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Michigan has reloaded at quarterback this off-season

A transfer and a highly touted freshman may be Harbaugh’s most important signings yet.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan 2018 recruiting class has left some to be desired. Even with the addition of a couple of solid transfers, this recruiting class mirrored the season it followed. Solid, sure, fine, but lacking home runs.

Howevah, the one position that has rightfully gotten a lot of attention is quarterback. After random white guy (Kevin James?) decided to de-commit the other day, Michigan will be left with two quarterback additions this off-season. The first is stud transfer Shea Patterson and the other is a wildly talented true freshman, Joe Milton. Particularly if Patterson is granted immediate eligibility, these two signings could be major catalysts in turning this program elite.

Let’s review both of them to see what Michigan might have in store.

Shea Patterson, JR - 6’0 (200)

Patterson’s strengths, weakness, timeline, ability to change the offense, and jersey number have all been covered by writers better than myself plenty, but I’m going to tell you what I think anyway.

Shea is a weapon, pure and simple. His highlight video resembles a less agile, more controlled Manziel. Part of that is probably the arm sleeve, but their games are actually quite similar. Both sometimes struggle to see over the line and are at their best when they can run around and scan the field without a wall of 6’4 blockers in front of them. What Shea is particularly great at, though it will kill coaches, is throwing back to the other side after getting the defense to lose discipline chasing him around. Looking at a number of his highlight (and low-light) videos, Patterson uses the entire field at all times... which brings me to his arm.

Of all of Shea’s attributes, arm strength is the one that I go back and forth on the most. There are some videos where he makes every throw and looks like an NFL QB hitting posts, outs, and throwing before receivers even make their cuts. There are also times where the ball floats or comes off without a ton of velocity. Though I’m more confident in his arm now than when I first started watching tape, I can’t get over some certain reservations I have regarding his fit in what is probably the most old-school offenses among power-5 teams.

As a total package though, it’s hard not to like him. He’s a playmaker who was ranked as the best quarterback in his class coming out for a reason. He’s done very little to discredit that ranking and was tearing up the SEC before an injury ended his 2017. It should also be known that he is, by all accounts, a tremendous leader and has loved Michigan for a long time. He wanted to play in Ann Arbor out of high school but for whatever reason, Michigan said no (actually, I’m sure it was a fit issue. Damnit Harbaugh, adapt!). Rumor mill has a decision on his eligibility coming down next month and all indications are that he will play. There are some on this site that have faith in Brandon Peters, but count me amongst those that thinks 2018 relies on Patterson’s transfer waiver.

Joe Milton, FR - 6’6 (230)

Milton is listed as anywhere between 6’5 and 6’6 and 220-230 pounds. For the sake of “seriously, he’s a freak”, I went with the biggest combo. I’ve been big on Milton for about a year now when he started breaking out of his shell. He was Florida’s best kept secret for a while and the Gators thought they had a good shot at him. He chose Jim Harbaugh over Jim McElwain and I can’t imagine why.

This kid is my favorite prospect in the 2018 class and I think he should be rated higher overall. His stats don’t jump off the page and his completion percentage stinks but he’s been one of the biggest stories at the majority of 7-on-7 or skills camps he’s attended. This is because Joe Milton has been blessed with rare gifts. He is massive, his arm is the best in the class, and he’s mobile - running between a 4.7 and 4.85 depending on where you read.

When I talk about freakish talent, check out the tape I linked above. At 0:30, this dude throws a bomb 65 yards off his friggin back foot while getting hit. “Yeah, yeah, Shane had a gun too” the cynic says to his screen. Well, yeah, but if you stop recruiting 6’5 freaks-beasts with bazooka arms, you’re probably not going to be great in the future. At the 1:35 mark, he delivers a perfect strike 55 yards down field. An 18-year-old kid isn’t supposed to be able to toss a football that easily.

The next play, and the final one I’ll highlight, is maybe my favorite of the tape. Milton effortlessly escapes what could’ve been a sack, keeps his eyes down field, directs a receiver to an open spot, then throws another 50+ yard strike. That’s what jumps out at you the most is his arm and his ability to keep his eyes down field. Kid clearly loves throwing the ball.

If Joe Milton was perfect, he’d be a 5-star. Despite his all-world talent, there’s some work to be done! Milton’s release is not good right now. It’s slow and even if he doesn’t drop the ball as low as Leftwich or Tebow, you can really tell when watching him in pads. You start to anticipate throws because of his arm strength before realizing they’re arriving a half second late - that’s because of the release. Milton also has some accuracy issues which I briefly touched upon above. Looking through unofficial stats, Joe never completed more than 50% of his passes in high school. I don’t think that either of these two things will derail him in the long run and fully expect our staff to figure things out.

Michigan is bringing in two elite talents at the quarterback position to compete in a room already featuring Brandon Peters, Dylan McCaffrey, and possibly Uncle Wilton with his endless eligibility. Patterson getting to start immediately makes Michigan an immediate top-10 team with that defense and army of 4-5 star receivers going into their second year. Milton is the type of guy that you unleash on the world after a couple years of refining and just sit back to watch. While the 2018 class hasn’t shaped up the way many fans wanted, the quarterback position could be a great sign of things to come.