After the consecutive departures of Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton, it looked like Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy were set up for a camp battle for the Michigan starting quarterback gig. That may still be the case, but there will also be a third competitor in the mix (and no, not Dan Villari).
Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman will throw his hat in the ring after three years in Lubbock, joining Jake Rudock, John O’Korn, and Shea Patterson as quarterbacks acquired by Jim Harbaugh. The redshirt sophomore boasts the most experience among the options under center and at the very least offers a bit of a floor at the position.
The story so far
Bowman was not the full-time starter during his time with the Red Raiders — partially due to injury, partially due to performance — but he has made meaningful appearances in 18 games over the past three seasons. There was a reason that he was available as a transfer, though, as he has yet to consistently put it all together thus far.
A three-star recruit, Bowman did not win the starting job as a freshman, but ended up taking over in the first half of his first game because of an injury. A couple weeks later, he famously put up 605 yards and five touchdowns against Houston, but soon suffered a setback of his own, missing multiple games during 2018 due to some complications stemming from a collapsed lung.
Bowman played just three games in 2019 and took a redshirt, missing most of the year with another injury, this time to his shoulder. He then began 2020 as the starter, but yet again got hurt before losing the starting job due to his play. He ended up splitting time under center for the rest of the year but still managed to put up 1,602 yards and 10 touchdowns across eight games, including a total of eight scores against ranked Texas and Oklahoma State.
Of course, Big 12 offenses (and more importantly, defenses) are a little bit different than in the Big Ten, so all of the numbers should be taken with a Texas-sized grain of salt. Still, the underlying tape shows a strong pocket passer with an unmet ceiling. He is not going to be as accurate as McNamara, but he could be an improved version of Milton that posseses a little less velocity but a better in-game arm.
Outlook moving forward
McNamara was Michigan’s most reliable quarterback last season and McCarthy is one of the most hyped freshmen in a long time, but adding Bowman gives Harbaugh some safety in case things go wrong. Even though Bowman himself has dealt with a variety of injuries, he does offer some valuable experience should the Wolverines’ other quarterbacks need to miss some time.
And maybe Bowman can be more than just a warm body on the bench. Jim Harbaugh is not Kliff Kingsbury — under whom Bowman looked most promising — but he does have a track record of developing quarterbacks, even if that premise has been tested in recent years. With a little refinement, it is completely reasonable to look at the tape and see a player more than capable of leading the Michigan offense.
It is no secret that this team will soon belong to the five-star McCarthy, but he may not be ready to go this season. That means someone has to take the snaps in 2021, and while odds are that McNamara will be the one to do so, Bowman should be able to put the ball in the Wolverine playmakers’ hands just as well.
Perhaps the biggest thing going against him is missing out on spring camp, a time where the other quarterbacks were able to work with the revamped coaching staff. However, as a player entering his fourth collegiate season, Bowman should be able to get up to speed faster than most and would not look completely lost if his number is called.
This was a no-brainer of a transfer. If everything clicks, Bowman could be a really nice surprise for 2021 and maybe even 2022. Worst case scenario, he is only called upon in an emergency, and if he struggles then Michigan was likely doomed already. With raw talent, relevant experience, and untapped potential, Bowman is exactly the kind of lottery ticket teams should be aiming for in these situations.