This was originally posted on March 17, 2017. It has been updated following the 2018 season.
Sports fans love to debate the greatness of players and rank them in order from most revered to most despised. And while despised probably doesn’t fit any of these players, since they played for the University of Michigan, we all have our favorites. I have endeavored to achieve the un-possible: Rank all of Michigan’s starting quarterbacks.
Okay, that’s too tall of a task for me right now. I’m working up to it. So I’m only going back to 1995, which was the beginning of the Lloyd Carr era. That’s the earliest full coaching tenure where I can count on my recollections of Michigan football. I was a big fan of Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller, and the Michigan Wolverines before then, but I’ll be damned if I say I was aware enough to understand what was happening on the field.
This ranking only takes into account what the quarterbacks achieved wearing the winged helmet. High school highlight tapes and NFL performance aren’t taken into account. (After all, we can agree that Tom Brady is far and away the best quarterback who ever played the game of football, and that includes Uncle Rico.)
So if you were starting a season with your pick of any Michigan QB since 1995, which one would you take?
I apologize for the lateness of this post. We (as in the place where I coach) opened our season last week, so as you can imagine, things are pretty hectic.
Name: Shea Patterson Height: 6’2″ Weight: 202 lbs. High school: Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy Position: Quarterback Class: Senior Jersey number: #2 Last year: I ranked Patterson #1 and said he would be the starting quarterback with 3,100 yards passing, 23 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions (LINK). He was 210/325 (64.6%) for 2,600 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions; he also ran 76 times for 273 yards (2.6 YPC) and 2 touchdowns. TTB Rating: N/A
Patterson came to Michigan at just the right time in the 2017-2018 off-season. After a 2017 season in which all the quarterbacks – Wilton Speight, John O’Korn, and Brandon Peters – struggled, the position was in flux. Speight was leaving, O’Korn was graduating, Peters had struggled, Dylan McCaffrey didn’t seem ready, and incoming freshman Joe Milton was thought to be very raw. Without Patterson transferring in, there’s no telling how hot Jim Harbaugh’s seat would be right now. In an alternate universe, does he land a grad transfer? Does McCaffrey start and avoid breaking his collarbone? It could have been ugly.
But it wasn’t. Patterson stabilized the position, even if he wasn’t an All-American. His 22-to-7 TD-to-INT rate was solid, and he made the throws that were there to make. Unlike Speight and O’Korn, he completed deep throws, even if he sometimes left them a little short and gave defenders a chance to tackle after the catch. It has been several years since Michigan had a quarterback who threw a consistent deep ball, probably going all the way back to Chad Henne . . . and he struggled to take anything off the short stuff.
Patterson also managed to run some zone read stuff with aplomb, making several key plays on keepers; that included an 81-yard run against the Wisconsin Badgers and some big chain-movers against Northwestern, among others. Michigan has been blessed with decent-to-great runners at quarterback over the last decade (Denard Robinson, Devin Gardner, Jake Rudock, Patterson), but Patterson might be the best passer of them all.
Going into the 2019 season, Michigan needs Patterson to be healthy and at the top of his game. The running back position has question marks, and so does the defense. The receivers, though, when they’re healthy, are some of the best players at their positions in the country. If Michigan plans to beat Ohio State and make a run at the College Football Playoff, they need Patterson, his accuracy, and his leadership to get the ball where it needs to go in this offense. As hyped as McCaffrey is, we have yet to see him show the ability to sit in the pocket and pick apart a competent defense, even for a short stint. Michigan could still be decent without Patterson, but the games against Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and of course OSU would become much more difficult.
Let’s see more of this guy on offense . . . Zach Charbonnet. The true freshman earned the first start for a freshman in a season opener since Sam McGuffie in 2008. And let me throw out the suggestion that Charbonnet will have a better career in a Michigan uniform (McGuffie had 486 rushing yards, 175 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns in his one season in Ann Arbor). Charbonnet had 8 carries for 90 yards and 2 catches for 9 yards. He showed some toughness, vision, pass catching ability, pass blocking ability, and a little bit of speed.
There’s a lot that we could get into with the new offense, so I think it might be best to just go position-by-position on that side of the ball.
The two-quarterback thing needs to be nixed. Jim Harbaugh and Josh Gattis are probably trying to make Dylan McCaffrey happy by putting him on the field with Shea Patterson, but it’s a bad move. The offense isn’t in sync when both are on the field. Whoever’s behind center is late getting the play off, and then they threw an inside screen to McCaffrey, who was immediately swarmed under by big guys. Why put your lanky backup QB in a situation where he catches a ball three yards away from 250+ pound defensive linemen and linebackers?
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Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit’s time! Fighting in the maize and blue corner, it’s . . . the 2019 season predictions. You can check out my 2018 season predictions and how they fared here (LINK).
LEADING RUSHER I am not confident in this pick whatsoever, but I’m sticking with what I predicted a couple weeks ago: Tru Wilson edges out Zach Charbonnet. Charbonnet is the most talented back to land at Michigan in years, if not decades, so I’m very willing to be wrong on this one. In fact, I want to be wrong. Please prove me wrong by rushing for 850 yards, Zach Charbonnet… Prediction: Tru Wilson, 700 yards
Hit the jump for the rest of the prognostications.