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Harbaugh talks backup QB competition: Joe Milton has a shot

Milton might have a shot if you read between the lines

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Michigan Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines will be without backup QB Dylan McCaffrey for awhile, as he suffered a broken collarbone versus Penn State.

“We’ll see this week,” Harbaugh said. “Brandon (Peters) and Joe (Milton) will be competing for that spot.”

Harbaugh was asked if he’d factor in preserving Milton’s redshirt status in regards to the backup spot, saying he thinks they can preserve it. Milton has played in one game, he can play in three more before burning his redshirt status.

“I think we’re on schedule for that, he’s participated in one game, so he’s eligible to play in three more games and still have a redshirt.”

But then Harbaugh was asked if he takes into consideration a postseason/playoff run where Milton would then burn his redshirt. Harbaugh went into a thorough explanation.

“Yes, yes we do. Interesting question will be, I need to ask this question, I imagine the answer would be it doesn’t matter if it’s a twelve game season or a thirteen, or beyond that, it still counts as four games but it’d be something to be addressed and asked. You could make the argument that the more games a team plays that there would be a percentage than rather a set game amount. I don’t know if anyone’s thought of that.”

When Harbaugh was asked if that was part of the plan, Milton just playing in four games, he said “we’d like to have that, don’t know if we’ll be able to.”

The easy assumption would be Peters is the one with more in-game experience, starting in four last season. But when we’re dealing with 18-20 year old players, sometimes experience can be overrated and a true freshman can know just as much as the guy who has more experience.

Harbaugh likes to keep opponents guessing when it comes to his depth chart, but there was a level of transparency in his comments today. There will be a competition that unfolds this week, and Joe Milton is going to have a chance at seeing the field more than Brandon Peters.

Michigan has three regular season games left, then there’s the potential of a Big Ten Championship game and up to two postseason games. If Harbaugh was dead-set on Peters being the No. 2, if he already had it in his mind he’d preserve Milton’s redshirt, he would have just said so. But Harbaugh went the other way, he said he doesn’t know if they’ll be able to redshirt Milton.

If Milton did appear in more than four games, that means Shea Patterson got hurt, or he simply leapfrogged Peters for the backup QB gig.

Earlier this year, Karan Higdon said that Milton “is going to leave a complete legacy at the University of Michigan”, and Zach Gentry said Milton has the strongest arm he’s ever seen. While Milton is young, deemed inexperienced, the raw athleticism is there.

We should find out on Saturday who the backup is. Michigan will likely pull away early against Rutgers to make way for the backup QB to come in and get some reps. Will it be Peters who comes in first, or will it be Milton?