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How Shea Patterson influences Jim Harbaugh’s pro-style approach as quarterback

Shea Patterson influence on Jim Harbaugh's offense

Michigan’s Offensive Philosophy

When Jim Harbaugh came to Michigan in 2014 to serve as the school’s 20th coach in program history after Brady Hoke was fired, he inherited a pro-style, spread-based scheme that Hoke adapted to fit the strengths of his quarterbacks at the time, Dennard Robinson and Devin Gardner.

Harbaugh’s system relies heavily on a ground-and-pound run game with a full-back and one to two tight ends. Power, counter (gap), inside/outside zone and iso are staples in Harbaugh’s run game. If the run game is successful, it opens up big play capabilities in the play-action passing game behind defenses.

Shea Patterson’s skill set

Shea Patterson influence on Jim Harbaugh's offense
Picture Courtesy of O-zone

Shea Patterson’s skill set is something Harbaugh has not experienced at Michigan. According to Michigan’s official depth chart, Shea Patterson is 6-foot-2, weighing in at 205 pounds. He is the smallest QB at Michigan Harbaugh has coached. Jim’s quarterbacks are typically thicker, taller pro-style quarterbacks with decent athletic ability. Patterson is the exact opposite of that. He comes from a system at Ole’ Miss University that is all spread, no-huddle, RPO(Run Pass-Option) focused that simplifies the reads for a quarterback based on the look of the defense.

No matter what system Patterson is in, he can throw all the routes on the route tree and make it look easy. He has a quick release, excellent throwing on the run and can extend plays with his athleticism to allow receivers to gain separation in a scramble drill. Patterson does not look to scramble unless he absolutely has to. He is not a speed demon like former Louisville quarterback, Lamar Jackson, but quicker like Heisman Trophy winner last year, Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma.

Defenses that play Michigan now have to not only stretch vertically to defend receivers, but horizontally to contain Patterson. Defensive coordinators worst nightmares are athletic quarterbacks.

What wrinkles to expect on offense with Patterson at the helm

Shea Patterson influence on Jim Harbaugh's offense
Image courtesy of Sporting News

Harbaugh is not going to recreate his offensive philosophy because he has more of an athletic quarterback under center. However, great coaches like Harbaugh adapt to the strengths of their offensive leader within their established scheme.

Expect to see more under center play-action, naked bootleg plays to allow Patterson to use his legs if nothing is open down the field. Michigan will likely incorporate more sprint out pass play concepts to once again allow him to showcase what he can do with the football if the play breaks down. Besides that, don’t be alarmed if Michigan is more in the gun they have been in the past. All of the established run plays Michigan hangs their hat on can be done in the shotgun, too. But with Patterson’s ability to run, anticipate seeing number two carry the football a few times if defenses don’t stay home to contain him.

With no spring game this year to get an idea of what the offense looks like with Patterson at QB, the anticipation is high to see what the Wolverines will look like offensively when they take the field against Notre Dame in one of the greatest rivalries in all of college football this Saturday, September 1, under the lights on primetime at 7:30 p.m.


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