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According to Andrew Stueber, Michigan football usually ends a spring practice with a drill called “move the ball.”
Each quarterback gets one drive to lead the offense against the defense; play only ends upon a score (touchdown or field goal) or a stop (turnover or punt).
So far, the drill has provided a clear view at the ongoing competition between the Wolverines' quarterbacks.
“They each take tremendous pride in it,” Stueber, an offensive lineman, said Thursday afternoon. “It could affect their mood for the rest of the day, into the off day. It’s something they take huge pride in. They’re fighting it out in there. It’s something that’s great to see all the young quarterbacks kinda battling it out to get up top. It’s been amazing to watch.”
For a second consecutive offseason, Michigan is searching for a new starting quarterback. The player who won the job last offseason, Joe Milton, entered the transfer portal shortly before the Wolverines began spring practices.
Milton's departure left the Wolverines with three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster: redshirt sophomore Cade McNamara, redshirt freshman Dan Villari and freshman J.J. McCarthy (an early enrollee). A fourth quarterback, graduate transfer Alan Bowman, is finishing up coursework at Texas Tech and has yet to enroll at Michigan.
Of the three quarterbacks currently competing for the job, two — Villari and McCarthy — have played zero snaps at the collegiate level. McNamara, meanwhile, led U-M to one of two wins last season and made his first career start in the final game of the season.
“The quarterbacks competition and level of play has been really interesting to see,” Stueber said. “Cade’s finally starting to take a more commanding role. It’s different obviously last season he played a little bit, but it’s different when you think you have the starting job, now you have command of the offense, you take much more pride in it, much more intent in it.
“He’s been doing great so far. I love his poise in the pocket, decisions he’s making, his confidence, too, is growing, so it’s great to see.”
McCarthy, a former five-star recruit and the highest-ranked quarterback prospect that Jim Harbaugh has signed at Michigan, enrolled this winter and has already impressed with his improvisational ability.
“He's still learning the playbook,” Stueber said, “but he’s shown some really impressive stuff scrambling out of the pocket, making people miss, I know he’s known for that. It’s been really impressive to see that.”
Villari, who signed with Michigan late in the 2020 recruiting cycle and did not play in his first season on campus, has been an active participant in the run game.
“We have Dan Villari, too, who is really impressive with his read option so far,” Stueber said. “It’s pretty nice, seeing him run out of the pocket, making some moves. All the quarterbacks we have right now, I’m really impressed with all of them and I hope it keeps going.”
Per standard, the Wolverines have not named a starter and likely won't until the season draws closer. Michigan's players seem content, for now, to watch the battle play out.
“It’s always cool watching just how talented our quarterbacks are,” receiver Ronnie Bell said. “I always feel lucky. I feel like if I’m in the game, if it’s Dan, if I’m in the game and it’s JJ, if I’m in the game and it’s Cade, there’s never any type of hesitation as a receiver when you know that you got a quarterback with that amount of skill next to you. So I always feel lucky. And I mean, it’s just fun watching those guys compete because all of them are very, very good.”
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: What Michigan football's quarterbacks have shown in spring practice