ATLANTA — The Michigan football team will have Shea Patterson back at quarterback in 2019 — and everyone, from Jim Harbaugh to the players, are elated.
Speaking Monday during a Peach Bowl news conference, Harbaugh — Michigan’s fourth-year head coach, the one who brought Patterson over from the University of Mississippi — called it a “big lift” for the Wolverines’ offense.
Patterson is expected to suit up and play here Saturday in the Peach Bowl, vs. No. 10 Florida (noon, ESPN).
“We’re excited about it,” Harbaugh said. “It starts making you think — we’ve got a lot of really good players coming back next year. A lot of really good people. Players-coaches that will be returning next year, so the thought is in your mind, too.”
Offensively, Michigan is set to return a bulk of its offense from 2018, a group that ranks 42nd nationally and showed drastic improvement from 2017. That group includes four of its most productive receivers (including Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones), running backs Chris Evans and Tru Wilson, and four out of five offensive linemen.
First-team all-Big Ten selection Jon Runyan, Jr., Michigan’s left tackle, is among that the linemen returning. And he likes the prospect of having Patterson back under center.
“He kind of mentioned he was leaning coming back, so it wasn’t really a surprise,” Runyan told reporters on Monday. “But having him as the leader of our offense coming back next year … because every year I’ve been here, we’ve had a different quarterback.
“So, having that continuity with him and the style that he plays — the swagger he kind of has — it’s going to be awesome heading into this game, spring ball and into camp.”
Patterson threw for 2,364 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2018, completing more than 65 percent of his passes for the second-best quarterback rating in the Big Ten. He was an above-average game manager and put the Michigan offense on his back at times, a trait we didn’t see much of in 2017.
But there was the NFL to weigh, and the prospect of being drafted in what is being called an underwhelming quarterback class. If he declared after this season, there was a good chance he might land with a team — where, however, was up for debate. ESPN’s Mel Kiper did not have Patterson in his list of top-10 draft-eligible QBs.
“Oh, yeah,” tight end Sean McKeon said, when asked about Patterson’s decision. “That’s obviously awesome. I’m very excited. Just (been) kind of talking to him and trying to tell him to come back for a while now, so I’m happy he is. Definitely great to have him back leading the offense next year.”
While nothing is set in stone until spring practice concludes and fall camp begins, but Patterson is a heavy favorite to win the starting job again in 2019, even with a crowded quarterback room. He has the most game experience of any other QB on the roster, a group that includes redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey, redshirt sophomore Brandon Peters and true freshman Joe Milton.
Michigan is also expected to welcome in Cade McNamara, a four-star quarterback from Reno, Nev., in January as part of its 2019 recruiting class.