THE BIG PHAT MICHIGAN PREVIEW
PART I: Quarterback
The summer heat is in full swing. College-bound teenagers sweat out in the sun trimming lawns to earn sufficient cash to survive on their own for the first time in their lives. The sun blisters down on the beachgoers that flock to the shores of the Great Lakes. Evenings are filled with the smell of charcoal and heated meats as families enjoy BBQ hot off the grill. And stupid online people write previews of football teams........ sigh.
Why do we do this? We have yet to see a single pass completed, stunt pickup executed ( been a long time on that one in Michigan’s O-line's case) or blitz concept hit home. How in the world are we, with any precision, supposed to predict how a conglomeration of 18 and 19-year-olds will respond to high pressure and high leverage situations in front of a hundred thousand screaming fans? I’m not sure, but at the end of the day, I don’t care. Media days for the various conferences are well underway and the start of the season is less than a month away (Duquesne vs Umass on Aug 25 for anybody curious). Our hunger for #content demands that we feed the beast with sweeter meats then top 10 lists and vague recruiting updates. It is the time for sizzling hot takes and rose-tinted predictions that will be ripped to shreds by the hard cold realities of the season. So foolhardy as It might be let’s dive in with.......
Yeah, it was bad, so the less time spent here the better. The position that most fans (your author included) figured would be the least problematic under vaunted QB whisperer Jim Harbaugh, was.......... problematic at best, and crippling at worst last year. 3 different QBs stepped under center last season and none came close to expectations. Returning starter Wilton Speight won 3 games, but threw 2 pick sixes in the opener against Florida and managed to spark a QB controversy after subpar play against Air Force and CINCINNATI!!!! Sadly he did not get a chance to work out his problems as Speights season and Michigan career came to an abrupt end with an ugly hit near the start of the Big Ten opener against Purdue. He departs the program with a shiny record of 13-3 as a starter but a strong feeling that he never quite put it all together on the field. Still nothing but well wishes to him as he heads to UCLA to finish his career.
John O'korn stepped onto the field to replace the injured Speight and would start on and off the rest of the season. Before going any further I feel it is important to recognize what a great young man O'korn seems to be by all external measures. His off the field work with the chad tough foundation and his tearful, gut-wrenching press conference after THE GAME speak volumes about his character. John O'korn was and IS a true Michigan man.............. but he’s a terrible quarterback. His season stats read as follows: TDs: 2 INTs: 6 Comp%: 53.5. Yuck. What’s more, these numbers do not even tell the whole story of just how lost O'korn often seemed on the field. He would miss hand waving open receivers( (the Chris Evans missed pass on 4th down against Ohio State is the most grievous example) and take maddening sacks that had me roaring “Throw the DAMN BALL” at the screen startling my better-adjusted relatives who had the misfortune to watch games near me. O'korn’s sub-replacement level play was a boat anchor around the neck of Michigan’s offense all season long and was a major cause behind Michigan’s defeats to both Michigan State and Ohio State, which makes the pain all the worse. The Okorn disaster opened up room for the last QB to play last year to try his hand at running the offense, and coincidentally also is the only one to be back this year......
Brandon Peters came on after an O'korn interception against Rutgers and quickly helped turn the game into a rout. I was present in the crowd for that game and the roar that went up when he took O'korns place in the lineup was deafening (and it was, as my father pointedly stated, not that nice to John O'korn) Peters promptly rolled off consecutive wins against Minnesota and Maryland and played acceptable ball for a half against Wisconsin, yet was done in by leaky pass protection and murdered by one of the seemingly innumerable Wisconsin blitzing linebackers that they have arrived by conveyer belt before every season. He missed the following week against Ohio State and ended the season with a wet fart against South Carolina in the bowl game. His inability to finish the season with a statement means that he is in a precarious position moving forward.
Overall Quarterback play was a massive weakness on offense last year that when coupled with the young receivers and the inability by the offensive line to block anyone on a pass play resulted in the worst offensive attack of the Harbaugh era by far. Fortunately, reinforcements have arrived in.............
Wooooooooooooo 5 star quarterbacks are awesome!!!! Yeah? Probably? Hopefully? Yeah, let’s go with yeah. So Patterson is a former blue-chip recruit out of IMG Academy in Florida by way of that wonderful university down in Oxford Mississippi. When Hugh Freeze couldn’t keep his morally superior prick in his pants and was fired, his house of cards was exposed and the NCAA bought down the hammer in the form of a 2-year bowl ban on Ole Miss. This caused Shea Patterson to reopen his recruitment, head to his childhood team, and be granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA to compete this year. A mobile quarterback with a cannon of an arm, he ran a very different offense at Ole Miss than the under the center and complex system that is run under Harbaugh and Co. Therefore a large learning curve is probably in order. How quickly he manages to grasp the playbook is one of the largest factors weighing on how successful this season could be this year. He is now the presumed front-runner for the starter role and the X-factor for Michigan’s season.
Brandon Peters is the presumptive 2nd string as of right now. Having touched on him a bit above we won't spend too much time discussing him here. In short, he has all the talent needed to assume the starting mantle but the arrival of Patterson, the performance in the bowl game itself and the gentleman pushing him from behind means that it could be getting late early for him. Fall practice will be very telling as if he falls to third, look for a transfer situation as Peters looks for greener pastures elsewhere. That push should come from.....
Dylan McCaffrey is the presumptive third string that is rumored to be pushing very hard toward getting his foot past Peters for the backup role. He is one of those McCaffreys with an NFL wideout for a father and Heisman finalist running back for a brother. With a pedigree like that it would be unwise to bet against him in my opinion. With plus athletic ability and a solid arm, he is in a great place to try and make a run this year to jump into some playing time this year.
Finally, Joe Milton enters as a true freshman with a lot of work to do but a hilariously high ceiling if he can put it together. Due to the new redshirt rules, it is highly likely that he will see some limited time if Michigan is blowing out one of the early non-conference opponents. Not a contender this year but if the rumors that he is ahead of schedule coming out of spring ball, watch out next year.
In short this position projects to be much better than last year. Patterson was a huge get and his athleticism should help negate some of the holes In the offensive line and if he can stay upright he should have no problem surpassing low bar that last years quarterbacks left for him. Plus with McCaffrey and Peters pushing behind there should be better prospects for good backup play should Patterson get knocked out of a game or two. How Patterson and the other quarterbacks perform behind a suspect offensive line are the key to how well this season goes. If the quarterbacks can stay upright and at least play average Michigan is looking at a 9-3, 10-2 type season. If, on the other hand, the quarterbacks are constantly picking themselves off the turf and throwing the ball into opponents chest and overthrowing Peoples-Jones on fly routes, another 8-4 type season beckons, which would be no fun..... let’s not do that.
Please, I can’t lose to both Sates again, PLEASE!!!!!
Next time RUNNING BACKS