Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy was named to the watch list for the 2023 Davey O’Brien, awarded annually to the best quarterback in college football. It’s no surprise to see McCarthy’s name appear on the watch list after a strong sophomore campaign.
As a freshman, McCarthy saw action mostly as a rushing threat but showed glimpses of his arm talent and five-star pedigree, throwing for 516 yards and five touchdowns on just 59 pass attempts. After taking the reigns as Michigan’s full-time starter in week two against Hawaii last year, he never looked back. McCarthy would finish with 2,719 passing yards and 22 touchdowns with a 64.6 completion percentage. He would also continue to show his chops as a rusher, adding an additional 306 yards and five touchdowns.
McCarthy’s efforts played a sizable role in Michigan’s first undefeated regular season since 1997. He was rewarded with second-team All-Big Ten honors from the media and third-team honors from the coaches. As one of the top returning quarterbacks in all of college football, McCarthy’s performance will play a pivotal role in Michigan’s ability to compete for another conference championship and College Football Playoff berth. Additionally, a strong performance from McCarthy could solidify his position as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft if he decides to declare.
McCarthy also has a chance to become Michigan’s first winner of the O’Brien Award since its inception in 1981. The award’s most recent winner was TCU’s Max Duggan last year. The award also hasn’t been won by a Big Ten quarterback since it was given to Ohio State’s Troy Smith in 2006.
McCarthy is joined on the watch list by fellow Big Ten quarterbacks Taulia Tagovailoa (Maryland), Jeff Sims (Nebraska) and Tanner Mordecai (Wisconsin). Other notable names include Caleb Williams (USC), Drake Maye (North Carolina), Bo Nix (Oregon), Jayden Daniels (LSU), Quinn Ewers (Texas), Jordan Travis (Florida State), and former Michigan and current Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton.