Michigan football fans want to know how the Wolverines’ quarterback controversy will play out. It turns out, so do coaches around college football.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg did a piece where they surveyed opposing coaches across the sport, asking for what they think about each team’s quarterback. Of course, in Ann Arbor, it’s not a settled situation, so they spoke on the battle between Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy. Given what happened last year, they had some interesting responses and insight.
Cade McNamara/J.J. McCarthy, Michigan: Michigan beat Ohio State with McNamara, who had solid numbers (2,576 pass yards, 15 touchdowns, six interceptions, 64.2% completions) in his first full season as the starter. To keep his job, though, he must fight off McCarthy, an ESPN Top 25 recruit in 2021 who was used situationally as a true freshman.
“He’s kind of sitting there on (McNamara’s shoulder),” a coach said of McCarthy. “It’ll be an interesting dynamic because (McCarthy) is definitely the more talented one. But the other kid, Cade, just gritty, tough, hard to beat out.”
A Big Ten defensive coordinator noted Michigan’s quarterback strategy last season worked — McNamara operated a run-centric offense and took almost all of the snaps, while McCarthy played in 11 games but attempted more than six passes in just two. The result was Michigan’s first win over Ohio State since 2011, and its first outright Big Ten title since 2003.
But maintaining the same plan this season will be tougher, especially with Michigan losing several defensive standouts and desiring a more dynamic pass game with greater depth at both wide receiver and tight end.
“You just wonder: How are they going to get that thing to work?” a Big Ten coach said. “You’ve got two quarterbacks, and McCarthy is actually more talented than McNamara. But what they’re asking McNamara to do, they’ve got a good run game going with good backs, so they don’t necessarily need McCarthy. But you can’t keep doing this oddball stuff with McCarthy and let McNamara run the show and expect them to keep getting along, nobody’s going to rock the boat.”
They’re pretty accurate assessments. McNamara certainly has done himself plenty of favors by taking care of the football while being the overall more-accurate quarterback, coming in at a 64% completion rating in 2021, compared to McCarthy who was sub-60%. If McNamara and McCarthy continue at the same completion and turnover rates in fall camp, given McCarthy’s talent-level, it will continue to make the decision hard on the Michigan coaching staff.
We’ll see on Sept. 3 who will get the start when the Wolverines host Colorado State.
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