Jim Harbaugh is about to enter his fifth season as the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. He has been always been known as a quarterback-focused coach based on his own experience at the collegiate and NFL level. Now fans are seeing that come into fruition in Ann Arbor.
Last Friday, 2021 5-star quarterback J.J. McCarthy announced his commitment to Michigan. But when will he and his quarterback teammates be ready to start in Ann Arbor?
2019 Starter: Shea Patterson, SR
First off is the obvious starter for the upcoming season, Shea Patterson. Patterson had an electric season in 2018, throwing for 2,600 yards, 22 touchdowns and a 64.6 completion percentage.
After deciding to come back to Ann Arbor for his senior season, Patterson will be the leader of Josh Gattis’ offense. Patterson excelled last year in an offensive scheme that did not match his play type.
The former 5-star will finally be let loose in 2019 and has one of the best wide receiving corps in the country with Tarik Black, Donovan Peoples-Jones (if healthy) and Nico Collins. This offense should be a lot of fun to watch under Gattis and Patterson’s care this season.
2020 Starter: Dylan McCaffrey, RS JR
After the 2019 season is when the debate becomes real for the starting quarterback role. Michigan has Dylan McCaffrey (redshirt junior), Joe Milton (redshirt sophomore), and Cade McNamara (probable redshirt freshman) waiting to claim their right as the starting quarterback. 2020 4-star J.D. Johnson will likely take a redshirt year.
It seems to me McCaffrey would be the front runner at this point. He has seen some decent playing time, including most of the second half against Notre Dame in the first week of the 2018 season, and he has shown a lot of promise.
He had two specific moments from last season that were very memorable. One was a 44-yard touchdown run against Wisconsin:
The second was this dime that he dropped to Ronnie Bell against Nebraska leading to a 56-yard touchdown:
It seems that McCaffrey is just waiting for his moment to shine at Michigan. He should get the chance to do that, especially because of how well he fits into Gattis’ new system. He is a dual-threat option and Harbaugh has said that he has the “it factor.”
Thankfully McCaffrey has been patient throughout this process and will deservedly be the starter at Michigan in 2020.
Now, you might think the clear answer for starter in 2021 is Joe Milton, however, I do not think he will wait this long to play one year of collegiate football. There is no way some of these players are going to be patient enough to wait it out for only one year of playing time.
I believe if he doesn’t feel he is the starter for 2020 after this upcoming season, he will transfer from Michigan to seek a starting role with only two years of eligibility remaining.
So with that said...
2021 Starter: Cade McNamara, RS SO
With the assumption Milton is no longer in Ann Arbor, Michigan will have 2019 4-star Cade McNamara, 2020 4-star J.D. Johnson and 5-star J.J. McCarthy to consider for the starting position. This will be an extremely interesting quarterback battle to see unfold.
I like McNamara a lot. He has a big arm, ran a spread offense in high school, has a high IQ and just has a knack for making big plays. His mobility in the pocket is a lot of fun to watch and reminds me a lot of what Patterson does to extend plays.
Then there will be McCarthy, who could easily compete for the starting job. As a true freshman, he could have a real shot at winning the job from Day 1.
McCarthy has drawn player comps to Drew Brees and Baker Mayfield. When you get a player like McCarthy, you have to do whatever it takes to keep him happy and to ensure him an important role early on in his collegiate career.
McCarthy led Nazareth Academy High School in LaGrange Park, Illinois to the state title in 2018. He threw for 39 touchdowns and 3,448 yards, with a 77 percent completion percentage during his sophomore season. This kid has a ton of talent and the tape clearly shows it:
McCarthy is the No. 2 quarterback and the No. 19 overall recruit in his class.
The last of the bunch currently committed to the Wolverines is J.D. Johnson. But, I don’t think he is going to be a Michigan man for long or maybe not even at all.
It all starts with the person who recruited him: Pep Hamilton. Obviously he is no longer employed at Michigan and his system is no longer being used.
Johnson committed to Michigan in Dec. 2018. Hamilton left back in February. Just over a month later, Johnson visited Texas A&M and Oregon in the span of two weeks.
Johnson ran a very similar power offense to Hamilton’s system in high school that often showed three running backs in the back field. There were other formations out of the spread he also ran as well.
Johnson plans to enroll early in college, but I think that both McNamara and McCarthy are more suited for the Wolverines offense under Gattis. We will see if he continues to stay committed to Michigan and what his college path will be like if he ends up in Ann Arbor.
I give McNamara a slight edge in this battle mostly because of the experience he will have as a redshirt sophomore.