Back in May in Los Angeles, relatively new Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson took the field at the prestigious Steve Clarkson QB Dreammaker Retreat, where many of the nation’s top signal callers unite with the prolific QB mentor.
Having just gone through spring ball with the Wolverines, his first with the program, Patterson had a minute to reflect on his newfound team with USA Today Sports Media Group’s Brian Letscher.
As far as what he’s learned from his new head coach, Jim Harbaugh, after having spent his first two seasons at Ole Miss, Patterson says that it’s been the minutiae that’s made the biggest difference, and that he knows he won’t be coddled while wearing the maize and blue.
“I’d say probably the little things,” Patterson said. “He’s a huge players coach. He’s as real as they get. He’s not going to tell you what you want, he’s going to tell you what you need to hear. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to play for anybody but him.”
Of course, now Patterson is in fall camp, and vying for the starting quarterback job, with the season set to start in under three weeks.
And while we’ve heard a lot about how the offense has shifted to more RPOs, more spread-like formations, and different things that can utilize the mobile quarterback’s unique skillset, Patterson said back in May that he’s actually spent a lot of time in Ann Arbor getting to learn more about how to be a pro-style quarterback — a staple of the Jim Harbaugh-offense.
Considering that he has the skills to hurt you with his feet, and was in more of an Air Raid-type offense in Oxford, dropping back under center was something of a foreign concept to Patterson when he first arrived in Ann Arbor.
But getting to learn that aspect of quarterbacking has been his biggest learning curve and what he’s tried hardest to master once becoming a Wolverine.
“I think the importance of footwork and timing,” Patterson said. “I haven’t been under center too much in my career, so that was a bit of an adjustment for the first week or so. Then I got the hang of it.
“But yeah, just the importance of it, footwork and being on time. You take a five-step, rhythm five is supposed to be on your backstep, and you take an extra hitch, that’s the difference between a touchdown and an incompletion. Timing, I think, is the biggest thing that I’ve learned.”
Unlike when he was at Ole Miss, Patterson will have a lot of help, personnel-wise.
Of course, he has the talented wideouts and tandem of running backs that are expected to make a big difference for him offensively. But it’s the defensive side of the ball that will almost assuredly be Michigan’s biggest strength as a team.
“Coach Don Brown on defense is ridiculous,” Patterson said. “He’s done a tremendous job with our defense. They’re going to be really good next year.”
Knowing that he has the Michigan defense behind him helps Patterson stay loose, as he doesn’t have to go out and win a game all by himself.
He knows that the Wolverines are going to create a lot of short fields and get stops to help him out along the way. And that makes a huge difference for his mindset.
“It’s huge (and) such an awesome feeling knowing that your job is to go out there and score points, but if you don’t, the defense has your back,” Patterson said. “We’ll have their back as well this year. We’ve gotten each other so much better. We had a great spring collectively as a group, and just going against that defense every day, the speed they have, the discipline they have, it’s gotten me, as a quarterback, a lot better. The offense as a whole way better, too.”
We’ll find out soon enough who wins the job and takes over under center for the Wolverines, as Week One is set to kick off in South Bend at 7:30PM on September 1, as Michigan renews its rivalry with Notre Dame.