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What J.J. McCarthy has done to narrow the gap in QB competition


Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Jim Harbaugh says he doesn’t know the future, but he believes he has two quarterbacks that can help Michigan win a national championship.

Last year’s starter Cade McNamara will start the Michigan Wolverines’ season opener, J.J. McCarthy will start the second game. The plan for now, is to name a starting quarterback before Week 3.

Harbaugh said that McNamara is throwing the ball the best he’s ever thrown it, he’s more athletic, and he’s improved his pocket presence and awareness. Although McNamara, according to Harbaugh, is one of Michigan’s most improved players, McCarthy is neck and neck with him in the quarterback competition.

On the Inside Michigan Football radio show Jon Jansen asked Harbaugh what McCarthy has done to narrow the gap in the competition, and what he’s continued to do to show he deserves the chance to earn the starting quarterback position.

“A lotta good things, so many good things,” Harbaugh said.

“His playmaking ability is tremendous. He’s making all the throws. So many times, I’ve watched him run 40, 50 yards and not get touched by anybody. The way he’s going through his progressions right now and going making his throws is a huge improvement. Not trying to turn water into wine every single play. Getting the ball, dispersing it to the playmakers, but always ready to make a play when he needs to. Surging — today’s practice, Saturday’s practice in the stadium, Friday’s. He’s put in his four best days of practice the entire training camp. He’s surging. It’s a lot of good things.”

Harbaugh said earlier this week that McNamara is a little ahead with accuracy, timing, decision making, taking what the defense gives him. However, McCarthy is ahead when it comes to being a playmaker.

“The guy that can turn water into wine, using his athleticism, his speed, arm talent. Runner, scrambler, plays smart, makes a play when there’s no play to be made. Running ability, moves the chains as a runner, augments the running game,” Harbaugh said. “Risk, reward, turn a one-yard loss into a positive play, but doesn’t make the bad play worse. Avoids the fumbles, the interceptions, the sacks. I have J.J. ahead in that category.”

McCarthy wasn’t able to participate in spring practices but has quickly ascended during fall camp.

“There’s no demotion for Cade McNamara, he’s playing his best football. It is a promotion for J.J., based on what he’s been able to do as well.”

McCarthy is well-liked by his teammates and coaches, and his attitude has made a positive impression on Harbaugh.

“Like a kid in a candy store,” Harbaugh said about McCarthy in April. “That’s the only way or the best way to phrase what he’s like. And there’s just certain guys that are like that, and he’s one of them. And that’s at the very highest level of everything he does, he attacks with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. You just always want to give him a big hug. You just love being around him.”

McCarthy will have a chance to attack opposing defenses soon enough, which is the football equivalent of being a kid in a candy store.

Michigan kicks off its season against Colorado State this Saturday at 12 p.m. According to DraftKings, Michigan is a 30.5-point favorite. All odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

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