The Wolverine

2021 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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[ Q U A R T E R B A C K S ] 60 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2021 FOOTBALL PREVIEW [ Q U A R T E R B A C K S ] "With J.J. McCarthy, against Western Michigan, maybe he gets in during the second half," Jansen said. "Maybe sooner. And you find out what you've got. You never know. It may be the bright lights are exactly what that kid craves, and you've got some- thing special. You just don't know until it happens." Jansen certainly saw flashes of some- thing special in the spring from McCar- thy. It's just a matter of allowing the overall natural development to catch up. "There are certain throws that he makes," Jansen said. "He throws a really nice-look- ing ball. There are a lot of guys that throw a nice ball, but from his hand to the receiver, sometimes it's hard to put your finger on ex- actly what it is, but it just gets there quickly and with touch. "There are times when he makes a throw like that, where you just go, 'Wow, that was pretty.' I don't want to say it's a pretty throw, but there's something about it that looks re- ally nice." McCarthy's legs proved better than adver- tised as well. "One of the things we heard was that he was a good runner," Jansen continued. "There were times at practice when they run the RPOs [run-pass options] or anything where he's got the ball in his hands and he's getting outside the pocket, he's faster than I thought he was going to be. "The ability to throw a very catchable ball, the ability to make plays with your feet — I'm really excited about that." Freshman Dan Villari has been around for a year, and Weiss is coming to appreciate his potential contributions in a backup role. "You also have Dan Villari, who is ex- tremely talented, too," Weiss said. "He has arm strength, and he has mobility. I love working with him. He's a guy who, for sure, could develop into a really good player for us." "We've always known that Dan was a really good athlete," Jansen added. "He ran for over 1,000 yards [1,522] as a senior, so he's a good athlete. You can do some unique things with him. That would be awesome." With a combined one college start be- tween the three scholarship QBs around for spring, Michigan didn't hesitate to import some insurance. That comes in the form of Bowman, an experienced starter who could come in and challenge for the starting job. Weiss didn't comment on Bowman, since he wasn't around in the spring. Jansen noted the importance of having some time-tested depth at the spot. "It's a matter of experience," Jansen said. "He's got experience. While it's not in the Big Ten, it's in the Big 12, which is still a great conference. They're just going to have to keep him healthy. "More competition in that room is going to drive them. If it's Cade starting off the season, and he wants to make sure he keeps that job and doesn't give it away to a five- star freshman or a transfer coming in, he'd better go out there and do everything he can to continually improve." Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Josh Gattis doesn't discount what McNamara has established. Namely, a presence with returning players that gives credibility, even though he's admittedly a work in progress. "The players believe in him," Gattis said. "He has a tremendous understanding of the offense. He's a leader. He moves the ball for the team. He moves the ball for the offense. He takes control and command. "But he's still only played in two or three games. He hasn't played a ton of football. He gives you the feeling of a returning starter, but … there's still a lot left to be desired, as far as game scenarios that he needs to face." There's no question, the Wolverines are looking for leaders, Gattis offered. There's no better place for it to come from than quarterback, and someone needs to step up there in a big way — the sooner the better. "Our culture hasn't been what we've wanted it to be," Gattis said. "We've seen our players take it over this spring with the en- ergy they've created in practice. You've seen the excitement and the competitive nature. "That's got to be driven by the players. At the end of the day, those are the guys that are playing within the lines, that put the game on the line for us." Only one of them holds the ball in his hands on every single play. That might be why Weiss named a leader early. It put the onus on the named individual to live up to the mantle. It immediately challenges all comers to try and redouble any efforts at a coup. At the same time, the competition has to stay within the lines, according to the new quarterbacks coach. "You want healthy competition," Weiss said. "Obviously, they are going to com- pete, but you also want them to support each other. There are going to be enough people outside that room, outside this building, that are going to try and tear them down. It's re- ally important that the people around them are supportive." Jansen has seen enough QB competitions to separate the good, the bad and the ugly. "Having that competition is going to be awesome," he said. "The guy to lead this team is going to somewhat be determined by what happens between now and the start of fall camp. Who is going to be the guy that rallies the troops to say, 'Hey, let's get a seven-on-seven together. Let's watch some film together. Hey, I want to throw you some passes. Let's do a little one-on-one, DB ver- sus wide receiver.' "There are a lot of different things that can happen between now and the start of fall camp, and that's where that leadership — whoever it's going to be — is going to start to show. You don't beat Ohio State in Ohio State week. You do that starting back in January. You did it in spring ball. Now it takes on a different form, but it has to be done." ❑ X-FACTOR X-FACTOR What do the newcomers bring to the table? J.J. McCarthy is a former blue-chip recruit who was on campus in the spring and showed flashes, but Alan Bowman didn't arrive until the summer. The latter is the most experienced and successful college signal-caller on the roster, and the former could be the most talented, but can either do enough to unseat McNamara? J.J. McCarthy, an early enrollee freshman, threw for 7,905 yards and 94 touchdowns during his high school career. PHOTO COURTESY U-M ATHLETICS

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