Passing Weekly Tests, Michigan Brimming With Confidence, Not Arrogance

shea patterson joe hewlett michigan football

Passing Weekly Tests, Michigan Brimming With Confidence, Not Arrogance

Football

Passing Weekly Tests, Michigan Brimming With Confidence, Not Arrogance

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan is on a five game winning streak, but with those five games coming against perceived lesser opponents, we don’t know if the Wolverines are peaking at the right time or just beating up on teams that aren’t as good.

But we’ll find out shortly, with No. 15 Wisconsin coming to town on Saturday night.

Fifth-year fullback Jared Wangler has been through several ups and downs, personally as well as team-wide during his tenure in Ann Arbor. Having committed and spent a year under Brady Hoke, in his first year with the program, Wangler can remember what it’s like to not make a bowl game. A few years later, he was a part of team that was a questionable spot away from a College Football Playoff appearance. Last year, Michigan limped to an 8-5 record that wasn’t quite as bad as many would have you believe, given how close the team was, despite a bevy of injuries at the quarterback position.

But Wangler feels like this isn’t just a Michigan team that’s beating up on lesser opponents — he says it’s more so his team coming together at the right time.

“There is something special with this team – you can feel it,” Wangler said. “I kinda feel like we’re hitting on all cylinders right now and really gelling really well, both on and off the field. With the coaching – the schemes have been great, the coaches have been great, the players are – everyone’s interacting really well. Confidence is there, which is really what you need, especially in these big games coming up. I sense something great about this team. I’ve played with a lot of guys. The guys on this team – I love them. They’re all really good dudes. I’m sure as you guys have interacted with them in interviews. But there’s just a lot of really good people on this team. No big ego guys really – just guys that want to win.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by some of his coaches.

Mike Zordich coaches the cornerbacks — who are part of the nation’s best passing defense statistically — and he can see the team coming together across the board, not just defensively. He can feel all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — coming together as one cohesive group, and it’s all started with the way the team has taken the week leading up to the games so seriously.

“I just think in their actions, where they have practiced, Coach has even talked about it – you can feel the team coming together,” Zordich said. “I think Devin (Bush)’s leadership has helped. You can see it, you can start to feel it. Hopefully it’s contagious. Just keep coming together and keep getting better week after week.”

That’s a notion echoed by running backs coach Jay Harbaugh, who sees a team that’s brimming with confidence.

Harbaugh also likens it to the way the team prepares, but what he likes about it is that he’s not seeing a team that’s arrogant. And because of that, they’re working harder in preparation for each game, in turn building the confidence that much more.

“We’re a confident team right now, and I think our guys are mature enough that it’s confidence and not arrogance,” Harbaugh said. “And they understand that you have to prepare to win the game and you’ve got to win the game on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, et cetera. You get a whole team approaching it like that, it’s a really healthy confidence.

“So I would say I see the same thing from the offense, in terms of our prep.”

The way Zordich sees it, it’s part of the maturation process.

With Michigan going 8-5 a year ago, and being down to the third-string quarterback down the stretch, people also often forget just how young the 2017 team was. There were ten first-time starters on defense and eight on offense to begin the season. Yet, the defense was among the nation’s best, and kept the team in all but one game — at Penn State.

Offensively, there was little cohesion, which is to be expected when there’s a revolving door at quarterback, right tackle and wide receiver. Now that there’s some consistency, even the defensive side of the ball can see the offense getting to be that much more cohesive.

And as Zordich says, a lot of that starts with Shea Patterson being under center.

“I think it is, and I think the difference being – especially last year – we were just so young and everything, and I think a little fragmented,” Zordich said. “Weren’t feeling quite together, the together. Maybe it was inexperience – that’s what my personal opinion is. But now, it just seems that these guys are getting older, starting to feel comfortable with each other, with the system and playing together. That’s the way I feel.

“I can see it offensively, too. I think Shea has done a helluva job of bringing everybody together on that side of the ball.”

And Patterson has been a difference-maker, to be sure.

Harbaugh says that Patterson’s ability helps out his unit to not have to stay on their blocks due to his scrambling ability, but his bigger contribution is being a calm, focused leader on and off the field.

He can make plays — and we’ve seen that in short order — but even when things look dire — like on the road at Northwestern, down 17 points early — Patterson’s demeanor is the still, calm hand on the till helping direct the Wolverines.

“Obviously playing quarterback and leading the offense, he’s gonna have, be able to impact the emotions of the rest of the offense,” Harbaugh said. “And he’s so positive, on top of his stuff and he’s so focused throughout practice that everybody definitely feeds off it. There’s the preparation part there and that kind of like trust that this guy could make stuff happen. Our team never feels like we’re out of it or like we’re going to lose or anything. But having a guy like that amplifies it. You feel like there’s nothing that can stop us because he’s so dangerous and he’s able to make things happen.”

Now, Michigan moves on to a perceived stronger opponent with the Badgers coming to town on Saturday night. The game will kick off at 7:30PM from The Big House.

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