The Wolverine

2021 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2021 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 59 [ Q U A R T E R B A C K S ] "When he throws a deep ball, he's got accuracy, but he also throws it in a way that he puts a little loft on it," Jansen said. "He allows receivers to go make plays. They don't have to run as fast and as hard, just to catch up to the ball. It's not going to be behind them, unless it's a back-shoulder throw. "He just gives them the option to go up and get the football. When you've got receivers like Michigan has, that's really what you should be doing. Let those guys go up and make plays. Just put it where the other team can't get it, and hope that eight or nine times out of 10, your guys go up and make the play on the ball." McNamara also began to assert himself as a leader, according to some observers this spring. That's a natural sign of growth at the position, Jansen noted. "He's got a command of everything," Jansen said. "The other guys look to him when he's in the huddle. He's the one that runs the show. Just being able to have the confidence now that he's in his third year, along with Josh Gattis, the verbiage, the way they talk about this offense, the way they talk within the offense — it's the same language. "His confidence in the huddle of knowing exactly what the play is supposed to be, knowing how it's supposed to be set up, what the motions are supposed to be, is huge. He can get guys in the right position, so you don't have to waste a timeout." Jansen noted McNamara can improve on his ability to fit the football into tight windows with some zip and reacting quickly to breakdowns. But he's coming along in those areas, the former Wolverine pointed out. None of that shuts the door on other contestants. McCarthy threw for 7,905 yards and 94 touchdowns in his high school career, carrying a big arm along with a mag- netic personality in rallying those around him. As an early enrollee freshman, he got a head start on many classmates by going through spring ball. He showed what might be expected of a newcomer with big credentials — flashes of brilliance, glimpses of freshman foibles. "J.J. is a highly talented guy — arm strength, mobility, a great athlete," Weiss said. "All that stuff. It's obvious as soon as you step on the field with him. "I've been even more impressed with his approach to things. His maturity is far beyond his years. Early in the spring, I was asking him about his routine, how he gets ready for practice, how he gets ready for games. With an 18-year-old, you're kind of expecting not much to be there. "He went through his whole routine of how he clears his mind, how he does his shoulder exercises. I'm sitting there thinking, can I get a copy of that? He's impressed in a lot of ways. "For him, it's really just a question of when, not if." When depends on his development, and Jansen knows it requires more than 15 spring practices at the most-scrutinized position in football. At the same time, he knows young players can sometimes rise quickly. PRESEASON ANALYSIS: STARTER ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ The Wolverines were one of just 17 FBS programs that entered last fall without a quarterback who had started a collegiate game, and they're nearly as inexperienced at the top of the depth chart coming into this season. Cade McNamara did lead a comeback victory against Rutgers a year ago, which earned him the nod against Penn State the next week, but he suffered a shoulder injury early in his first start and was eventually pulled from the game, de - spite head coach Jim Harbaugh commend- ing him for a "gritty performance." It's no sure thing he'll be the starter, but Harbaugh said McNamara had "a great spring," is "very confident, [and] knows the system inside and out." DEPTH Texas Tech graduate transfer Alan Bow- man started 16 games at his old school and had more than 5,200 career yards and 33 touchdowns through the air, but he was supplanted and didn't arrive at U-M until the summer, so is working from behind in a new system. He's also been injury prone in his first three college seasons. Consensus four-star recruit J.J. McCarthy is uber talented, but it's not often that much is expected from a true freshman quarterback. The hope is the QB room is deeper than last year — and also that the depth won't be needed. OVERALL ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ The good news is that the Wolverines get what should be a fairly soft opener in Western Michigan for their starting quar- terback to get acclimated. It ends quickly, though, with a week two date against Washington, who ESPN tabbed No. 15 in its future defense power rankings — which rated the best units for the 2021-23 sea - sons — despite some key personnel losses. U-M also has to face No. 5 Ohio State, No. 9 Wisconsin, No. 15 Northwestern and No. 17 Penn State from the countdown with essentially a new starter under center. Luckily, most of those are on the back half of the slate. [ Q U A R T E R B A C K S ] Although U-M ranked 44th nationally last year with an average of 250.3 passing yards per game, that was the third-highest mark since 2000 for the Wolverines, trailing only 270.8 in 2003 and 250.8 in 2019. Pro Football Focus (PFF) awarded U-M with a season-long passing grade of 71.5 (a single-game mark of about 64 is considered average), which tied for 56th nationally and ranked fifth in the Big Ten. Redshirt freshman Cade McNamara was under center for 132 of the team's 399 offensive snaps (33.1 percent) last year per PFF and posted an offensive grade of 65.0. Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman was on the field for 426 snaps last fall and earned a PFF grade of 64.8. He also logged 247 plays with a PFF mark of 69.2 in 2019, and had his best year per the outlet as a true freshman in 2018, when he played a career-high 574 snaps and registered a grade of 80.8. He is 8-8 as a starter, while the Red Raiders averaged 39.0 points per game with him taking the first snap. [ F Y I ] THE WOLVERINE 2021 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 59

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