The Wolverine

2022 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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6 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2022 FOOTBALL PREVIEW F or a second straight year, senior Cade McNamara and sophomore J.J. Mc- Carthy will battle for Michigan's starting quarterback job. This time, though, the com- petition is expected to be even closer — and neither guy, nor the program, is shying away from it. "It'll be competitive," eighth-year head coach Jim Harbaugh said June 2. "The dy- namic, I would say, would be competitive. "I'll tell you the exact same thing that I tell Cade or J.J. or any other player on our team at any position that's competing for a position. Who's going to play? The best player. How are we going to figure out who the best player is? They're going to play the best. "Here's the cool thing with J.J. and Cade — it's competitive, but it's not combative," Harbaugh added. "Two guys that play the same position and are on the same team. Everything that I've noticed is that they've got each other's backs, and they've got the team's back." One thing's for sure — the bar has been set high. McNamara started all 14 games last season, leading the Wolverines to the 2021 Big Ten title and a berth in the College Foot- ball Playoff. He threw for 2,576 yards and 15 touchdowns with six interceptions last season, completing 64 percent of his passes. The veteran remained on top of the depth chart in the spring, but he'll be challenged much more at the tail end of the summer before the Sept. 3 opener against Colorado State. McCarthy is getting healthier, after spend- ing the spring rehabbing with lingering shoulder soreness from the 2021 season. He contributed to U-M's success last year, too, playing 166 snaps, and added more mobility in the pocket and as a rusher when he was in the game. McCarthy ran for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns while throwing for 516 yards and 5 more touchdowns against just two interceptions. While noting he can't speak for the sopho- more, Harbaugh said he believes McCarthy is on track to be 100 percent by the time fall camp rolls around. "Every time I ask him, that's what he's saying," Harbaugh revealed. "He's feeling good about it. The beautiful thing about J.J. McCarthy is that he's like a kid in a candy store. That's his mentality, that's his attitude, and that hasn't changed one bit. If that's an indication, I would say that he's probably right on schedule." McNamara is the same way, though, and the two will push each other. Ultimately, that makes the whole situation, and perhaps the team, stronger. "Competition is really healthy for any position," McNamara said on the "In The Trenches" podcast June 8. "It really forces you to bring your best every single day. That's all you can ask for. When you're on a team, when you're in a position group, that's just an extremely healthy thing. "That's really good for the team, because we're just getting that much better every single day." A candidate for captain, McNamara is an established leader on the Michigan offense, and he's taken on an even bigger role in that regard this offseason. "Over the course of spring ball, I defi- nitely wanted to elevate my game," McNa- mara said. "I needed to be more of a force on the offense. I thought just overall me playing better was going to help the offense. "And then a big part of what I needed to do was take even more of a leadership role. We lost some big leaders last year, and it's my job now as the older guy to really help steer the ship even more and help other guys get that train pushing in the right direction." The possibility of a platooning situation still exists, whether that's McNamara or Mc- Carthy taking the bulk of the snaps behind center for Michigan. The exact split will be worked out during preseason practices and potentially into the season, with U-M start- ing with a fairly light non-conference slate (the Wolverines are one of seven Power Five teams that won't play a non-conference con- test against another Power Five foe). "Those are the options — one guy full time or a combination of two guys playing," Harbaugh said in response to a question on whether both guys could see time again. "As evidenced by last year, we've done that. The possibilities will be the same for this year. "There could be one starter, one backup. There could be two guys that contribute and play as well. We'll see. "There's no crystal ball on what will take place, but I am excited to roll the balls out there and let the guys compete." — Clayton Sayfie Michigan QB Battle Will Be 'Competitive, But Not Combative' MICHIGAN FOOTBALL MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Head coach Jim Harbaugh said of his team's quarterback scenario: "There could be one starter, one backup. There could be two guys that contribute and play as well. We'll see." PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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