practicing in the one-hour practice the public was able to watch Sunday before game week, but he should be back in the thick of things soon.

A tight group

The position that should not be overlooked is tight end. The Wolverines have depth there and some big bodies in Zach Gentry, the former quarterback who finally feels completely comfortable in every phase of his role, including blocking. Sean McKeon, by all accounts, made great strides in spring practice and camp. He said this summer he wants them to be the best tight end group in the country. And that includes Nick Eubanks, who was injured in the Big Ten opener last year and is ready to be a major contributor this season.

 

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