Over the weekend, there were ripples. By Monday, there was a roar.
Shea Patterson’s Michigan courtship was a display in college football speed dating, from Wolverines fans making a recruiting pitch at a basketball game to a photo of the quarterback wearing a maize-and-blue helmet hitting the internet like a boulder through thin ice. When Patterson’s transfer became official early this week, in a note that served as a gentle “goodbye” to Ole Miss, the development felt inevitable.
Patterson, the SEC hardly knew you. And you’re better off for it.
“I think the move was good for him,” Dan Shonka, a longtime NFL scout and general manager at Ourlads.com, told SEC Country. “Now I don’t know if it’s going to be a one-year deal, which it very well could be. He’s going to have super talent. It’s a very young team.
“I think if Michigan had him this year, there’s no telling where they would have gone, because their quarterback position really killed them this year, with [Wilton] Speight and [John] O’Korn being so inconsistent. They’re mediocre at best.”
Oh, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh expects Patterson to be much more than mediocre.
Can you blame the player for saying “adios!” to Oxford after throwing for 3,139 yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in two seasons? Can you blame him for examining his future after the NCAA dropped its ruling on Ole Miss, including an additional bowl ban for the 2018 season, following its investigation into the program’s underbelly from the Hugh Freeze era?
Even the most passionate Solo cup-clutching Grove-dweller must admit Patterson made the right move by jetting north. Sure, it would have been fun to see if he could develop into the player many envisioned after his arrival at Ole Miss as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2016.
But his world changed. The clouds above the Rebels darkened. Freeze’s dumb phone habit was discovered. Ole Miss went from an Alabama-beating brand on the rise to a crater waiting to happen.
When the goal at the finish line of a college career is big NFL bucks, the mission is to sprint, not jog in place.
“You’ve got a guy coming in like Patterson, who’s SEC-tested. I think he’s going to do nothing but help Michigan be super next year,” said Shonka, who scouted for the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs.
“Jim Harbaugh and [New Orleans Saints coach] Sean Payton are two of the best quarterback coaches out there anywhere. I think what Jim Harbaugh will bring to Shea Patterson is continued mental toughness. He’s going to really teach Shea the whole nine yards about what the NFL is all about and what big-time, pressurized games are all about. So it’s going to do nothing but help him.”
For Patterson, help will be available near the Big House, no matter when he’s eligible to play. (He hopes the NCAA grants his waiver so he doesn’t have to sit out next season.) For Ole Miss, there’s nothing left but glimpses of the quarterback’s potential and a heavy helping of what-if.
Late this season the Rebels received a look at life without Patterson. Jordan Ta’amu threw for 1,682 yards with 11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions after Patterson sustained a season-ending knee injury in a loss to LSU on Oct. 21. Ole Miss, which finished 6-6, must make the best of what will be a 2018 campaign measured by personal pride.
The paths for Patterson and the Rebels have split, with little more than memories left for everyone.
“There’s still some receiver talent and some things around them,” Shonka said of Ole Miss’ situation. “But they’re just going to have to work their way through everything. Obviously, recruiting and things like that are going to hurt. But they’re just going to have to work their way through the problems.”
Through a big farewell, too.