Following the Michigan football team’s 2018 season, The Michigan Insider on 247Sports will go position by position, grading the Wolverines’ play in their 10-3 season. Looking at stats, what went well, what didn’t and the future outlook, we grade each position based on their performances this fall.
Shea Patterson: 210 completions on 325 attempts for 2600 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. That equates to a 64.6-percent completion rate, 7.1 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 149.4. He also ran for 425 sack-adjusted rushing hards and two touchdowns on 55 carries.
Dylan McCaffrey: 8 completions on 15 attempts (53.3 percent) for 126 yards (7.8 per attempt) and two touchdowns (passer rating of 167.9). He also ran nine times for 101 sack-adjusted rushing yards and a touchdown.
For consistency’s sake, we’ll stick to starters and significant two-deep contributors’ stat in these stories.
What went well
Compared to a season ago, everything. In his first season at Michigan, Patterson finished among the top 10 in program history in single-season completions (eighth), completion percentage (sixth), passing yards (eighth), touchdowns (fifth), touchdown rate (fourth) and interception rate (eighth). He also finished among the top-25 nationally in most categories, and was third-team All-Big Ten with a case for the second team.
Away from the stats, Patterson was generally crisp with his throws. He was able to move out of the pocket to avoid sacks, and still make throws that were tough to defend. The Wolverines finished 20th overall in passer rating, after finishing 116th in the category last season. Michigan did run more from the quarterback position, finishing with 559 sack-adjusted rushing yards on 70 carries.
In addition, Michigan appeared to stabilize its quarterback room for the future, with reason for optimism surrounding redshirt freshman McCaffrey and true freshman (who will redshirt) Joe Milton. For context, Michigan’s fourth-string quarterback (Brandon Peters) started six games in 2017, so a case could be made that the Wolverines are back to the early-00s level of depth and talent at quarterback.
What didn’t go well
In what will be a common theme during this series, Michigan’s quarterbacks struggled in the biggest games of the season. Patterson, who finished with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions all season, had four scores and four picks against Notre Dame, Ohio State and Florida. In the junior’s final three games of the season (Indiana, Ohio State, Florida), Patterson’s completion percentage fell to 59.2 percent, his yards per attempt fell to 6.87 and his passer rating fell to 125.5. While it’s fair to assume passing can be tougher against better defenses and in colder weather, Jake Rudock’s ascension late in the season propelled Michigan’s impressive finish in 2015.
We mentioned above that Patterson had crisp passes and throws that were hard to defend, but it appeared that defenses found ways to cover some of his more consistent throws toward the end of the season. Patterson also, like most quarterbacks, struggled on deep passes.
Michigan also had issues in traditional passing downs, ranking 83rd nationally in marginal efficiency according to FootballOutsiders.com. That’s not entirely on the quarterbacks, but it’s not irrelevant either. When Michigan had to lean on Patterson, it didn’t have the success it likely hoped for.
One of the few bright spots from Michigan’s December was that Patterson — initially thought to be a one-and-done transfer before going to the NFL — opted to return to the Wolverines. Additionally, McCaffrey and Milton continue to project to be plus backups next season, and possibly starters. Four-star 2019 signee Cade McNamara also arrives to Michigan after finishing his career as arguably the best quarterback in Nevada history.
Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine the Wolverines’ quarterback room getting anything but better in 2019.
While quarterbacks face exceptional scrutiny in losses, it’s undeniable that Michigan’s quarterbacks played a role in the Wolverines’ wins this season. There was plenty to critique, but also Michigan had top-25 quarterback play and was among the top-three quarterback rooms in the Big Ten this season.