Michigan’s starting quarterback J.J. McCarthy is someone head coach Jim Harbaugh considers a generational talent for the program. However, the road to naming McCarthy’s backup has had twists and turns of late.
Davis Warren came in after McCarthy in Week 1 and went 0-for-1.
Last week it was Indiana transfer Jack Tuttle coming off the bench first. Unfortunately for Tuttle he was injured via a late hit on his first snap of the game, a 14-yard run. While Tuttle’s injury isn’t long term and he’s going to be fine, it looked scary at the time.
Jack Tuttle was slow to get up after this hard hit on the sideline pic.twitter.com/tznWPsb9HV— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 9, 2023
With Tuttle out for the game, Davis Warren came in next, but according to head coach Jim Harbaugh that wasn’t the plan.
“The one we’re still evaluating is the backup quarterback and we made a mistake. Coach Hart put in Davis Warren ahead of Denegal,” Harbaugh said.
With Harbaugh suspended for the game and Mike Hart serving as the interim head coach for the second half of the UNLV game, Hart put in Warren when he was supposed to put in Jayden Denegal after Tuttle. Harbaugh said that they practiced the scenario all week, said Hart took responsibility and that it was a great learning lesson. Harbaugh commended the way Denegal handled the situation with poise.
Warren went 0-for-2 with an interception and Denegal was eventually inserted and went 1-of-1 with a 35-yard completion.
This week the plan will be to see more of Denegal and Alex Orji.
“This week you’ll see it’ll be J.J. and if we go to a backup quarterback it’ll be Jayden Denegal and Alex Orji,” Harbaugh said. “Want to get all those guys looked at in game action. Hopefully this next game. If not, it’ll have to carry into the next one.”
The 6-foot-5, 238-pound Denegal has been described by Harbaugh in the past as someone who “throws the ball extremely well” and “pretty darn athletic”. Alex Orji, also a dual-threat option, is someone Harbuagh noted last month feels could be an all-time great kick returner and is also “excelling at quarterback”.
Davis Warren’s had his chances through two weeks, the coaching staff knows what they’re getting in veteran Jack Tuttle who has the biggest sample size. Tuttle had 182 passing attempts, a completion percentage of 57.1 with 901 passing yards, five touchdowns, and six interceptions at Indiana. Denegal and Orji both have just one career completion each and could use a game against an opponent Michigan’s favored heavily against to get some time on task.
“We really need to see Jayden Denegal and Alex Orji in this week. Jack’s acquitted himself well. He practiced well. Had a nice play in the game. It was unfortunate that he got hurt. He’s a tough guy. He’ll be back,” Harbaugh said. “But we really need to find out what we have in Jayden and Alex.”
The backup quarterback position has major ramifications if J.J. McCarthy was to ever get injured. And whoever is McCarthy’s backup could be in line to become Michigan’s next starting QB when McCarthy heads to the NFL. This is a big week for Denegal and Orji.