The Michigan Wolverines are heading into the 2023 season with loads of momentum and the most hype surrounding the program in years, and for good reason. Michigan is fresh off a second consecutive win over Ohio State, a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff appearance. The Wolverines also return a number of key pieces from last year’s squad, including one of the most important in junior quarterback J.J. McCarthy.
We saw last season, specifically the last few games, that McCarthy has what it takes to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He has everything that makes up an elite player at the position. He has the mobility and the arm talent, but there are always areas to improve to take the next step.
The things McCarthy can improve on boil down to decision-making. We have all seen McCarthy make NFL level plays in his time at Michigan, but we have also seen some forced throws that aren’t there, and that’s when he’s gotten himself into trouble.
First, McCarthy’s decision-making can certainly improve in terms of protecting himself. It’s great he wants to make the most out of every play, but he has to know when it’s best to give himself up so he doesn’t take a big hit. There were times last season he could’ve stepped out of bounds or taken a slide, but instead tried to make some moves to miss some tackles and ended up taking some big hits. Those kind of plays had fans holding their breath until he got back up.
McCarthy is certainly a tough guy and mobile quarterbacks like him have to be able to take some hits, but they also have to know when it’s smart to avoid one. McCarthy certainly created some special plays with his legs last year that worked out fine, but if one ends in an injury, it would put the Wolverines in trouble. The most important thing for McCarthy is his health.
There is another part of decision-making that is important for McCarthy to master, and that is knowing when a play is there or not. There were some instances last season he would try to force a ball into a window that shouldn’t have been thrown. This wasn’t a big problem very often, but it did end up hurting the Wolverines in the biggest game of the season.
TCU found away to capitalize on a couple of McCarthy’s mistakes and cashed in big with two pick-sixes in the Fiesta Bowl. McCarthy made some terrific plays in that game and led an explosive offensive effort, but the Wolverines still fell short. At the end of the day, those kinds of mistakes can’t happen in a game like that.
We all know McCarthy has all the talent and potential in the world. He is poised to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation next season, and with another offseason of learning and getting better, he is going to be very exciting to watch.