The Michigan Wolverines seem to have a very good problem on their hands. They have two quarterbacks who can seemingly move the ball down the field; a luxury they did not have last season.
When Shea Patterson was suffering from cramps in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame, Michigan nation was introduced to redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey.
Harbaugh had praise for the 2017 scout team player of the year in spring ball saying, “He’s got a lot of that ‘it’ factor to him, that winning factor. It shows up in two minute drives. Dylan gets in there and leads the team down for touchdowns. That’s what was happening in the spring. And that’s a great quality to have.”
McCaffrey himself expressed confidence to the media this spring when he said, “I’ve gained some weight. I feel like I’ve got athletically better. I think the biggest thing is I know my teammates. I know who I am throwing to, what guys are going to do what and that really helps a quarterback.”
All of this came into fruition against Notre Dame, and again last Saturday against Western Michigan.
McCaffery looked confident with the ball in his hands in the drive and a half he led in the fourth quarter against a heated rival. The sophomore recorded three first downs on the first drive of his college career. This included being 4-of-6 for 22 yards, and scrambling for 10 yards on three attempts. When he was under center, it seemed like for the first time in the game the Wolverines could move the ball downfield offensively.
Here is a quick video recapping his time on the field:
McCaffrey also came under center in the route of Western Michigan last week, scoring his first career touchdown the same day as Patterson. He completed his only pass of the day for a touchdown after a six-play, 56-yard drive.
Any sort of offensive movement is something incredibly valuable. After a disgusting 2017 offensively, it is quite enjoyable to see the depth Michigan has at quarterback this season and the future of McCaffrey as the starter of this program.
But let me tell you, Patterson is the starting quarterback of this team until further notice. He is undoubtedly the best quarterback on the roster, and is the man who should be leading this football team.
Patterson DID NOT have a bad game against Notre Dame. He was 20-for-30 with 227 yards passing and a long of 52 yards. Although he had a costly pick and a fumble, this was largely in part to the Notre Dame pass rush that broke seamlessly through the Michigan offensive line every single play.
When Patterson was given more than two seconds in the pocket, he easily went through his progressions and completed passes. However, on seemingly 90 percent of the plays in the game, Patterson had to roll out of the pocket to extend the play and avoid being sacked. You cannot rely on a young quarterback in a new system to perform at an elite level if he has to deal with as many issues as Patterson dealt with against Notre Dame.
Here is a video showing Patterson’s highlights from the game in South Bend. Observe how many throws he made on the run and tackles he shed in the backfield:
Patterson was recently on 97.1 The Ticket and said about this about the offensive performance in Week 1:
“I think everybody just needs to relax a little bit. It was our first game.”
When you put in perspective this was his first game in nearly a year at a new program and in a new system, Michigan’s quarterback really does have a point.
But last week, Patterson played a huge role in Michigan’s win over the Broncos. Patterson was 12-of-17 with 125 yards and three touchdowns. He looked poised in the pocket and made great throws, both short and down the field.
My only issue with his stats are that they weren’t better. In the beat down of a much lesser team, Harbaugh elected to run the ball more, but I wish he would have chosen to let Patterson move around in the pocket and get more comfortable making throws in his offense. My good friend Von Lozon wrote about this a bit more earlier this week.
Without a doubt in my mind, Patterson is and will be the starting quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines this season. Although he may not be the savior of the program, he is still capable of being one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. But if an injury were to arise, it is comforting to know there is a respectable guy behind him in McCaffrey; a luxury Michigan did not have last season.
Are you confident in Dylan McCaffrey as the backup quarterback?
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