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Michigan Wolverines Football: Shea Patterson Magic & Athleticism on the Edge
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10 Oct 2018 01:16 PM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Michigan’s Shea Patterson attempts pass against Maryland. (Image Source: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Last season, Michigan’s quarterback play held them back from fulfilling their potential as a team. Enter Shea Patterson who not only does what coach Jim Harbaugh needs out of his signal caller, but adds an extra dynamic we haven’t seen in Ann Arbor in quite some time.

“Yeah, (he) protects the football really well. Shea does a really good job, works with decision-making, accuracy, his timing, and protects the ball in the pocket,” Harbaugh said of his quarterback. “He escapes the pocket, has a knack of making the right escape move from the pocket. Scrambling, smart when he’s out of the pocket, his decision-making, he's really good with the ball. … He's done an excellent job in that area.”

Right before the half, with the score still 10-7, we got our first glimpse of Shea magic against Maryland. With less than a minute remaining in the second quarter, Michigan faced a third-and-three from the Maryland 22-yard line. As he rolled to his left, Patterson threw across his body from the left hash mark and hit Ronnie Bell perfectly in stride at the seven and allowed the freshman to go in for the TD and a 17-7 lead.

On their first possession of the second half, Patterson threw a perfect pass to Donovan People-Jones while under pressure. He let it go off his back foot and hit DPJ right on his hands, in stride. It was arguable the prettiest play of the season, unfortunately it was called back by a questionable holding call on Tru Wilson. On the next play, Patterson evaded a blitzing Antoine Brooks Jr. (Maryland’s version of viper), rolled to his right, kept his eyes downfield, before he connected with tight end Zach Gentry for a 19-yard gain on first-and-20 to the Maryland 31-yard line, which helped set up a field goal.

On the ensuing possession, with the ball at the opposing 34-yard line, Patterson took the snap standing at the left hash. Pressured by a free blitzer, Patterson started to go right, spun around, changed directions, rolled to his left and threw on the move to DPJ, who turns up field for a 34-yard TD, as Michigan took control of the game in the third quarter, 27-7.

That’s three plays of Shea magic, where Patterson used his legs and playmaking ability to improvise and elevate the offense, as the Wolverines scored on three-consecutive positions, 17 key points that could have been 21.

“Yeah, I think there’s a feel there. To make a basketball analogy, probably like a point guard big enough to see the field — space and the players, how close they are to you,” Harbaugh added. “Where you can go to avoid defenders and where when you run with the ball, or throwing it, where they’re not. Finding the 1-on-1 matchups as opposed to double coverage situations.”

It’s Patterson’s ability to make plays even when things don’t go as planned, that makes Michigan’s offense so much more potent and difficult to defend this season.

Dominant D

After one quarter, the Maryland Terrapins held a 7-3 lead over the Michigan Wolverines last Saturday but their offense produced just 21 total yards on two first downs. They doubled their yardage total before heading into the locker room with 42 yards (three first downs) at the half. As the fourth quarter began, the Terps still hadn’t reached 100 yards, as the Wolverines held them to no offensive points, five first downs, 87 total yards, and 3.0 yards per play through three quarters. This is the same Maryland offense that put up 42 points and 432 yards in their Big Ten opener versus Minnesota, including 321 yards on the ground and 8.4 yards per play.

Athleticism on the Edge

A big part of Michigan’s explosive defense is their athleticism on the edge. That’s part of why Don Brown replaces a traditional SAM outside linebacker with a safety-hybrid at viper, the position made famous by Jabrill Peppers. It’s currently manned by the playmaking Khaleke Hudson, who always seems to be in attack mode.

On Maryland’s second drive, Hudson was lined up near the line of scrimmage on first down. He was not initially blitzing, but things opened up when the wide receiver motioned away from Hudson and quarterback Kasim Hill rolled to his left, also away from Hudson. With no worries about containment, Hudson exploded into the backfield with the speed of a defensive back to sack Hill for a four-yard loss and put the Terps behind schedule with a second-and-14. He finished with five tackles, including two for a loss.

Emerging as a key defender on passing downs is Josh Uche, an athletic linebacker who has been playing along the line of scrimmage. Against the Terps, he was often standing up like a pass-rushing BUCK linebacker. A fluid athlete, Uche easily evaded a blocker on a third-and-30 play from the Maryland 20-yard line to bring down a running Hill for a six-yard loss. On the next possession, the Terps tried a draw play on third-and-nine it was Uche who changed directions after starting his pass rush to come back to make the tackle on Tayon Fleet-Davis for a two-yard gain to force a punt. He’s so much quicker and nimbler than your typical edge rusher. Uche really stood out with his play against Northwestern last week and continues to impress.

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards.

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