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J.J. McCarthy’s path to Michigan, outlook for 2022

Destined to be a QB1 at some point.

Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

J.J. McCarthy is one of the biggest names on the Michigan Football roster, and he’s only been there a year and he has yet to start a game. A combination of highlight reel plays for Michigan last season and the hype that comes with being a five-star recruit has led to McCarthy becoming a fan favorite.

The story so far

McCarthy committed to Michigan back in 2019 — the five-star McCarthy was ranked as the No. 24 prospect overall nationally in the class of 2021, and No. 2 pro-style quarterback. McCarthy received offers from Ohio State, Wisconsin, Texas, and over 30 other schools but it was always Michigan for McCarthy.

McCarthy turned heads during his high school career, compiling a 36-2 record as a starter, and winning the 2020 National Championship with IMG, going 8-0 on the season while throwing for 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. In all, McCarthy had 7,905 career yards passing with 94 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

During McCarthy’s freshman season at Michigan in 2021, he didn’t just play in garbage time — head coach Jim Harbaugh threw McCarthy into the fire in pivotal moments in close games.

McCarthy aided Michigan in their 38-17 road victory against Wisconsin where he had a rushing score and 56-yard touchdown pass. McCarthy received snaps against Michigan’s biggest rivals in Michigan State and Ohio State. McCarthy appeared in the College Football Playoff Semi-Final at the Orange Bowl, where McCarthy was 7-of-17 for 131 yards with one touchdown pass.

McCarthy made more than a handful of ‘wow’ plays with his arm and his legs in 2021 — the young quarterback has top-tier arm talent, and his running abilities are top-tier as well.

In all, McCarthy was 34-of-59 (57.6%) for 516 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. McCarthy also added 124 yards rushing with two rushing touchdowns.

Outlook moving forward

McCarthy had lingering arm soreness following the 2021 season and didn’t throw during Michigan’s spring practices. However, McCarthy has been able to throw since April 18 and is expected to be full systems go when training camp rolls around in a couple months.

While Cade McNamara performed well in 2021 and is the front-runner to be Michigan’s starting quarterback again in 2022, there’s no doubt that McCarthy will be pushing McNamara for playing time.

“As far as long-term, who it's going to be, that prediction, everyone rents that position,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said in November 2021. “Nobody owns the position, any position on the field. Not even the head coach. You lease, at best.”

Harbaugh said in February that if one is clearly better, “one will clearly be the starter”.

“Could be the way we did it last year where they’re splitting time, or it could be one more than the other, or one the full way,” Harbaugh said.

Whether McCarthy starts the season behind McNamara or takes the reins right out of the gate remains to be seen, what is clear is McCarthy will see the field more than he did a season ago. With a year of Michigan’s scheme under his belt and now acclimated to the speed of high-level collegiate football, there is every reason to think that McCarthy will have a productive 2022 campaign. All evidence points to McCarthy becoming a really good, perhaps great, Michigan quarterback.