Shea Patterson won 'close competition' to be Michigan starting quarterback

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Shea Patterson

Ann Arbor – Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson emerged from what Michigan pass-game coordinator Pep Hamilton described as a “close competition” to win the starting job.

Patterson, a 10-game starter at Ole Miss before transferring to Michigan last December, will lead the Wolverines’ offense on Saturday at Notre Dame in the season opener.

His experience set him apart from the other quarterbacks, Brandon Peters, Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton.

“I think Shea has shown in big games over the course of his short career that he can make plays,” Hamilton said Wednesday. ”Not that the other quarterbacks can’t make plays, but he offers just an ability to make the on-schedule play and the off-schedule play and we’re excited about having that element in our offense.”

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Patterson participated in spring practice and learned shortly afterward that he was granted immediately eligibility by the NCAA after an arduous waiver process.

Hamilton said he knew quickly that Patterson could be capable of starting.

“It didn’t take very long at all because you saw it on his film prior to his arrival here in Ann Arbor,” he said. “It was just a matter of Shea developing some comfort in how we communicate our plays and getting a feel for the players around him.”

Still, Hamilton said the competition among the four was heated.

“It was an extremely close competition,” Hamilton said. “Coach (Jim) Harbaugh had talked throughout the offseason of the possibility of making that decision right up to game day at Notre Dame, possibly take that long. The other guys showed tremendous growth from spring practice to training camp. And they played well. They did a lot of good things, as well. But ultimately Coach decided to go with Shea.”

Harbaugh made the decision last Monday, breaking from his first three seasons when the starter was revealed at kickoff of the opener. Hamilton insisted the competition was close and that Patterson wasn’t a sure starter.

“I don’t know that we’ve known for a while,” he said. “Only Coach Harbaugh knew when he wanted to announce it and who that guy would be. We felt like we have four candidates who are very qualified to go out and play a high level of football for us.”

He was asked to identify the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We don’t have a depth chart.”

If Patterson needed to be spelled, Hamilton said Harbaugh “would decide.”

Peters started late last season and McCaffrey redshirted. Milton is a freshman. Hamilton said Peters and McCaffrey have improved with another year in the system.

“They’re a year older,” he said. “They have more experience and more time within the offense and within the system. Brandon having played in games last year has a better understanding of the urgency you have to make decisions in real games.”

He said that naturally, Peters is disappointed.

“(Peters) has been consistent,” Hamilton said. “He’s never stopped preparing. He’s a competitor so of course he wants to be out there. If he ever had to get out there I feel like he would go out and play at a high level.”

Asked about players saying the offense has been tweaked heading into this season, Hamilton wouldn’t offer any details.

“It’s not just the quarterback, it’s the overall group of guys we have,” he said. “It’s always our goal to go out and feature our playmakers. We’ll see what that looks like on game day.”

Gary is set to go

There was speculation over the weekend that defensive end Rashan Gary might have suffered an injury heading into the season opener. Defensive line coach Greg Mattison on Wednesday dismissed those concerns.

“You watch,” Mattison said. “You tell me afterwards how Rashan does, OK? That’s all I’ll say about that.”