Desmond Howard Shares Why Michigan's Offense Looks So Improved

Desmond Howard Shares Why Michigan's Offense Looks So Improved

Football

Desmond Howard Shares Why Michigan's Offense Looks So Improved

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — There were three big problems when it came to Michigan’s offense a year ago: the offensive line’s inability to pass protect, inconsistency at quarterback and youth and inexperience at the wide receiver position.

When it comes to analyzing an offense — especially the latter part about the wide receivers — no one is more qualified to assess where Michigan has improved in that area than former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard, now an analyst for ESPN’s Saturday pregame show, College GameDay, who played wide receiver in Ann Arbor.

While he does see a unit at wideout that’s become more experienced, it isn’t them shedding their youth that’s caused the emergence so much in his mind as it’s the offensive line becoming better in pass protection.

“I think these guys are really starting to play much better,” Howard said. “I think it all starts in the trenches though. It all starts with the offensive line. You have to be able to control the line of scrimmage for anything to be able to happen offensively. First and foremost, Michigan wants to run the ball. And running the ball sets up the pass, play action, things of that nature – they have to respect the run, and maybe put 8 or 9 in the box. And I think now, because the offensive line’s playing better – Cesar Ruiz is really coming into his own, I think it opens up the playbook, it opens up the offense and that helps out the receivers even that much more.”

But of course, there’s the other element that’s certainly helped these Wolverines and the offense take that next step forward: having a dynamic playmaker at quarterback.

Shea Patterson came aboard this season after transferring from Ole Miss. The former five-star, who was once the top-rated quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class as a whole, has slowly, game-by-game, acclimated that much more.

Howard was on hand for Michigan’s season opening loss to Notre Dame, and not only does he see a different, more comfortable player under center, he says that it’s very much due to — yet again — the offensive line.

“Shea is a guy I believe is now benefitting from the offensive line playing better,” Howard said. “He’s getting more comfortable. He’s completing like 68% of his passes with 10 touchdown throws. Just watching him – things that numbers can’t tell you – he’s looking more comfortable. He’s looking like he’s getting into a rhythm. He’s looking like the Shea Patterson that people had anticipated who came from Ole Miss when he said, ‘I’m gonna transfer to Michigan,’ and people were like, ‘Okay, this is what this kid brings to an offense.’

“Now he’s starting to look like that kid.”

We’ll see how much the offense has truly improved as Michigan takes on Wisconsin and the Badgers’ tough-nosed front on Saturday night at The Big House.

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