The Michigan Wolverines quarterback room has been filled with plenty of intriguing options over the last number of years but has left some potential on the table. They are hoping that this is the year they can fully tap into the possibilities of what their passers can be.
Michigan is still searching for a Jim Harbaugh-recruited quarterback that can come in and elevate the program seven years into his time on the job. The 2021 signal-caller room has a nice mixture of promise and experience, making it a candidate to be the Wolverines’ deepest under Harbaugh yet.
Here’s how we see the quarterback pecking order shaking out.
1. Cade McNamara, junior
Outside of officially taking that first snap of the season on Sept. 4 against Western Michigan, all feedback out of Ann Arbor points to McNamara being Michigan’s starting quarterback. He has taken command of the Michigan offense from a leadership and execution standpoint throughout the offseason with no signs of letting up. The coaching staff has been pretty forthright about him being the starter, so any thoughts saying otherwise leading up to the season opener would read as manufactured drama. Cade is the guy.
What he brings: McNamara might not have the rocket arm or elite athleticism, but he brings poise to the huddle and can make the appropriate reads and throws. Expectations will be much higher this year, but Michigan’s only 2020 post-Week 1 offensive success seemed to come when he was at quarterback. It will be interesting to see how he develops and if he can take a step forward with a new quarterback coach in Matt Weiss and the keys to the offense.
2. J.J. McCarthy, freshman
McCarthy is the shiny new toy in the Michigan quarterback room. He is a five-star recruit and the highest-rated passer that Harbaugh has recruited out of high school. The backup quarterback is perpetually the most popular guy among fans, but this is a case where fans are eager to see a star talent get on the field as soon as he can. The progress has been good behind the scenes, but it seems like McNamara has been that much better. He might not quite have the backup job locked down officially, but he has the upper hand given his development and since he went through a full spring football.
What he brings: Those in the know say that McCarthy has the requisite leadership traits and talent to play sooner rather than later. However, he’ll have to wait his turn and has to earn it. That’s not the worst thing in the world. He will play this season, but there are a lot of factors that play into that. If McNamara is great and McCarthy is left to mop things up in garbage time, that would be ideal.
3. Alan Bowman, graduate senior
The Texas Tech transfer joined the Wolverines this summer with some speculating that he would have a shot at the starting job. The coaching staff has given him that opportunity, but his addition was more of a depth move than out of desperation. Michigan likes and believes in McNamara and McCarthy, but did lose Joe Milton and Dylan McCaffrey to the transfer portal.
What he brings: Experience and insurance. Bowman has 16 starts under his belt from his days at Texas Tech. So in the “break in case of emergency” scenario, Michigan needs him to play a bigger role he can be ready. No disrespect to Dan Villari intended, but Michigan could not risk an injury to McNamara or McCarthy and have him next in line to play.
4. Dan Villari, sophomore
Villari was a last-minute addition to Michigan’s 2020 class and has never projected to be much more than a body in the quarterback room. However, it does seem like they have a role in mind for him in the mold of what the New Orleans Saints have done with Taysom Hill. We might see him as a tight end/H-back/gadget hybrid, but the point from above on why Bowman was brought in stands.
What he brings: Michigan feels like he might be too good an athlete to keep off the field, so they are trying to find a role for him. This has only added to his cult-hero status this offseason among the fanbase.