There’s a battle raging on in Ann Arbor, and it isn’t slowing down.
While the actual competition between Michigan football quarterbacks Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy is continuing, and likely will into the season, the debate isn’t likely to cease any time soon. That’s even with McNamara having been voted as a team captain by his teammates on Thursday.
On one hand, you have the quarterback who beat Ohio State for the first time in 10 years, won the first Big Ten Championship since 2004, and led Michigan to its first-ever College Football Playoff appearance. On the other, you have a talent whose ceiling is likely the stratosphere, who has the potential to take the position to heights never before seen in Ann Arbor.
While it’s a tough call in some respects, McNamara has one notable supporter: ESPN’s premier color analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
“I do think he’s an extension of Jim Harbaugh,” Herbstreit said. “He does a good job of reading the defense and getting them into the right play. To me, a quarterback can be effective in college — it’s not just always about being a Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields and being an NFL guy. It’s about just trying to win, move the ball, move the sticks down the field, get the ball in the end zone. Nobody epitomizes that more than Cade McNamara. Just take what the defense gives you. It’s not always flashy, but incredibly effective. I’m sure they’ll still find a way to get J.J. McCarthy in there. But man, how do you take Cade McNamara out of there or even talk about it after the year that he had last year? It’s kind of like Stetson Bennett at Georgia. Seems to always be dealing with people questioning him. Cade McNamara’s the man in Ann Arbor, while he’s there, in my opinion.”
But don’t just take his word for it. BTN’s Dave Revsine had glowing things to say about the senior’s play after having seen practice, his teammates shared why he’s a quintessential leader who’s helped the team reach new heights, and McNamara himself feels like he’s playing his best football ever.
Ultimately, we don’t know what the trajectory of either quarterback is at this juncture. McNamara could see his stats go from what Joe Burrow’s were from his junior to senior year, he could stay the same, or he could regress. McCarthy could come out and echo Trevor Lawrence’s career, or he could end up looking more like Graham Mertz in Wisconsin.
No matter which way you look at it, the coaches have unique perspective in that they see every single snap, whether it’s in games or on the practice field. Whoever gives the Wolverines the best chance to win this year will be the predominant man under center. However, you’re likely to see both play heavy doses throughout the season.
ESPN gives Michigan football less than 2% chance to win the National Title
Greg McElroy shares why Michigan football has an advantage with its quarterback competition
Surprising wide receiver breaking out for Michigan football in fall camp