You don’t often see a backup quarterback be one of a couple player’s chosen for media availability when there are plenty of starters on both sides of the football that could have been picked instead.
But on Tuesday afternoon, Dylan McCaffrey was out in front of Michigan reporters answering a variety of questions.
While Shea Patterson is the quarterback for the 2018 season, it’s becoming increasingly clear that McCaffrey is the future for Michigan at the position.
The 6-foot-5, 217-pound QB has completed 8-of-15 pass attempts for 126 yards and two touchdowns this season, adding in 53 yards rushing.
Small sample size? Yes. But what his teammates and Jim Harbaugh have said about him since the redshirt freshman arrived in Ann Arbor speaks volumes.
At Big Ten Media Day Harbaugh said that McCaffrey was the most improved out of any quarterback, also saying he has the “it” factor.
And then after McCaffrey’s performance versus Nebraska, Harbaugh’s comments and tone about McCaffrey were telling.
“Dylan continues to improve every time he gets in. That’s a position like all the positions in football, but especially quarterback, it takes playing and having time on task and being out there. And he’s getting that,” Harbaugh said. “It’s never too big for him. I really like that about Dylan.”
With McCaffrey’s time on task he’s shown an accurate arm and that he might be lethal with his legs.
McCaffrey had a long touchdown run called back last Saturday.
How bad is it going for Nebraska?— Due# (@JDue51) September 23, 2018
Dylan McCaffrey keeps on a zone read and his 75 yards. Wooof. pic.twitter.com/hvwJkecITd
He also tried trucking a defender like it was game of Madden.
Dylan McCaffrey in at quarterback for Blue. pic.twitter.com/PMyi7cxulZ— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) September 22, 2018
Harbaugh told McCaffrey last week that “it’s better to be prepared and not get your opportunity than to be unprepared and get that opportunity”, and McCaffrey is buying in, saying “that’s something you have to live by.”
It was a healthy quarterback competition this off-season between those in the quarterback room, and it will remain to be so with Patterson and McCaffrey each and every practice.
This is the best situation a coach can have; A good starting quarterback and a backup quarterback who has looked good when he’s been on the field as well. Those variables lead to each player wanting to do the best they can with every rep they get.
Complacency can occur when you’re not getting pushed by another, and that isn’t the case for McCaffrey nor Patterson, nor Joe Milton or Brandon Peters in 2018.
Analogy Time: The prolific duo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney wouldn’t have been as good if they didn’t have each other, the two pushed one another and The Beatles became one of the best bands of all time. It all boils down to whether you embrace the other guy in the room that wants to one-up you by writing a better song, throwing a better pass, having a better practice.
It remains to be seen how good McCaffrey will be, or if he will we be the starting quarterback in the future for Michigan. But the future seems bright for the young buck, as he has a good mental approach to the game, which is always half the battle.
“It’s about the preparation during the week, taking as many mental reps as you can. Even last year, I tried to take as many mental reps as I could, even when I knew I had no chance to get in,” McCaffrey said.
So much of the game is won and lost pre-snap, and if a player can slow down and read a defense before the ball is snapped, even the stingiest of defenses can be beat.
For Michigan’s sake, they don’t want to see too much of McCaffrey this season, that would mean something bad happened to Shea Patterson one way or the other. But if McCaffrey can continue to grow both on the field and by studying film, his chances of succeeding seem high. There’s a lot of ability to work with, both for he and the coaches teaching D-Caff the ropes.
For now, we will see McCaffrey when Michigan has a big lead, but as early as 2019 we may see him being a crucial part of the Wolverines charge for a Big Ten title. Only then will we see if no moment is too big for him, as Harbaugh says.