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Michigan QB Shea Patterson: Time to let guys make plays

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Nearly a week later and Shea Patterson is still upset.

Upset over his performance in Michigan’s blowout loss to Florida in the Peach Bowl. Upset over the way the Michigan football team ended the 2018 season, which saw its Big Ten title hopes dashed and College Football Playoff dreams go up in smoke.

The final score of the Ohio State game still eats at Patterson. And the fact Michigan’s starting quarterback only threw for one touchdown (and two interceptions) in the bowl game, a 41-15 loss.

“I’m more capable than that,” Patterson told MLive on Friday from the U.S. Army All-American Bowl awards ceremony. “I’m the quarterback and have the ball in my hands every second, every snap. It’s not the way I wanted it to go, but we’ve got to move forward.”

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The way forward for Michigan’s offense, however, remains cloudy. The Wolverines return a bulk of their personnel in 2019, a group that ranked 50th nationally in yards per game (419.9). Four of their five starters along their improved offensive line are back, as is their two top receivers in Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones.

Both groups took a leap in 2018 and figure to show improvement next season. So, what’s the next step?

“Just letting guys go make plays,” Patterson said. “All the best athletes in the country are getting put into open space, and there’s no reason why we can’t. We did a lot of good stuff this year, but I think we’re realizing how talented we really are — and explosive we can be.”

Patterson grouped Collins, Peoples-Jones and wide receiver Tarik Black into that ‘playmaker’ category, along with freshman Christian Turner, who has earned rave reviews in recent weeks. Turner could see more carries in 2019 with Karan Higdon gone, but Michigan’s running game won’t be as deep and experienced, at least not early on.

That leaves Michigan’s passing game front and center, a unit that ranked 80th nationally this season on 215.7 yards per game. An improvement over the mess that was Michigan’s offense in 2017, but given Patterson’s 149.85 passer rating, but one could argue more could have been done.

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“I know we only saw a glimpse of (Turner), but he’s going to be a heck of a talent,” Patterson said. “Donovan, Tarik, Nico — there’s no reason why we all can’t have seven, eight-plus touchdowns each.”

To accomplish that, however, would require a few things to change. One, Jim Harbaugh and his offensive coaching staff would have to dial up more passing plays — in 2018, Michigan only threw the ball on 40.33 percent of its plays.

But improvement would also need to happen inside the red zone, where the Wolverines only converted 59.65 percent of their red-zone drives into touchdowns. That ranked 83rd nationally.

“This will be my first year going into next season with the same offense and same scheme and everything,” Patterson said. “I’m definitely excited about that, because I’ll know it. I’ll know it like the back of my hand.”

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