The Wolverine

March 2024

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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MARCH 2024 ❱ THE WOLVERINE 81 E arly enrollee quarterback Jadyn Davis is the most important piece of Michigan football's 2024 class. According to the On3 In- dustry Ranking, Davis is rated 105th overall. Not only is that the second- best for U-M in 2024, it's the third- best for a Michigan QB since Brandon Peters at No. 58 in 2016. The highest ranking for a Michigan quarterback during that span belongs to J.J. McCarthy at No. 47 nationally in 2021. Now U-M has the daunting chal- lenge of replacing him after he elected to head to the NFL Draft early with a daz- zling 27-1 record as a starter the last two seasons. Although head coach Sherrone Moore and offensive coordinator Kirk Campbell need to find a full comple- ment of other offensive starters, most eyes will be focused on who will be Mc- Carthy's successor. Beyond his recruiting ranking, Da- vis is also the most important piece of Michigan's 2024 class because of the quarterback room he joins. The Wolver- ines did not bring in a heralded quarter- back prospect in 2022 or 2023, and the others on the roster have huge ques- tion marks. Seventh-year signal-caller Jack Tuttle appeared in only 15 games and started in just five at Indiana be- fore transferring to Michigan. Juniors Alex Orji and Jayden Denegal were sub- 300 prospects with a combined six total passes their first two years, with Orji being used nearly exclusively as a run- ner. Senior walk-on Davis Warren back- slid in limited relief in 2023. As a result, although Tuttle and Orji are probably the current co-leaders to win the starting gig in 2024, Davis has an opening to make his move for the job this offseason, particularly as an early enrollee with the benefit of spring practices. A true freshman could top the depth chart this fall. However, that would not be encour- aging. In the last five seasons, the concept of the elite true freshman starting quar- terback has nearly faded away. In 2019, four of the six quarterbacks who ranked in the top 125 of the On3 Industry Rank- ing started their true freshman season, and each attempted at least 338 passes. In the four years since, though, none of the 39 quarterbacks in the top 125 of the On3 Industry Ranking in their cycles started more than seven games or threw more than 213 passes as a true freshman. One reason was the COVID year in 2020. The restrictions in place at the time made it practically impossible for a recent high school graduate to enroll and master a college system immedi- ately. The primary reason, though, has been the advent of the transfer portal and elimination of first-time transfers needing to sit out a season. The trans- fer portal, paired with NIL, has trans- formed into free agency. It's become clear quickly that coaches would prefer to recruit a more experi- enced quarterback in the transfer portal to be their starter than rely on a true fresh- man. Coaches would rather let them get their feet wet with limited backup duty in garbage time, install a running package for them or work them in as the starting quarterback about midway through the year if necessary (see Oklahoma's Caleb Williams in 2021 or Texas A&M's Conner Weigman in 2022). The reason is evident: other than Williams, who was exceptional, true freshman quarterbacks are average at best. Of the six true freshmen with at least 100 throws from 2020 through 2023, only Williams had a passer rating better than 146.39, which would have been 39th in 2023, and only two had ratings better than 132.47, which would have been 65th. In the last four years, there has been only one true freshman quarterback who started early in the season: UCLA's Dante Moore, who started five games and as early as Week 2. However, he struggled mightily with a 53.5 percent completion rate, 7.6 yards per attempt, an 11-to-9 TD-to-INT ratio and a 125.61 passer rating before he was benched most of the second half of the year and later transferred to Oregon. Even though Davis may be better suited to step into a leading role as a true freshman signal-caller than others, given that his On3 scouting evaluation touts him as a polished passer who un- derstands the offense and makes good decisions, what happened with Moore at UCLA in 2023 is more likely to occur than with Williams at Oklahoma if Da- vis is named as U-M's starter. The best case for Michigan is that Orji develops and refines his throwing abil- ity this offseason to pair with his bull- dozing legs — given that Tuttle prob- ably is who he is after seven years — or the Wolverines find a suitable starting quarterback in the transfer portal after the spring. This would elevate U-M's offensive ceiling in 2024 while giving Davis the time that he needs to learn the playbook and acclimate to the speed of the college game as most true freshman quarter- backs do. Then, in 2025, Davis can begin to showcase why he is the most important piece of the 2024 class. ❑ INSIDE THE NUMBERS ❱ DREW HALLETT Starting A Frosh QB In '24 Not Ideal Jadyn Davis is a highly touted QB recruit, but the best thing for him and the Wolverines would be for him to take a year to develop rather than becoming a starter immediately. PHOTO BY EJ HOLLAND Staff writer Drew Hallett has covered Michigan athletics since 2013. Contact him at and follow him on X (Twitter) @DrewCHallett.

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