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Class of 2021 Prospect Profiles: J.J. McCarthy

Could McCarthy be the program savior Michigan fans are hoping for?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 21 Michigan at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

J.J. McCarthy

Position: QB

School: IMG Academy (FL); previously Nazareth Academy (IL)

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 190 pounds

Ranking: Five-star (.9877 composite), No. 22 overall, No. 2 PRO

Other finalists: Ohio State, Notre Dame

Accolades: Elite 11 Finals, All-American Bowl, Polynesian Bowl


The linchpin of every school’s recruiting class is the quarterback. They often commit early and become the vocal leader to try and bring together the best collection of talent around them as possible. Since committing in May of his sophomore year of high school, J.J. McCarthy has been exactly the charismatic leader that Michigan needed.

Landing a five-star quarterback is always exciting, but it took on more importance for the program when their 2020 signee, JD Johnson, had to retire due to a heart condition in October of last year and the staff had to scramble to take a flier on low three-star Dan Villari late in the cycle.

McCarthy captained Nazareth Academy to back-to-back 13-1 seasons as a sophomore and junior, winning a state title the first year and losing in the title game the second. When COVID-19 made it clear Illinois wouldn’t be playing football this fall, McCarthy decided to take his talents to a bigger stage and transferred to IMG Academy. There, he led the national powerhouse to an undefeated record and No. 1 national ranking, with the closest scoring margin being 27 points.

Off the field, McCarthy has been a leader as well. With official visits off the table for prospects this year, he and his family organized the large gathering of recruits and their families for the Wisconsin game this year. The event included major targets in both the 2021 and 2022 classes and could pay major dividends down the road.

With his elite talent and experience against some of the best competition in the country, McCarthy should be prepared to compete for the starting job as soon as he gets on campus.


Sophomore (14 games): 182/240 (75.8%), 3,448 yards, 39 TDs, 4 INTs

Junior (14 games): 189/315 (60%), 2,820 yards, 34 TDs, 8 INTs

Senior (6 games): 92/165 (55.7%), 1,392 yards, 16 TDs, 0 INTs


Maize n Brew scouting report

IMG Academy vs. Venice scouting report


  • Throws well on the run
  • Great touch on long balls to lead receivers
  • Can extend plays with his legs
  • Intangibles off the charts


  • Throws off his back foot too often
  • Lacks elite arm strength
  • Accuracy issues on intermediate passes

Final Thoughts

When McCarthy first committed, we only had his sophomore film to go off, but he was clearly advanced for his age and had his best statistical season on the way to a state championship. What we saw was a young gunslinger who kept plays alive with his legs and had to put some oomph onto his throws to get them downfield.

After watching a few games of his as a senior, you can see he has matured as a passer. He doesn’t always have to escape pockets as much, partly because he has such a talented offensive line, but also because he is more confident in his ability to fit the ball into tight windows. He’s cut way down on his turnovers, throwing zero interceptions as a senior.

McCarthy has great touch on his deep passes, continually hitting his receivers in stride and enabling yards after the catch. He puts some mustard on the ball in the short and intermediate game, but doesn’t have a rocket arm. On intermediate routes, especially horizontal ones, he does struggle with his accuracy. The inconsistency with his accuracy and some drop issues with his receivers have caused his completion percentage to drop.