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Michigan QB Dan Villari’s road so far, outlook for 2021 season

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Villari’s role is likely to increase, but in what capacity?

NCAA Football: Michigan at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Villari did not see the field in 2020, despite rumors near the end of the season that he would be the only quarterback available. Entering spring practices, he was one of only three scholarship QB’s on campus as Alan Bowman was set to arrive later in the year. With the additions of J.J. McCarthy and Alan Bowman, playing time might be sparse though Villari has the skillset to carve out a few other roles.

The story so far

His offer sheet consisted mostly of MAC schools before Michigan came calling. 247 Sports listed Villari as a generic three-star and the number 40 overall pro-style QB in the class of 2020. Despite not being listed as a dual-threat QB, Villari has some pep in his step. He completed his senior year with 1,306 passing yards and 13 TD’s along with 1,522 rushing yards and 25 TD’s on the ground. Despite the gaudy rushing stats, Villari appears to be much more of an opportunistic runner rather than a true dual-threat.

Coming out of high school, Villari showed above-average athleticism and physicality about him that is unusual for a QB. His highlight tapes tended to consist of just as many punishing hits from his time as a safety as it did great throws as a QB. There was (and is) an obvious comparison between Dan Villari and Zach Gentry. Gentry, now an NFL tight end with the Pittsburgh Steelers, came to Ann Arbor noticeably bigger at 6’8” and 237 pounds while Villari remains 6’4” and 227 pounds. Both were punishing runners from the QB position but struggled with consistency in the passing game.

Outlook moving forward

With J.J. McCarthy coming to Ann Arbor this year, Villari is in the unenviable position of having a declared starter ahead of him (Cade McNamara) as well as a player younger than him with a great deal of hype in McCarthy who many expect to surpass Villari immediately on the depth chart. Throw in Alan Bowman and it is suddenly a crowded QB room in Ann Arbor.

Many had speculated upon Villari’s arrival that he would be a prime candidate to switch to tight end, just as Zach Gentry had done. That speculation appears to be coming to fruition. Two weeks ago Jim Harbaugh went on Jon Jansen’s podcast ‘In The Trenches’ and told him that the staff is tinkering with using Villari in a role similar to Taysom Hill. Hill, the presumed starting QB for the New Orleans Saints this year following Drew Brees’ retirement, has been a jack-of-all-trades backup for the past few years. Hill has taken goal-line carries, caught passes, and even thrown some passes during various gadget plays.

How involved Villari will be during his sophomore season remains to be seen. Given Harbaugh’s unwillingness to give out public information, it was surprising to see him publicly comment on Villari’s role. This tells me that they might be kicking the idea around of starting to transition Villari to a tight end. There is certainly a clearer path to playing time at tight end as Erick All and Luke Schoonmaker are the only returners at the position.

Position changes take time to set in so I don’t expect to see Dan Villari on the field much in 2021. However, a position change would set him up nicely to see some snaps down the road in 2022 and 2023. If Michigan can get even close to the amount of production out of Villari as they did out of Zach Gentry, it would be considered an unmitigated recruiting win. Only time will tell.