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Scouting Michigan’s newest football commit: QB Cade McNamara

Finding the strengths and weaknesses of new Michigan commit Cade McNamara, now with GIFs!

Minnesota v Michigan Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

To kick off Michigan’s massive recruiting weekend, the Wolverines gained the commitment of 2019 four-star quarterback Cade McNamara, out of Reno, Nevada Friday. Following a de-commitment from Notre Dame earlier this month, Michigan wasted no time in impressing McNamara, getting him on board in less than three weeks.

Let’s take a look at what Jim Harbaugh saw in the young quarterback, who has thrown for more than 9,000 yards and 100 touchdowns so far as a three-year varsity starter.

Click HERE to watch his highlights, which I break down below.


McNamara demonstrates excellent touch and placement when throwing downfield. Multiple times on his film, he is able to place the ball in narrow windows.

Two plays on McNamara’s film are similar and showcase this ability well.

In both these plays, McNamara is not only dealing with the defensive back covering his receiver, but also the sideline. Nevertheless, he shows great touch, putting the ball in the small space where the defender can’t reach it and the receiver won’t be led out of bounds.

McNamara’s accuracy on deep balls is one of his strongest attributes, but he can also handle the intermediate throws, like in the play below.

Here, McNamara shows patience to wait until his receiver is past the first level, then puts enough air under the ball so the linebacker can’t break up the play. He also splits the safeties with the throw, resulting in a great ball placed in the middle of a triangle of defenders. This poise and placement is one of his greatest skills.

Arm Strength

There is no doubt that McNamara loves the deep ball. He routinely flings the ball over 35 yards downfield to his receiver, often on the run (which we’ll get to in a minute). Here’s a great demonstration of his arm strength:

McNamara does an excellent job of setting his feet and leading his receiver. He throws past the secondary, anticipating where the receiver will be and dropping it in his arms right on the goal line for a touchdown.

He’s also able to throw well on the run, not showing fear as defenders are closing in on him. This will be showcased in the plays below.


One thing that immediately becomes apparent while watching McNamara’s film is that his offensive line is not very good. He constantly has defenders in his face, requiring him to run for his life. This doesn’t faze McNamara, who consistently evades his pursuers and is able to find someone free down the field. He is not an outstanding athlete, but does possess great footwork and escapability.

In this play, McNamara tries to step up in the pocket as it’s closing around him, but finds another lineman in his face. Escaping his grab, McNamara scrambles left and finds a man on the run, just before getting hit.

While McNamara would not be confused for Denard Robinson, he definitely has good awareness in the pocket to avoid the rush and is quick enough to evade his pursuers. While scrambling, McNamara still scans the field, and has great vision to find open receivers. This ability to make something out of broken plays reminds me of another new Michigan quarterback — Shea Patterson.


This is one of the major issues that popped out on McNamara’s film. Quarterback evaluators look for a compact, over the shoulder throwing motion. He should follow through with his back leg, swinging it around while throwing.

McNamara does not demonstrate these mechanics frequently. Instead, he tends to throw from more of a side-arm slot and fails to follow through with the back leg. These issues become more apparent when he is throwing while on the move, which happens a lot in his tape.

On a designed rollout to his left, McNamara has to deal with a defensive end that is immediately in his face. He is not given much time to set his feet and align his shoulders, but he does just in time. However, his arm slot is very low, throwing from less than a 45 degree angle.

McNamara still does a great job of getting air under the ball for his receiver to jump up and grab for a touchdown, but this is an example of the poor mechanics the coaching staff will have to iron out once he gets on campus.

The play above shows the issues with his follow through. Instead of swinging his back leg through the throw, McNamara doesn’t move it at all, relying on mostly upper body strength to get the ball downfield. This may be because of the defenders that are closing in on him fast, but this issue is shown a lot in his tape.

On a more positive note, the fact that McNamara was able to throw the ball 40 yards without using much of his lower body only speaks to the arm strength that he possesses.


The benchmarks for NFL quarterback size are generally accepted to be 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds. A prospect must show exceptional talent for those standards to be ignored. McNamara is a tad shorter, 6-foot-1, and only weighs 187 pounds, according to his 247Sports profile.

Thankfully, with a deep and talented quarterback room, McNamara should have time to physically develop more and put on some body armor in the weight room. Not to mention that recently there has been a trend of shorter quarterbacks who still excel, from Drew Brees to Russell Wilson to Baker Mayfield.

Overall, McNamara is an exciting prospect that has shown the production and talent to compete at the next level. With one of the best quarterback developers in the country at the helm of Michigan football, McNamara is stepping into an excellent situation to compete and grow into a star.

This commitment does not mean that Michigan is done recruiting the quarterback position for this class. Harbaugh has demonstrated he is looking to take multiple signal callers in the last two cycles. Look out for another one to join McNamara in the class at some point.