Michigan co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss told the media on Sunday that the best player will play at quarterback.
“We will win by any means necessary,” Weiss said.
Michigan has a more than capable starter in Cade McNamara, who Weiss said has gotten stronger this off-season as well as more improved on the field. And then there’s J.J. McCarthy, Michigan’s second-year backup who saw playing time last season and fared quite well when he was on the field.
McCarthy didn’t take throwing reps during spring practices due to lingering shoulder soreness, but now is back to full strength and a regular throwing schedule. Weiss said McCarthy is working his way back into it, and it looks like he’s doing just fine in a video released Saturday where he connected on a strike deep to Roman Wilson.
Weiss spoke about how the reps McCarthy received last season served him well. One strength of McCarthy’s game is his ability to pick up yards with his legs. McCarthy has top-tier speed and athleticism for a quarterback and when he’s on the field, the threat he poses as a runner, keeps defenses honest.
“We used him on a lot of quarterback runs (in 2021). Certainly, he threw the ball effectively also but what that difference is that it controlled the defense, right?” Weiss said. “If you’re running a lot of quarterback runs, you’re not going to be running four to a side blitzes and showing all different types of coverages, they’re going to make sure they have everything gapped out, gonna be more static. So that made things easier for him, he didn’t have to go out on 3rd-and-15, some crazy blitz coming — we were able to control when he was in the game and what he was doing and help him have success.”
Now that McCarthy has some experience under his belt he’s undoubtedly pushing McNamara for more reps, head coach Jim Harbaugh recently went philosophical about the quarterback competition, saying “Cade McNamara is going to be really tough to beat out for the starting quarterback job. J.J. McCarthy is going to be really tough to beat out for the starting quarterback job.”
Fall camp began just a few days ago and this will be an important month for both McCarthy and McNamara. McNamara is QB1 right now and it would take a significant performance from McCarthy this month to take the job before the season opener. Regardless of who’s the starter, McCarthy will see plenty of playing time in 2022 and his trajectory is pointing up. The former five-star McCarthy is on a path to be a major contributor for this Michigan team not only this season but in 2023 as well. The question is when and where will he make his first career start?
“He’s a really good player, and he’s gonna be really good, we’re excited about him and his future,” Weiss said. “It’s hard to see him being anything but really, really good at the University of Michigan whenever his time comes. We’re gonna continue to develop him and he’ll be playing for us at some point, just a question of when.”
The narrative about the quarterback competition is something that McCarthy isn’t concerned with, he’s just trying to get better in fall camp.
“There’s no expectations,” McCarthy told Michigan Insider in July. “All I’m going to do is take it one day at a time, one snap at a time, and try to be in the present moment as much as possible. Not really focused too much on the competition battle, nothing like that. It’s just trying to be the best person, best football player, best quarterback, best teammate I can possibly be.”
Michigan’s lucky to have two talented quarterbacks who are taking Harbaugh’s message to heart, they’re being “competitive, not combative”.