The Wolverine

May 2021 Issue

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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MAY 2021 THE WOLVERINE 33 house. Others have access and opin- ions. So there's a certain amount that be- comes clearer, even five months away from the start of the season. It should be, as always, taken with several grains of Morton's finest, since play- ers can grow throughout the summer and fall camp, face setbacks, etc. Here then are five questions about which there's been a stronger snap- shot in time of where certain positions or individuals stand right now: WHO LEADS THE QB BATTLE AT PRESENT? Redshirt freshman quarterback Cade McNamara certainly isn't among the aged veterans in terms of his remaining eligibility. But he's by far the tested veteran in Michigan's system, among the quarterbacks from whom offensive coordinator Josh Gat- tis will eventually choose a starter. Gattis — with head coach Jim Har- baugh's stamp of approval — isn't in any hurry in that regard. He doesn't need to be. He wants the quarter- backs, including McNamara, fresh- man contender J.J. McCarthy, Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman and second-year freshman Dan Villari all competing hard throughout the sum- mer and into the fall. McNamara got his shot in the Rut- gers game last fall, when the Wol- verines fell behind and couldn't put points on the board. He came on to complete 27 of 36 throws with four touchdowns in rallying the Wolver- ines to a 48-42, double-overtime win. McNamara then absorbed a shot in the subsequent game against Penn State, an injury derailing his follow- up attempt. At that point, Michigan's ill-fated season completely derailed, the rest of the campaign being can- celed because of COVID concerns. The last U-M quarterback to put a Michigan victory on the board is back. According to practice observers, he's the leader of the pack right now. One source even added a "by far" to the assessment. McNamara has been praised for his high football IQ and his ability to take charge of pre-snap reads. He's taken advantage of his two years in the Gat- tis offense, and looks ready to move forward in strong fashion. Gattis, while not establishing a QB pecking order, acknowledged he's been very pleased with what McNa- mara has accomplished this spring. "I think the quarterbacks have done a really good job doing what we're asking them to do," Gattis said. "First and foremost, to take leadership of the team. "They've done a really good job as a group pushing each other — Cade, specifically, with his experience com- ing back and having game reps. I think that's provided some confi- dence in his play and confidence in his demeanor as a leader on the team. We're very, very pleased." Again, any early endorsement of what McNamara has done this spring certainly doesn't shut the door on the others. McCarthy possesses consider- able physical skills, but he's new to Michigan's and Gattis' system, and understandably will take time to be- gin asserting himself in it. Bowman, meanwhile, looks like a strong insurance policy. The redshirt sophomore threw for 5,260 yards and 33 touchdowns while at Texas Tech, with a completion percentage of 64.7 (on 232 attempts) in eight games last year. He could certainly present a strong challenge as the season draws closer. Gattis knows this much — it's good to be able to see spring football play out, unlike last year. "You never really know about a quarterback until you see him in game-like situations," Gattis said. "Being able to have this time where we create those game-like scenarios, whether it's good on good, a move- the-ball period or just practicing in the stadium the other day, I think it's valuable for our team." WHO LOOKS THE BEST AMONG EARLY ARRIVALS? Michigan fans naturally grew ex- cited when in-state prep standout tailback Donovan Edwards of West Bloomfield cast his lot with the Wol- verines. He's done nothing to dimin- ish that excitement. Freshman guard Zak Zinter has impressed during the spring, with one close observer calling him a future first-round NFL Draft pick. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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