In the wreckage of NCAA sanctions applied to Ole Miss’ football program in the wake of their hooker/paying recruits scandal is the fallout it will have on the players who play there currently. Most importantly are the talented youngsters who were reeled in in Ole Miss’ loaded 2016 recruiting class that included two of the top four players in the country. One of those was QB Shea Patterson (#3 overall, #1 QB). With the Rebels unable to play in a bowl game for the next two years, these studs want to finish their college careers somewhere they can compete for titles, meaning transfers are in their future. One of those places is Michigan. And the top potential transfer is Patterson. 247’s Ole Miss blog reported over the weekend that Patterson is indeed intending to transfer and that Michigan would probably be the favorite for his services. It was then revealed Tuesday that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh had flown down to Oxford, Mississippi to meet with S Deontay Anderson, and that Patterson and WR Van Jefferson would be visiting Ann Arbor this weekend. So with Michigan potentially reeling in prized players, why are they after them? And how would they fit on the 2018 squad? And is it a good idea? WCBN Sports takes a look.
Why Michigan is after Patterson, Anderson, and Jefferson, and how they would fit in 2018
They’re good at football.
Well that was obvious, but they’re really after these players because they fill specific needs on the 2018 team, and that leads us into their spots on the 2018 roster. Michigan’s QB play in 2017 was dreadful, to put it lightly. Wilton Speight was very bad in his time before injury, John O’Korn is wildly inaccurate and mechanically broken, and Brandon Peters is still very raw. And all of this was overshadowed by the glaring lack of pass protection and inability for receivers to get open. While the receiver problem figures to be better, if not significantly so in 2018 (more on that in a second), and pass protection should be somewhat better, the QB problem still remains. Wilton Speight is using his 5th year to transfer out and John O’Korn is graduating, so in theory Brandon Peters is the guy. And he’s very talented, no question. Hopefully the Outback Bowl against South Carolina will let him show off his abilities since his injury. But even if he has a great performance, he will still be a question mark entering next fall.
Shea Patterson wouldn’t be. Patterson was forced into duty in 2016 when Chad Kelly was hurt and he played pretty well in three games. In 2017 he started in 7 games before being injured and he posted 17 TD and 9 INT, 2,259 yards, and a 63.8% completion percentage. Room to grow for sure, but that’s far more on field production than any QB on the Michigan roster will have entering next season. Patterson was the #1 QB recruit for a reason and he is ultra talented with a big arm. His mobility is comparable to Johnny Manziel. Our faith in Peters as a fan base is placed in a belief he could become something great. He isn’t close yet. Patterson is. Give him and the Quarterback Whisperer an offseason together and it could be terrifying.
Now you may be asking yourself, what would happen to Peters? Well, Patterson would have two years of eligibility, but the belief is that he would only play one year at Michigan before leaving for the NFL, so Peters (or McCaffrey) could start in 2019 after another year of seasoning.
As for Anderson, he was the #2 safety recruit in the country in 2016 and #52 overall. He played in 2016 admirably for the Rebels before voluntarily sitting out 2017 due to the bowl ban and perhaps as a way to strengthen his transfer eligibility case. Regardless, he’s lightning fast and played a combination of free safety and rover (a LB/S hybrid) at Mississippi. He would prove to be an upgrade over Tyree Kinnel at free safety, the one true weak spot on Michigan’s defense, who was exploited by Penn State and Wisconsin in the vertical passing game, mostly due to speed. While Kinnel’s no slowpoke, he also doesn’t have the elite quickness and burst that some receivers in the conference have. Anderson would be an immediate remedy for the situation and could help make the 2018 defense go from a top 10 unit to a dominant, shutout producing unit like 2016’s was.
Jefferson would attempt to boost the receiving corps. Its main problem in 2017 was its youth. Freshman receivers suck, along with the fact that Tarik Black, the only polished young receiver, got hurt early on and was out for the year. With all of those guys back for another season, the internal growth will no doubt make this positional group significantly better in 2018, but adding a guy like Jefferson wouldn’t hurt either. Jefferson is set to be a RS Jr. and has amassed 91 catches and 999 yards over the past two seasons. His production matches Jehu Chesson’s 2016 season and he has chemistry with Patterson, obviously, which is a plus. Adding him to go with DPJ, Black, Grant Perry, Eddie McDoom, Sean McKeon, Zach Gentry, Kekoa Crawford, Nico Collins, and Oliver Martin would be terrific and give Peters/Patterson a ton of weapons to torch opposing defenses.
Is this a good idea?
Yes. Like I said, adding Anderson to that defense would make it a clear contender for best in the country and Jefferson could help shore up the receiving group by giving Michigan a receiver with by far the most past production of anyone in that group. But the real crown jewel is Patterson. Again, I like Brandon Peters a lot. I think it’s certainly possible that Michigan wins a B1G title with him as the starter next season. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty there. There is not nearly as much uncertainty with Patterson. He’s projected to be a top 5 QB in the 2019 NFL draft and a potential top 10 pick. He’s just on a higher level than what Peters is right now. And the fact is, Patterson could come in, play his one season, hopefully lead Michigan to a B1G title and maybe a national title, and then go to the draft. Then in 2019 Peters and McCaffrey will battle it out to be the starter, with both much more seasoned.
But there’s a deeper angle to all of this, and that has to do with Patterson’s playing style. His mobility and Manziel-esque scrambling ability is a big deal for a team that will still have some offensive line question marks. As I noted in my season wrap-up blog, the offensive line should be better than this year, especially the interior, and just having a competent center will help. But the tackles are still a weak point and youth will be abundant across the unit. The pocket is going to collapse at times, and perhaps frequently against elite pass rushing teams like Ohio State. The pass protection broke two QB’s this season, including Peters. A large part of that had to do with the fact that Peters is a pure pocket passing QB. John O’Korn’s pocket presence was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Patterson would help neutralize those offensive line issues thanks to his ability to make things happen on the ground and escape. The pocket broke down a lot in his freshman year at Ole Miss and a quick look at the highlight tape shows his ability to make the best of his circumstances.
Simply put, adding these players to Michigan’s 2018 squad would make the team better. No two ways about that. If they all came, and Michigan won their bowl game like they are supposed to, it’s not hard to picture the Wolverines being a preseason Top 5 team with B1G title expectations.
Will it happen?
Most sources seem to believe that Patterson to Michigan is likely, it all just rests on that eligibility waiver. I’m inclined to believe that they would grant him it since they gave permission to players at Penn State to transfer without penalty during the Sandusky scandal. Yes, the Ole Miss scandal isn’t of the same magnitude, but I still think he would get the waiver, as would Anderson and Jefferson, and Harbaugh is clearly recruiting them like he believes the eligibility is no problem. So only time will tell, but it’s clear that if Michigan does indeed land these players, it will be a boon to the program.
Image Credit: Mgoblog.com