In the football building, back during spring practice and then summer workouts, even away from the field, the Michigan players have noticed a different Shea Patterson.
Patterson, Michigan’s starting quarterback last season, returns to lead the Wolverines with a renewed confidence as preseason camp begins Friday. He started every game last year after transferring to Michigan from Ole Miss and threw for 2,600 yards, 22 touchdowns and had seven interceptions.
He’s still calm, cool, collected as is his nature, but there’s something more. It may be that he is now working in a system that suits his skill-set. Josh Gattis, co-offensive coordinator at Alabama last season, is Michigan’s new offensive coordinator and has installed a no-huddle, hurry-up offense similar to the one Patterson ran at Ole Miss.
“He’s been in control,” senior left guard Ben Bredeson, a co-captain last year, said. “He’s taken over and he’s doing a really good job. He’s being a lot more assertive. I would say, acting like the starting quarterback a little bit more. It’s been great to see. He’s done a great job, and the entire team respects him and is going to follow him no matter what.”
Patterson is extremely comfortable with this offense, which might be part of the reason why his teammates are seeing him with this confidence.
“I think it’s not only that, it’s being more comfortable around the guys,” Bredeson said. “Not being the new guy having him be there for a while.”
He leads a quarterback room that boasts more depth than Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has enjoyed as he enters his fifth season. Dylan McCaffrey is the backup and from what Harbaugh said during Big Ten media days in Chicago, he is expected to see the field in every game this season. Joe Milton and Cade McNamara are the backups.
Harbaugh said what made him commit to an overhaul of his offense was his quarterbacks.
“Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey, their explosive ability to throw and run, both,” Harbaugh said in Chicago. “And they're used to that. Shea was used to that. Found that Shea was really better in the shotgun after being with him for the first season. We went more to it as the season went on last year. Also, Dylan's ability to get out and go and run. There's a tremendous running ability there that he has.
“I think Shea’s really comfortable in that up-tempo, no-huddle offense, and things spread out just a little bit more helps those two quarterbacks. So it's driven by that for us and an opportunity to hire Josh Gattis ..."
While the quarterbacks took quickly to the offense, which emphasizes the playmakers on offense, going to a run-pass option was a pretty big departure.
“It’s different,” Bredeson said. “It’s definitely different than what we’ve been doing before. I love it, though, I really do. As an offensive lineman I was very skeptical at first of what was going on, but I’ve fallen fully into this. I love Coach Gattis’ offense. I love the way it works. I love the way you can get playmakers the ball on any given play no matter what’s called. ...”
Why was Bredeson skeptical?
“I just didn’t know, just the people we had, I didn’t know how a spread was going to work,” he said. “I ran a version of this in high school, but that doesn’t really matter. I didn’t know how everything was going to fit at first and then going through spring ball, the personnel we have fits this offense perfectly. It’s ideal. We really run it at an elite level so far throughout spring. I think it’s only going to get better through the summer and August.”
What will surprise fans, Bredeson said of the offense, is the speed of it. And to make that speed go takes a quarterback who understands the offense completely. That’s where Patterson fits.
“We’re going to get the playmakers the ball every single time,” Bredeson said. “If we can get these playmakers the ball enough out in the open where they can make a guy miss, we can turn these seven yard plays into 70-yard plays and stretch them. Hope we can hit some quick, and I think the fans are going to notice a difference."
Bredeson said Harbaugh has been hands-off and that this is Gattis’ show.
“We hadn’t had a true offensive coordinator while I was here,” he said, laughing. “It was a different way of doing it. We’ve had all these pass-game coordinators, run-game coordinators, co-offensive coordinators, we’ve never had a single coordinator.”
And now the Wolverines have this potentially explosive offense that complements their quarterback.
“Shea’s been great for us,” defensive standout Khaleke Hudson said. “He’s being a leader. He’s inspiring young quarterbacks and young guys on the team. He’s someone we trust. He’s someone we trust to take us all the way. He’s our quarterback.
“He’s the captain of our ship, and we’re behind him every step of the way.”
Seeking a jolt
Where Michigan’s offense ranked in the Big Ten last season:
► Scoring: Second at 35.2 points per game (No. 1, Ohio State, 42.4)
► Rushing: Sixth at 203.8 yards per game (No. 1, Wisconsin, 273.4)
► Passing: Ninth at 215.7 yards per game (No. 1, Ohio State, 364.3)