INDIANAPOLIS — The quarterback position has been a liability for quite some time with Michigan’s offense.
Wilton Speight, Jack O’Korn and Shea Patterson all failed to get the Wolverines to the promised land. However, Jim Harbaugh is trying to change that narrative for his alma mater. He currently has two talented, and capable starters in signal-callers Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy. Both players are hungry and want to prove themselves.
Which is why Harbaugh been enjoying the intensity the two gunslingers been bringing in practice since spring. McNamara has experience on his side and scored six touchdowns through four games last season, while McCarthy was Michigan’s top recruit this year.
Although McNamara has already been named the starter approaching fall camp, McCarthy refuses to give in. Harbaugh has seen the competitive spirit in McCarthy, despite his youth and ego, which comes with the territory of being a former five-star prospect.
Harbaugh has been embracing all of the action and is expecting the competition to become more fierce throughout August. The two have similar skill sets and great athletic ability, which Harbaugh admires. McNamara impressed his coach and separated himself over the spring, which is probably why Joe Milton decided to transfer.
“He’s making the other players even better,” Harbaugh said. “A quarterback’s No. 1 job is to make everyone around them even better, and Cade is doing a fabulous job of that.”
Last season McNamara played his best game in the road win over Rutgers, when he threw for 264 yards and scored five total touchdowns, including four through the air. The Nevada native has also established himself as a strong presence in the locker room in terms of respect from his teammates and coaches.
Harbaugh can relate to McNamara’s journey and maturation process, considering he’s a former quarterback himself.
“He (McNamara) really has taken the leadership reigns,” he said. “So accountable of what he does by leading by example and pulling other guys along.”
Still, McCarthy refuses to take a backseat and wants to show he’s also capable of operating the Wolverines’ offense. Having a true freshman push a junior is always a good sign for depth at the position. The constant drive by both individuals have reminded Harbaugh of something he probably saw in church or on the television screen.
“It’s like watching the biblical iron sharpening iron, that’s what it looks like to me watching it,” the 57-year old coach said. “I think it’s really good for J.J., our team and Cade, and that’s going to continue.”
Off the field Harbaugh is proud of Wolverine student athletes prospering off the NIL, including his quarterbacks. He believes it’s positive for the sport because it gives the players an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and provides good consequences. Harbaugh also emphasized that it’s vital for those same individuals to protect their brand by having integrity and respect.
He hopes they’ll never do anything to stain their brand and enjoy their lives as student athletes.
“Your tape is still your brand as a football player, so go get really good at football,” Harbaugh said. “Your grades are your brand as a student, so go get really good grades.”
Excelling at both should only add to the luster for all parties involved. After Michigan ended last season with a losing campaign for the first time since 2014, Harbaugh just hopes his players new found fortune will lead to better play on the gridiron also.