The Journey is Finally Over
After four long months of waiting, the NCAA ruled former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson eligible, effectively immediately, for play. This clears the way for Patterson to take over the starting job at the University of Michigan should he pass muster in the eyes of Jim Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton.
Many commentators hemmed and hawed at the amount of time the decision took. To their credit, neither Patterson nor the coaching staff in Ann Arbor did much griping, at least publicly. At the center of the decision was an alleged mischaracterization of the extent to which Ole Miss would be penalized because of their 2016 recruiting violations. Patterson claimed Ole Miss suggested extent of the violations and their impending punishment would be much less than it actually was. After months of back and forth between the NCAA, Ole Miss, and Patterson’s lawyer, Ole Miss agreed to let Patterson transfer.
Living Up to the Hype?
Wolverines fans’ hype surrounding Patterson knows no limit. But there is not much tape to say if Michigan is getting a stud or a dud. He was a highly touted recruit. In the 2016 recruiting class Patterson ranked fourth overall (coincidentally, current Michigan teammate Rahsan Gary was the top ranked recruit).
As a freshman, Patterson started in three games when then-starter Chad Kelly suffered a season ending injury against LSU. Patterson shocked everyone his debut with a nail-biter of a victory over the tenth ranked Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field. However, Ole Miss lost their next two games two rivals Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
2017 was both Patterson’s sophomore year and the year the NCAA announced Ole Miss’s punishment. He came into the season with some calling him a future Heisman hopeful. He started seven games before he tore his ACL, allowing Jordan Ta’amu to shine in the remainder of the season. In his seven games under center, Patterson completed 63% of his passes, while throwing 17 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. The Rebels went 3-4 under his leadership. Their only wins were against two FCS teams and Vanderbilt whose final record that year was 5-7. Not the exactly a resume that suggests he is the clear choice for the Wolverines this fall.
Spring did not yield a clear starter. The battle for the starting position will carry into the summer. Though, given Harbaugh’s history with keeping the name of the starter close to his chest, that is not particularly surprising. Likely, a final decision will not be announced until the last week in August before the Notre Dame game.
The next likely candidate for the starting job is Brandon Peters who saw action last season after Wilton Speight’s injury and second-string John O’Korn struggled. Peters himself did little to wow spectators, losing in the Outback Bowl to South Carolina. In a game the Wolverines had a month to prepare the offense looked off. Peters threw two interceptions, no touchdowns, and less than 200 yards. Perhaps the criticism of Peters at the time was overly harsh of a relatively untested sophomore. However, a number Michigan offensive players, including Peters himself, said the game would show a picture of the Wolverines’ future. Peters will need to show he can be calm under pressure and make better decisions if he wants the job.
The other two possibilities are redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey and true freshman Joe Milton. Neither have any college playing experience but both were highly touted-recruits. McCaffrey was a four-star recruit and the fifth-ranked pro-style quarterback of the 2017 class. While Milton, also a four-star recruit, ranked ninth for 2018’s pro-style quarterbacks.
Who Gets the Ball and Who Gets the Clipboard?
Michigan is trying to signal that any of the four could become the starter. Not surprising considering the circumstances where no one is the clear favorite. However, common sense says it will come down either Patterson or Peters. If it were to be one of the freshmen, the reports coming out of Ann Arbor would likely be hyping them up. In all likelihood Milton will redshirt this season, as Harbaugh typically does with freshmen quarterbacks, and McCaffrey will be the third string. It is difficult to make a call at this stage but given Peters will be in his third year of the Harbaugh system he has an edge over Patterson, regardless of how much talent he may bring.