Ann Arbor — Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson said recently that fans shouldn’t blink because the new offense is that fast.
He said that jokingly, but new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has installed an up-tempo, no-huddle, pro-spread offense that the players promise will keep defenses on their toes and put points on board — a lot of them, they hope.
“I think the sky’s the limit for this offense,” Patterson said Thursday, his first time meeting with reporters during camp. “We can do so many different things out of so many different personnels and looks. Speed in space is the big thing and controlling the tempo of the game.”
Patterson returns as Michigan’s starting quarterback after throwing for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns with seven interceptions last season in a Jim Harbaugh-Pep Hamilton offense. What Gattis, in his first season as an offensive coordinator, has installed is an offense that Patterson is familiar and comfortable with. After all, he ran something similar during his two seasons at Ole Miss before he transferred to Michigan.
Offensive line coach Ed Warinner has said this offense fits Patterson “like a glove,” and teammates have described Patterson as being extremely comfortable and confident in part because he’s in his second season with the Wolverines and knows the offense so well.
“It pretty much came natural to me,” Patterson said. “Ran a lot of the same stuff and Coach Gat laid it all out for us. We all feel pretty good about it.”
Patterson said it came naturally because it fits him athletically and because he had the experience at Ole Miss. He's fast and smart and makes quick decisions.
“Just being familiar with what Coach Gat wants, and it also helps having all those different weapons on the outside — the running backs and the tight ends,” he said. “When you have playmakers all around you getting open, doing their job and the O-line doing what they need to do, I think it makes it easier on me.”
When asked where he’s made the most improvement in the offseason, Patterson said it has come in his leadership. He was named an alternate captain this week along with safety Josh Metellus. And although Patterson said he doesn’t know exactly what his role will be as an alternate, he did say the “defense will go far with Josh and the offense will go far with me and Ben (Bredeson).” The captains are left guard Ben Bredeson, who was a captain last year, and defensive players Carlo Kemp and Khaleke Hudson.
“Stepping up a little bit (as a leader) off the field — I think that was huge,” Patterson said. “We have so many good leaders on the team. They’ve pushed me as well.”
Harbaugh said last month he wants to get backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey playing time as well this season in every game. Patterson said Thursday he’s not sure how that will shake out.
“I’m just going to go out there as the starting quarterback,” he said. “I want to be out there every single play. That’s my job. I want to go in every game, and I always want the ball in my hands. That’s up to Coach Harbaugh.
“Each day Dylan’s working his (butt) off, and I’m working my (butt) off.”
Center Cesar Ruiz played with Patterson one season at IMG Academy in Florida and they reunited last year. Ruiz sees Patterson thriving in this offense.
“I do see him doing a lot of Shea things in practice,” Ruiz said. “I think you guys should know what that means, ‘Doing a lot of Shea things.’ We’ve seen him do it previously when he first got into college. I see him more comfortable in doing what he does in our new offense.”
What does Ruiz think “Shea things” mean?
“He’s in his own category,” Ruiz said. “Shea things is him turning a play from nothing into something, just seeing him do great things and mind-blowing things like that.”
Across the board, from coaches to teammates, they've described Patterson in head-down-focused-and-working mode during camp. Gattis joked the first week into camp that he was worried how Patterson might report since he had been playing so much golf — a game he picked up a year ago and described his ability Thursday as “average.” But Patterson didn’t miss a beat and opened camp smoothly, according to Gattis.
“He’s playing lights out, he really is,” Gattis said at the time. “His play-making 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 the bar high for our offense and the other players around him see it.”
Harbaugh said last week that Patterson had strung "five great practices together consistently," while quarterbacks coach Ben McDaniels described him as playing clean and not making mistakes in any phase.
Of his relationship with McCaffrey, Patterson said “everybody’s competitive” before adding they push each other every day and have a “good time off the field.”
Patterson prides himself on his versatility and ability to run any offense. He uses last season as an example. He did what he was asked to do, no complaints. But everyone seems to be in agreement, this pro-spread offense was tailor-made for Patterson.
“I have the ball in my hands every single snap, it’s my job to own the operation and control the offense, so I’m going to do that to the best of my abilities,” Patterson said. “I feel as a unit we’re feeling really good about it.”
Patterson said the team has grown close during camp, and he especially likes how smooth the offense has been.
"We’re all excited to get back on the field," he said. "We put in so much work the past six, seven months. Just ready to get out there and go."