ANN ARBOR, Mich. — One of the biggest storylines not just in Ann Arbor or the Big Ten, but all of college football, is who will win the starting quarterback job for Michigan football this fall?
Yes, you have an incumbent in Cade McNamara that started in a year where the Wolverines won the conference and went to the College Football Playoff, but he’s being pushed by a second-year player in J.J. McCarthy that exudes talent and is as blue-chip as you can get.
The two are battling it out in fall camp, with no clear winner on the horizon, according to head coach Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday.
“They both just continue to elevate their game, really, on a daily basis, in every little way. So yeah — pretty tight, pretty tight to me,” Harbaugh said. “They’re both playing at the high-starter caliber.”
When would he ideally make a decision as to who will be the first man out of the gates? Harbaugh says when it’s clear that one is better than the other.
Of course, that’s not what fans want to hear. They want to hear that one has emerged at this point and that whoever does will lead the Wolverines to glory for a second-consecutive season. With the Big Ten Network on campus on Wednesday, Harbaugh says he has a few people that can corroborate his assessment of the position, and that both are playing well — just as well as the other, to boot.
“Yeah, we’re all out there, we’re all seeing the same thing and when it’s when it’ll be obvious to coaches, it’d be obvious to players, as well,” Harbaugh said. “Or it wouldn’t be or would be what it is right now. I mean, they’re both good.
“Talk to somebody, Dave Revsine in the Big Ten, Howard Griffith is here, (Gerry DiNardo) is here. Just get their opinion, they watched it. See if I’m not telling you the truth. Check me! They’re both playing good. At a high level. Starter caliber.”
Jim Harbaugh doubles down on Ron Bellamy's Andrel Anthony-Braylon Edwards comparison
Michigan football defensive interior winning some battles vs. vaunted OL in fall camp
Jim Harbaugh updates Michigan football team health two weeks into fall camp
BTN analyst insists Michigan football has a 'championship caliber team -- again'
There’s an old axiom in football that ‘if you have two quarterbacks, you have none.’ Though that mentality has somewhat shifted in recent years — in 2018, college football was abuzz about Alabama and Clemson having two viable starters at quarterback on their rosters — one pundit recently brought that notion back out of the bag to criticize the maize and blue with the season weeks away.
Fox Sports’ RJ Young recently left the Michigan Wolverines out of his preseason top 25, making him an extreme outlier, considering the program was ranked No. 6 in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll and No. 8 in the AP top 25. In discussing why he made that decision to leave Michigan out, one of the reasons he listed was that there isn’t a settled starting quarterback.
While Harbaugh wasn’t responding to him directly, he shared why it’s not a big deal that the Wolverines have two viable starters, while noting that, yes, Michigan could have a redux of the Tom Brady-Drew Henson saga of 1999 on its hands.
“Like some people like to say, ‘If you don’t have a starting quarterback, then you don’t have a quarterback.’ I put that into the category of people that — they’re born originals and they die copies,” Harbaugh said. “They just hear something and they and they parrot it. So, this is a very good, unique situation. We have two quarterbacks that are playing at a high-starter level, and we’re going to keep competing and it’s possible that there’s a starter by the first game. And then possible that it plays into the season until one is — then we pick the one that’s gonna help the team win, who’s gonna going to be the best person to play quarterback to win the game.”
Last year, Michigan did play both, with McNamara playing the bulk of snaps while McCarthy came in as occasional relief. Chances are that’s precisely what will happen again in 2022, though McCarthy could see more reps as the season moves forward.
Only way to find out is to tune in starting Sept. 3, when the Wolverines kick off the season against Colorado State at home.