Atlanta — When Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson announced he would return for his final year of eligibility, his teammates were overjoyed.
Patterson, who transferred to Michigan a year ago from Ole Miss, helped lead the No. 7 Wolverines to a 10-2 record. They will face Florida (9-3) on Saturday in the Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
With Patterson’s return, Michigan’s offense next season will have a majority of starters back. Running back Karan Higdon, who has decided to skip the Peach Bowl to focus on preparing for the NFL Draft, right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty, who has been injured and opted not to play in the bowl, and receiver Grant Perry will be gone.
“It’s going to bring another dimension to the offense,” Perry said of Patterson’s return. “The coaches know what they have at quarterback and they’re going to be able to work with that and develop more, add more, give them more.
“And he’s already talking to guys trying to get ready for next year. He’s trying to recruit some guys that may be on the fence on leaving or not. He’s going for it all next year. I’m happy to see him come back. I want him to do well.”
Patterson was the Wolverines’ Offensive Player of the Year and is second in the Big Ten and 18th nationally in pass efficiency. He completed 65.1 percent of his passes for 2,364 yards and 21 touchdowns against five interceptions. Had five three-touchdown games.
He has been a unifying force this season, a leader on offense, but the entire team, as well. Defensive coordinator Don Brown has spoken of his admiration for Patterson’s toughness, and the defensive players have told stories about Patterson joining their huddles during games telling them to get him the ball back.
Michigan defensive tackle Carlo Kemp said the team got a boost when quarterback Shea Patterson said he'd return The Detroit News
“That’s super exciting, because Shea is such a big leader and by saying it now, it’s just like, ‘OK, let’s really get working. Let’s get this year done in the right way. Let’s get this win, finish out our season, but the Peach Bowl is not the end goal,’” defensive tackle Carlo Kemp said. “We win this game, we work toward 2019 to be in that College Football Playoff next year. We’ve got Shea behind us. We’ll all get to grow and keep working and he makes everybody around, the entire team, offense and defense, so much better around him.”
Michigan was fifth in the Big Ten in total offense, averaging 427.6 yards. The Wolverines averaged 214.7 yards rushing and 212.9 passing. They were 18th nationally in pass efficiency offense in large part because of Patterson’s ability to run Jim Harbaugh’s offense.
After losing the season opener at Notre Dame — Patterson briefly left the game late because of leg cramps, but was able to return with a chance to tie or win the game before a turnover ended that opportunity — the Wolverines won 10 straight. Michigan lost 62-39 at Ohio State in the season finale.
“He grew into his leadership role,” Perry said. “I saw him at the end of the (Notre Dame) game. He kind of cramped up and couldn’t be out there as much as we wanted him to. I know that really hurt him in the Notre Dame game. As the year went on, he really just said, ‘I got us, let’s go,’ and just kind of led us. His leadership role definitely stepped up. His overall grasp of the offense, as well.”
Running back Chris Evans said having Patterson back will also help the run game. He has the ability to extend plays and he also ran for 268 yards on 66 carries and had two touchdowns.
“It was huge just being able to have him back there and he can be in the system again,” Evans said. “And we can be able to help him out and adjust to his needs and he can help us the way he can get around and make plays on his own. That’s huge.”
Michigan running back Chris Evans on quarterback Shea Patterson The Detroit News