The Wolverine

2018 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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QUARTERBACKS QUARTERBACKS 60 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2018 FOOTBALL PREVIEW QUARTERBACKS QUARTERBACKS "I feel a lot more comfortable with the of- fense, as anyone would after a year of experi- ence. I think that's really helped me a lot. I've gained some weight, feel like I've gotten athletically better. "I think it's really just knowing my team- mates — that's the biggest thing — who I'm throwing to, what guy's going to give me what. That really helps a quarterback." So, too, does going up against an elite de- fense day in and day out. The offensive line improved this spring, but the defense still brought plenty of pressure and made the of- fense earn everything it got. McCaffrey wouldn't have wanted it any other way. "It was awesome," he said. "You've got to take every advantage to get as many reps as you can against the best defense in the country. "I think it was great. It got you making quick decisions, got you really alert about how fast college football is, especially against our defense." He needed to get stronger, and he has. And while he's not throwing it as far as Milton, he's got plenty of zip on the ball. "I can throw it far enough," he said with a grin. "If you can get the ball out on time, you're good." Hamilton called McCaffrey "an underrated athlete" who had a "very good" spring. "Dylan is a guy that can make all the throws, and make plays with his legs," the coach said. In rookie early enrollee Milton, the Wol- verines have a competitor who Hamilton said earlier this year "needs football." It's his life, and he's consumed by it and his desire to improve. The 6-5, 220-pound Milton completed 90 of 188 passes for 1,317 yards with 10 touch- downs and six interceptions as a senior at Or- lando (Fla.) Olympia High. Though he never completed 50 percent of his passes in his three years as a prep starter, much of that was due to his big arm. His receivers simply had a hard time corralling his throws. "Big arm. You'd have to be there to see it," Harbaugh said of Milton's spring. "You may have heard. Just to see it in person … you've got to be there. It's pretty good. It's really good. "Joe did fantastic, really better than expected and better than you expect a freshman at the mid-year to do. And he's really talented. He's got a very high ceiling." It took him a while to get comfortable, Mil- ton admitted, but once he did he took off. "My transition was [tougher] in the begin- ning, like, 'Oh, I'm here now,' so I kind of froze a little bit," he admitted. "Once I got the hang of it, it was all about, 'Can I do it?'" He's showing he can. He just turned 18 years old in early March, but he approaches the game like a seasoned veteran. He's got some swagger, has thrown the ball 85 yards in the air (heaves it 75 on an average day) and isn't a certain redshirt despite the talent around him. All in all, this is a group with a lot of poten- tial. How they fare this fall will go a long way toward determining the Wolverines' collective fate. ❏ Junior Shea Patterson is Michigan's fifth quarterback transfer to the program in recent memory, and he's the second with immediate eligibility. San Diego State's Spencer Brinton (U-M, 2001-04), Georgia Tech's Steven Threet (2007-08) and Houston's John O'Korn (2015-17) all had to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules; only Jake Rudock (Iowa) was able to play right away, and he won the job in 2015. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh admitted there were some anxious moments before the NCAA ruled Patterson could play in 2018. "I didn't know [what to expect], but I'm very happy," Harbaugh said. "I figured it would [work out], figured that was the right thing, but it doesn't always work out the way you think it will." Rudock is U-M's most accomplished transfer under center by far. He threw for 3,017 yards and 20 touch- downs while completing 64.0 percent of his passes and leading Michigan to a 10-win season in 2015. Brinton threw only 22 passes, completing 11, as John Navarre's backup; while Threet started much of 2008, Rich Rodriguez's first year, connecting on 102 of 200 passes for 1,105 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. O'Korn became a starter in 2017 after Wilton Speight went down with injury and had one big game against Purdue, completing 18 of 26 passes for 270 yards with a score, but otherwise struggled. He finished the season with a 53.5-percent completion rate and six interceptions against two scores. Patterson enters Michigan as the highest-profile transfer U-M has had, but his competitors aren't fazed. "I know a big thing in recruiting was, wherever you go they're going to have guys," redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey said. "Any good school you go to is going to have the No. 1 guy, the No. 2 guy in the class before. I knew I was going to have to compete anyway." "It is what it is," redshirt sophomore Brandon Peters added. "It happens everywhere. I didn't try to worry about that at all. I just want to get better myself. "It's good to have someone to compete with, and all four of us can play. I'm always trying to strive to be the best I can be. Having someone there to push me keeps me on the right track, that's for sure." Patterson has brought out the best of everyone in the quarterback room. "We try to better each other, in practice and out of practice," freshman Joe Milton said. "On the plane ride [to France] we were talking about plays, two-minute drills, trying to better each other. "We compete in everything from paintball, soccer, running, calling plays … everything." It's no secret the head man wouldn't rather have it any other way. — Chris Balas Michigan's Quarterback Transfers Have Brought Mixed Results In his lone year at Michigan, Iowa graduate transfer Jake Rudock completed 64.0 per- cent of his 389 attempts for 3,017 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He now plays for the Detroit Lions. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Michigan's Top Single-Season Passing Yardage Performers Junior Shea Patterson threw for 2,259 yards in only seven contests last year at Ole Miss, a 3,873-yard pace for a 12-game schedule that would have shattered Michigan's single-season school record. The top 10 marks in school history are: Rk. Player Yardage Year 1. John Navarre 3,331 2003 2. Jake Rudock 3,017 2015 3. Devin Gardner 2,960 2013 4. John Navarre 2,905 2002 5. Chad Henne 2,743 2004 6. Jim Harbaugh 2,729 1986 7. Tom Brady 2,636 1998 8. Tom Brady 2,586 1999 9. Denard Robinson 2,570 2010 10. Wilton Speight 2,538 2016 — Chris Balas

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