The Wolverine

May 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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66 THE WOLVERINE MAY 2022 M ost of Michigan's Big Ten championship teams over the years have had one thing in common: There's been great competition at the most high-profile positions, and those guys have also been some of the team's hardest workers. Nothing stokes the competitive fire like someone coming for your job. Whether it's friendly or heated competition — or perhaps a combi- nation of both — it tends to bring out players' best. So, no apologies necessary (nor should you expect any) from Cade McNamara when he was asked how he viewed himself in the quarter- back competition with sophomore J.J. McCarthy this spring. "I mean … I'm a Big Ten champi- onship-winning starting quarter- back. And that's how I see it," the redshirt sophomore said. "I know what it takes — what a team has to look like. I know what I have to do in order for us to do that. I know the level I think we have to be executing in, and also really the critical moments we have to execute in." He's right, of course. While McCarthy has the higher ceiling, better arm — bet- ter legs and mobility, even — McNamara certainly has talent of his own, and the intangibles to go with it. He generally avoided the big mistake, came up with big plays when needed, and he didn't panic when things started to go south. Past Michigan teams would have struggled to come back after giving up leads in crazy environments at Nebraska and Penn State last year, for example. McNamara was a big reason they kept their poise and pulled out wins that kept their title hopes alive. After the latter, McNamara had tears in his eyes and a hard time keeping his com- posure in talking about what it meant to win in Happy Valley. He got choked up talking about Andrew Vastardis and the pain his center had endured the last few years, and how much he wanted to win for him and his teammates. That's leadership. And that's as im- portant as anything at that position. At the same time, those close to the program say, McCarthy's got that same intangible, and he also loves Michigan. When rumors surfaced that he might look around if he didn't win the starting job in the spring, he shut them down immediately. "I'm a Wolverine and will be for the entirety of my college career," McCar- thy told the Detroit News' Angelique Chengelis in February. "I came here to find out what being a Michigan Man is all about, and after one year I know it's the best place for my development as a scholar, football player … and most importantly, as a human being." And he, too, played a part in the Wolverines' championship season. He threw for 516 yards and two touch- downs, and he also ran for 124 yards and two scores. There are pages of the play- book he can execute that McNamara simply can't. Some might view this as a "problem." If it is, co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss said this spring, it's a "rich people prob- lem" — kind of like figuring out which car to take out on a Sunday drive, the Lamborghini or the Ferrari. Still, a portion of the fan base, un- fortunately, refuses to give McNa- mara his due. "It's like comparing the Prius to a Tesla," one fan posted on our mes- sage board at, insisting just about everyone but McNamara helped Michigan win last year's title. Which, of course, is ridiculous. We call this "Jimmy Nextguy" syndrome after one of John Borton's fabulous columns many years back documenting the Tom Brady vs. Drew Henson battles. Sometimes, folks get so caught up in what might be next or better that they can't ap- preciate what they have now. And what that is, is great and healthy competition between two very good quarterbacks. The interesting part heading into the 2022 season — it's not just limited to the signal-callers. Some are already look- ing past Blake Corum and his 956 yards to sophomore Donovan Edwards and his elite potential. Others want to see the true freshmen "freak show" receivers get time over the extremely talented veterans. They'll need some patience there, but there are definitely options, and not just good options — great options. That's the way it's supposed to be at Michigan, and that's where we are in 2022, Year 8 of head coach Jim Har- baugh's tenure. It forces everyone to bring out his best whether it's a spring drill, midsummer conditioning session or fall practice before a game, including the quarterbacks. "Everybody rents that position. No- body owns the position," Harbaugh said. "Any position on the field, even the head coach. It's a lease, at best." With a lot of potentially outstanding tenants showing up with their check- books. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS It's Time To Let The Cream Rise Stiff competition brings out the best from players. That's the way it's supposed to be at Michigan, and that's where we are in 2022 — even at quarterback, where redshirt sophomore Cade McNamara is coming off a Big Ten cham- pionship-winning season. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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