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Where J.J. McCarthy’s made significant improvements to his game

A first-year starter who continues to show promise through Michigan’s first 8 games.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy has a lot on his plate as a 19-year-old first-year starter.

McCarthy currently has a 74.6 completion percentage, 1,464 yards passing, ten touchdowns, and two interceptions. McCarthy’s completion percentage leads the nation, his 8.7 yards per attempt ranks 23rd among qualified passers, and ranks 13th in pass efficiency (164.5).

Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss told the media on Wednesday that he’s thrilled with the way McCarthy is playing.

“He’s even surpassed our expectations for how fast he can grow and how fast he can develop and we’re thrilled with where he is.”

Weiss said that McCarthy understands every single progression, he has the right footwork, and he knows where to go with the ball with very few exceptions.

“That’s really hard to get a quarterback to do that,” Weiss said. “For him to be completing whatever percentage of his passes he’s completing, speaks to all those things. If you’re not doing those things, that’s not going to happen. Everybody in the country wishes that they could have that type of completion percentage. The reason why few people can do it, it’s really hard to do on a play-to-play basis, what he’s able to do.”

McCarthy’s recognition before the play begins has been improving as well.

“He’s extremely smart pre-snap, being able to get us in the right play, seeing what the defense is doing, knowing where to go. And all those things have been really impressive for a first-year starter. And I would also say, at the same time, it’s not a finished product. When he leaves here, it’s gonna be even better, right? And it’s hard to imagine how good he can be.”

McCarthy’s abilities as a passer are to be commended, but his athleticism and running prowess have been on display throughout the season as well. McCarthy currently has 197 yards rushing and one touchdown. While McCarthy did take a couple of big hits earlier in the year running the ball, he’s toned that down and is getting better at knowing when to slide or when to get out of bounds.

“That’s one of the areas where you can see significant improvement in his game,” Weiss said. “If you remember, you can go all the way back to last year — even when he when he would scramble, and he’s always been an effective runner, but he would take hits that maybe he shouldn’t take. And now you see him avoiding those hits at the end of runs, which we love, because not only keeping him healthy but also protecting the football.”

A couple of McCarthy’s rushes against Michigan State were without hesitation, he’s developing innate instincts as to when to get out of trouble and move on to green pastures and move the chains. McCarthy is learning when scrambling is appropriate, when throwing the ball away is the better part of valor, and when it’s more beneficial to throw the ball down the field.

“The good thing we always say to him and emphasize is the defense should not stop you three times. They have to stop the play we call, if we’re throwing the ball they have to stop you from scrambling to throw, if you throw they have to stop you from scrambling to run.”

Weiss is excited, the team is excited, and the fans are excited about McCarthy, someone who’s been an integral part of Michigan’s 8-0 start.

McCarthy’s next test will be a road tilt against 4-4 Rutgers on Saturday. Rutgers is a team Michigan narrowly beat 20-13 last season. This time around, per DraftKings Sportsbook, Michigan is a 26-point favorite.

All odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.