Michigan football's Jim Harbaugh: Cade McNamara isn't 'letting' JJ McCarthy take QB1 spot

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INDIANAPOLIS — Here's what Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh said at the podium Thursday afternoon, in the first of two scheduled appearances at Big Ten media days:

On the new staff:

“So there’s been a number of new hires on the coaching staff. The thing that I think they all have in common, what they know about football, experience, the teachers that they are, and the other thing is just how they’ve come together — the trust. When I sit in the defensive room and Mike Macdonald our coordinator is talking, there’s input coming from Coach Clink and George Helow and Shaun Nua, the dialogue that’s going on in the room is really tremendous. Coach Bellamy as well has brought so much. Nobody’s afraid to talk, nobody’s afraid to put their opinion out there, it gets batted around, I love that. There are tremendous analysts. Doug Mallory, Coach Osborn, Joe Staab, it’s a really good room. Dylan (Roney) and Steve. It’s almost like a scrimmage is going on. Ideas are flowing and getting talked through. It’s a fun, exciting room. You can tell there’s trust in the room. Guys can speak their mind and be heard. They bat it around and they get to a good result. That’s been tremendous.

"And I see the same thing offensively, too. Common question: Josh Gattis going into his third year as the offensive coordinator, and the thing that I notice the most about that room is the trust that he has in those coaches on the offensive side of the ball … Same kind of free-flowing dialogue, looking at the tape, the scheme, you’re putting in ideas, that same kind of energy, that same kind of trust is there. Sherrone Moore coaching the offensive line. Jay Harbaugh, Mike Hart. All respected, all valued, doing a heckuva job. Matt Weiss has been a great addition coaching the quarterbacks and also Steve Casula, analyst on offense, I love him, I love what he brings. Kyle DeVan, what he brings. To be in those meetings, offensively and defensively, and see the interactions, the dialogue, the trust, has exceeded my hopes and expectations."

On the quarterback competition:

“You mention some of the great qualities that you need as a quarterback. Being able to move the team, being able to put the ball, putting points on the board, drives, good at 11-on-11 football. Making everybody else around you better. Those are the things that you look for in a quarterback and somebody that takes command. A leader on the field when the offense is out there. That quarterback, he’s the straw that is stirring the drink. Right now, Cade McNamara has done a tremendous job. He played in some games last year and did very well. Went through spring practice and was outstanding. He’s our No. 1 quarterback going into fall camp. You talk about taking the reins in leadership, that’s something he has done. He has been that guy throughout the entire spring and training cycle in the summer. By example and also pulling other guys along with him. He’s a fiery competitor. He’s got that gene. He must win, he must give it his best at all times.

"And then JJ McCarthy has some of those very same qualities and did an excellent job in spring practice. He’s fighting. He’s got the athletic ability and the arm talent to get it done. But Cade McNamara is not letting him take it away. That's probably the best thing for our team and for JJ and for all of us. That is where we stand, as I see it, at quarterback. Dan Villari is a big, strong good athlete who has been improving his throwing mechanics and accuracy, velocity. Getting to the point where he can make all the throws effectively as well. And also I want to see him contribute on special teams, as well. Get on the field. Help the team in any possible way that you can. The obvious example is what Taysom Hill has been able to do. Maybe every football team is looking for that and I think we’ve got that in a guy like Dan Villari who can be a dual-threat quarterback and contribute to the teams on special teams. Alan Bowman, transferring in, has had a good summer cycle. Have heard good things. I like his energy. I like the confidence that he has, the experience that he has. He’s played in a lot of football games. Tough guy and excited to watch him compete when we go to start the training camp. That’s pretty much where we’re at at the quarterback position.”

On hiring Mike Macdonald as defensive coordinator:

"Hadn’t been around Mike a lot, except for the times when I went to Baltimore and visited there. My brother John was like, 'Yeah, this is the guy I would hire. Probably would be our next defensive coordinator here in Baltimore after Wink (Martindale).' What he liked about him, what he told me, he’s really smart, he was in on the ground floor of the Ravens when they changed their defense and invented their defense and their scheme. Very detailed. Very good teacher. So, had gotten a lot of recommendations from a lot of people that I really trust in football. That I worked with and know extremely well. Guys I love like a brother.

"All that being said, this came from John, I even asked him, 'John, that’s pretty awesome that you would recommend someone you think so highly of that is on your staff.' He said, 'I really love Michigan football and I really love you, I want both to be successful.' Then I started talking to Mike throughout the interview process and athletic director Warde (Manuel) was involved as well, and we really felt Mike was great and what we were looking for. Since that hire, it has worked out even better than I had thought and hoped. Tremendous at coaching pretty much all the positions on defense. Really good communicator, really good installer, really good on the field, really good at identifying traits in players, where they can be plugged into, and then moved around so that an offense can’t say, 'Aidan Hutchinson is going to be there.' He could be there, he could be there, he could be there, all options are open. And then, as I said, just the way he’s involved the entire defensive staff, the trust that they’ve built in a very short time, the way that they communicate, it has been better than I hoped."

On Aidan Hutchinson:

"Kwity (Paye) graduated, he’s playing right here in Indianapolis. So proud of him. He’s a guy, all the right things matter. That is also Aidan Hutchinson in the very same way. True football player, real football player, that’s a big, 267-pound guy that can move; move laterally, move forwards, move backwards, move low, move quick. He’s got tremendous force, acceleration, mass. And a great desire to be good and to have his teammates be good.

You talk about leadership, pulling other guys in, holding himself accountable, other guys accountable. It’s the kind of player that as a coach, you're leaning forward to tell you that he’s one of my absolute favorite guys that I’ve coached. And for all the right reasons. He does everything that you want him to do. He gets the best grades. Wins the most awards. Excels at sports. He’s a really good guy. And a great family. Honors his dad and he’s also setting his own legacy. It is all A-plus plus."

On beating Ohio State:

“Well, I’m here before you, as enthusiastic and excited as I ever am, always am, even more, to have at it. To win the championship, to beat Ohio. Your hometown there. Our rivals Michigan State. Everybody. That’s what we want to do. And we’re going to do it or die trying. My daughter, this summer, we were going up, we were climbing — Sarah, Addie and I were going up a mountain. I don’t know how high it was. We probably did 15,000 steps to get up there. We get up close to the top, and she says, ‘We’ve got to apex, dad. We’ve got to get to the top.’ You’re darn right we do. She’s got that gene in her, and I was darn glad to see it. I’ve got that gene in me. ... We’ve got to get to the top.”

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football's Jim Harbaugh on Cade McNamara, JJ McCarthy