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Recruiting Roundtable: Michigan Has An Interesting Quarterback Conundrum

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There are lots of options going forward for Jim Harbaugh. Which is just how he wants it.

NCAA Football: Air Force at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Nick: Hey, gents! How’s the bye week treating you?

Cooper: I’ve been spending Improvement Week getting ahead of myself and daydreaming about what O’Korn will look like after two weeks of reps with the 1s. This can in no way go poorly.

Von: Bye week is treating me great! It’s a week to rest up and improve. Let’s all do that in whatever we may be doing this week.

Nick: Amen. So, I wanted to get your thoughts on a particular part of Michigan recruiting this week - the quarterbacks. Michigan just got a new quarterback commit, 2018 three-star prospect Kevin Doyle, and that gives them two quarterbacks in one cycle. What do you think about this?

Cooper: It was a pretty open secret that the coaching staff wanted to take two QBs in this class, even if that talk died down after missing out on some high level prospects. Caught me off guard when he committed, but I’m not shocked they made room for Doyle. Not quite as athletic as Joe Milton, but maybe a bit more ahead of the curve in terms of readiness for the next level.

Von: Agreed. If Harbaugh could somehow mesh the two quarterbacks together that’d be nice. Like you said, Cooper, Harbaugh has alluded to taking at least two quarterbacks in each class he has at Michigan. Now that Milton and Doyle are committed, we shouldn’t see any other quarterbacks lock in to Michigan.

Nick: I was actually surprised how much I thought they had in common, despite an easy first impression that they’re so different. Their styles certainly seem very different - Milton a more rangy, athletic gun-slinger in the mold of Brett Favre, and Kevin Doyle more of a check-down, quick-passing pocket passer.

But Doyle’s athleticism - and his cannon of an arm - are not to be underrated, and characterizing Joe Milton as a dual-threat quarterback would also be a bit misleading when he often escapes pressure to be able to throw downfield. With both guys, I was ultimately the most impressed with their ability to look downfield at all times while moving away from pressure and making a good play.

Von: Check-down, quick-passing is exactly what I was thinking when I first saw some tape on Doyle. He kind of reminds me of a taller, bulkier Dylan McCaffrey. He makes quick, and mostly smart, reads, he flushes out of the pocket often to deliver accurate strikes down the sidelines, and when he does stay in the pocket he stays calm in the face of pressure and goes to the middle of the field.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Doyle is more athletic than Milton, but I think that may be why Harbaugh elected to go after a quarterback like Doyle. Having healthy competition at any position is what Harbaugh strives for. Being able to land a pocket-passer like Milton and someone who can do it all to an extent like Doyle will bring the best out of all parties involved. Regardless if Milton or Doyle gets the starting nod when their time comes, I’m sure the competition will make the starter that much better of a player and well deserving of the starting position.

Cooper: What definitely sticks out immediately on both of these guys’ tape is that their respective coaching staffs know they have athletes under center. A lot of both offenses are built around that, whether it’s Milton escaping pressure and flinging one down field or the bootlegs that Doyle ran a bunch his junior year for Malvern, PA and now at St. John’s in Washington D.C. — where he’s replaced injured Maryland QB Kasim Hill.

Both have cannons though, and neither is afraid to use it. Milton barely needs to get set to launch one down the field. Doyle, for my money, had the most impressive play of both their tapes in his junior highlights. About halfway through, he fakes a handoff, looks to the left flat, looks to the right flat, and then rifles one about 20 yards downfield to a receiver on a crossing route for a long TD. Impressive read, even better throw.

Nick: Yeah. I was surprised to find that I thought that Doyle had a stronger arm, because I remembered being so impressed with Milton’s. I don’t think Doyle is quite as athletic as Milton, ultimately, but he does use it more often, and uses it well. I was actually a bit impressed that Milton was as restrained as he was with his running ability.

Poll

Who ends up being Michigan’s starter in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    Brandon Peters
    (1232 votes)
  • 31%
    Dylan McCaffrey
    (822 votes)
  • 1%
    Joe Milton
    (31 votes)
  • 19%
    Kevin Doyle
    (505 votes)
2590 votes total Vote Now

Still, the ultimate question is not their tools, necessarily - it’s whether they can translate those tools to a successful career at the college level. Michigan is certainly getting some exciting prospects coming into the program. But what should the expectations be on these guys in their first and second years? We’ve seen some of the defensive guys, and to a lesser extent some of the offensive guys, come in and make a statement Year 1. Is that going to happen any time soon at quarterback?

Cooper: Harbaugh certainly leaves the door open for a player to come in and shake things up his first year. With that said, other than maybe on the offensive line, QB is the hardest position to do that. If can project a bit, I don’t think the coaching staff would really want that, either.

O’Korn is gone next year, but both of these guys will still have Speight, Brandon Peters, and Dylan McCaffrey — both QBs who the scouting services liked more than Milton and Doyle — ahead of them. Speight’s future is in serious question right now, but if either Milton or Doyle is a serious challenge to Peters in his third year and McCaffrey in his second, things have gone seriously wrong. If I were either of the 2018 QBs, I’d be more worried about who the coaching staff is gonna pick up in 2019 than immediately trying to get on the field in 2018.

Von: The expectations for a quarterback in their first year should never be high ever. I agree with Cooper and think the 2018 quarterbacks should be more worried about the 2019 and beyond quarterbacks. But as far as expectations for the current quarterbacks at Michigan, I am going to be bold here and say McCaffrey starts next season over Brandon Peters. I have really been thinking about this for a few weeks and it really seems like the way McCaffrey plays combined with his vocality makes for the ideal Harbaugh quarterback. Not to say that Peters is not worthy of the starting position or that Speight may not still be around but I think Dylan is the guy next season, so his expectations going into his redshirt freshman season should be pretty high if all of that were to happen.

Nick: You know, something I noticed when looking back at the high school highlights of Milton, Doyle, Peters and McCaffrey is that McCaffrey by far took the most snaps under center. He also took some from shotgun, but most of the time the other three all took theirs from shotgun. That may partially explain some reports that McCaffrey is doing so well at adjusting to the college game.

Von: And the fact that he comes from such a high profile football family sure helps, too. Getting advice from an NFL running back in his brother and a former player in his father sure would help, I would think. Dylan is a cool, calm and collective quarterback who doesn’t panic when under pressure. I think he may have the upperhand next season because of what you said Nick — being able to adjust to the college game. I believe he is doing well in that regard and it may really show come next fall.

NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game
Brandon Peters vs. Dylan McCaffrey could be coming to a football field near you.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper: Agreed, McCaffrey has advantages well beyond an advanced high school offense. I do tend to think that, when it concerns a player going from high school to college, that the lack of snaps under center is a little overblown. But it is a significant thing that each will have to learn to operate Harbaugh’s offense. If the depth weren’t enough, just to have the offense operate with as much of the playbook available is reason enough for these guys to take their redshirt year and learn.

Nick: So, I have a question for both of you then, and this touches on - I guess - the third rail underneath this conversation. How should Michigan fans approach a young or struggling quarterback? It seems like we’ll have a lot of youth in the future, and after having watched Brandon Peters be anointed as the Chosen One - after John O’Korn was anointed as the Chosen One last year, and also after Speight and Devin Gardner and apparently John Navarre way back in the day have gotten a huge amount of … um, New York love from the Michigan faithful during their time as a starter - will this all settle down at some point? Or are Michigan fans just really hard on their quarterbacks?

Von: I don’t see this settling down anytime soon. It’ll probably always be like this when it comes to Harbaugh being the quarterback guru, as some people call him. Even if Peters is the Chosen One and performs well whenever he plays, fans will always be looking for better, looking for more and looking towards the future. That’s just how it is and I don’t see it particularly changing for anything.

I wouldn’t say Michigan fans are hard on their quarterbacks, they just have high expectations, just like for the entire team. Fans want to see Michigan shutout and blowout every opponent no matter how good they may be. This is highly unrealistic and this doesn’t even happen to teams like Alabama all that often (although it did this past weekend). The Crimson Tide actually gave up 23 points to Colorado State a couple weeks back. So at the end of the day, obviously the quarterback expectations will always be a bit higher than other positions simply because it’s the most important position in the game.

Cooper: I agree that this isn’t gonna settle down. It’s the nature of the beast that people invest too much blame or responsibility on the QB. I do think, though, that it might taper off a bit as the years go on.

We’re in a kind of a strange situation in that, we have yet to really have a guy Harbaugh chose. Rudock was a stopgap who turned out well, Speight was recruited by Borges and beat out O’Korn who started off at Houston for one reason or another, but we’ve yet to see what Harbaugh can do with a player he started with. I think with that kind of background and experience with his coaching style and the playbook from day one, we’re gonna see a general elevation in play and competence. So some of the grumblings from this year will quiet down overall. But, with all that said, QB at Michigan is a job that is always gonna get you criticized so, it comes with the territory.