Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said quarterback Shea Patterson has been playing "lights out" in camp Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News


Ann Arbor — Forgive new Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis for wondering if his starting quarterback was too busy this summer chasing birdies.

But when he saw Shea Patterson was improved and polished when camp opened last Friday, Gattis knew the Wolverines’ returning starting quarterback was refreshed and rejuvenated and eager to lead UM's no-huddle, pro-spread offense.

Patterson started every game last year after transferring to Michigan from Ole Miss and threw for 2,600 yards, 22 touchdowns and had seven interceptions.

“Shea’s playing lights out right now. I was a little bit worried about him coming into camp because he spent so much time on the golf course this summer,” Gattis said, laughing. “He’s playing lights out, he really is. His playmaking ability, his ball placement, his footwork within the pocket, I’ve been really, really pleased. He’s playing at a really big-time level and so he sets the standard and, really, the bar high for our offense and the other players around him see it.

“One of the things we talked about coming into this camp was accountability, making sure we hold everybody accountable on offense, and they’ve done a really good job leadership-wise doing that.”

Patterson’s teammates have said they’ve seen him become a more confident quarterback. Not that he ever lacked confidence, but senior left guard Ben Bredeson said there was still the newness for him last year after transferring in and playing with a new bunch of teammates. While he adjusted quickly, he has, Bredeson said, become more comfortable.

“He’s been in control,” Bredeson, a co-captain last year, said at Big Ten media days. “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.”

He is the leader in a quarterback room brimming with the most depth Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has enjoyed as he enters his fifth season. Dylan McCaffrey is the No. 2 quarterback, 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 other backups.

Harbaugh made the decision to hire Gattis and commit to his offense in large part because of the skill set of Patterson and the quarterbacks. It is an overhaul of the offense, but it does lend itself to what Patterson does well and did well when he operated in a similar system at Ole Miss. And it all should work in theory, considering the skill at receiver and, for a change, a veteran offensive line.

“Found that Shea was really better in the shotgun after being with him for the first season,” Harbaugh said recently. “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.

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“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, who I followed for a long time back from when he was coaching at Western Michigan and then Penn State, Vanderbilt, Alabama. Opportunity presented itself to hire him and was decisive doing that because I felt like he would be the person that could coach that system the best, knew that system the best, and it's been a great learning experience for me learning some of those ways. And our coaching staff is at the point now where they know it and everybody's working really well together. That's the whole of it. That's the reason why but that's where it is right now.”

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Gattis emphasized that Patterson is making the rest of the quarterbacks better.

“His understanding of what I want to accomplish within the offense, and what we want to accomplish,” Gattis said Wednesday. “He has a great feel and great presence. Obviously, he’s improved on a lot of his weaknesses from last year. Not necessarily were they weaknesses, but we’re talking about quarterback fundamentals. We’re talking about stepping up and footwork in the pocket, rhythm on throws, timing, understanding reads and progressions, something we put a huge emphasis on and (quarterbacks) coach (Ben) McDaniels emphasizes every day.

“To see his development in just a short ability of time — obviously, he’s blessed with tremendous playmaking ability. But now he’s fine-tuned some things and really became a complete quarterback in my opinion.”

Harbaugh said at Big Ten media days he expects McCaffrey to get playing time in every game. Gattis took it a step further saying they could both be on the field at the same time, something that happened at Alabama, where he was co-offensive coordinator last year.

“It’s not new for me at all,” Gattis said. “Every place I’ve been the past few years, multiple quarterbacks have played. Some of those situations multiple quarterbacks have been on the field at the same time. That’s just what I’ve been around. I think in college football today, you have to prepare your (No.) 2 and (No.) 3 as if they’re starters. We’re not just talking about Dylan, we’re talking about Joe Milton as well. You’ve really got to be able to prepare those guys because if something happens and you lose your 1, you don’t want it to be a whole culture shock that your starter’s down and your other players don’t have the trust and comfort level in who your backup is.

“When I look at our quarterback room and the depth we have there, the playmaking ability in Joe and Dylan, they’ve got the trust of our players. They trust them to run the offense effectively and efficiently.  We’re going to find the best ways to use all our playmakers and we’re not isolating playmakers to a label of tight ends, receivers, running backs. That also includes our quarterbacks.”

Twitter: @chengelis