Around this time last year, J.J. McCarthy was dealing with arm soreness and would not throw during spring practices. Cade McNamara was Michigan’s starting quarterback.
A year later as we sit here on February 20, McCarthy is Michigan’s starting quarterback and coming off a season where the Wolverines beat Ohio State, won a Big Ten Championship, and made the College Football Playoff.
McCarthy is firmly entrenched as QB1, but the rest of the depth chart will be decided in the months ahead.
Here’s a look at Michigan’s quarterback room heading into spring ball.
McCarthy became Michigan’s starter in Week 2 last season and never looked back. McCarthy won the first 12 starts of his career, a Michigan record and was quite efficient throughout the season. McCarthy passed for 2,719 yards, 22 touchdowns, five interceptions while rushing for 306 yards and five touchdowns.
McCarthy will be entering his junior campaign and has improved steadily over the past two seasons. McCarthy having a full spring of reps should serve him and Michigan’s passing game well.
Warren, a former walk-on, quickly became Michigan’s backup after McNamara suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3. Warren has impressed his coaches and teammates ever since he arrived on campus and was named the Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year in 2021. Warren’s story is a unique and resilient one. He had cancer in high school and also had his senior season canceled due to the pandemic. Warren battled back from those horrible occurrences and is now vying for Michigan’s backup job.
Warren impressed fans during Michigan’s 2022 spring game and quickly became a fan favorite. While Warren has a good chance of being the backup once again in 2023, he’ll have to hold some other players off. Warren was 5-of-9 last season for 89 yards.
Tuttle’s an interesting name that’s been added to the mix via the transfer portal. Tuttle comes to Michigan after spending five seasons at Indiana. Tuttle was a team captain for the Hoosiers in 2022 and has thrown for 901 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions during his career. Tuttle will need to hit the ground running if he wants to become Michigan’s backup. Other players vying for the job have been with the team for one to two years. Tuttle will have to get acclimated to the Michigan scheme quickly. Still, bringing in Tuttle, someone who’s started five games in his career should be a welcome addition to the QB room.
Orji burst onto the scene last year with a few dominant runs during Michigan’s spring game, and that trend continued during the regular season when he scored two touchdowns in September, one vs. Colorado State, and the other against UConn.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Orji is a physical and speedy runner with a strong arm in his repertoire. The question is can he take enough strides to jettison up the depth chart. Orji will be a redshirt freshman, and with his redshirt now burnt, expect to see him take the field more, especially in some rushing packages. Orji could end up being a dangerous and versatile option for the Wolverines.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh mentioned Denegal as a player who may need a year to develop into his large frame. Denegal stands 6-foot-5, 238 pounds, and is a dual-threat quarterback that came to Michigan raw with a lot of upside.
“Great stature as a quarterback. Lean and throws the ball extremely well. Pretty darn athletic,” Harbaugh said of Denegal last winter.
Don’t count Denegal out, he could be a player on the rise this spring.
- Brandon Mann: Completed one pass last season for seven yards. Mann is also a right-handed pitcher for Michigan Baseball.
- Kendrick Bell: The younger brother of former Michigan wideout Ronnie Bell. The true freshman had 35 passing touchdowns, 670 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns during his senior year.
This is where Michigan’s at heading into spring ball at the quarterback position. Michigan now has a new quarterbacks coach in Kirk Campbell, and Campbell is using this spring to figure out who will be Michigan’s No. 2 and No. 3.
“I think that’s going to be a great question we need to get answered here in the spring. Davis Warren, he’s an extremely talented player, going to have continue to have him take strides,” Campbell said. “Jack Tuttle, excited to see how he’s going to do this spring. But we have young guys in that room. The freshman class, we had four guys in there, Jayden Denegal, Alex Orji to name a few. The depth is going to be — somewhere we need to figure out who’s going to take over the backup role, the two and the three role coming out of the spring.”