There has seemed to be a quarterback battle in Ann Arbor for a long time, and going into the 2022 season has been no different.
But why shouldn’t there be one?
The Wolverines were led by Cade McNamara last season and the incumbent starter led Michigan to a 12-2 season. The maize and blue defeated Ohio State, stomped Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game, and went to the College Football Playoff before losing to Georgia. But on the other hand, Michigan has former five-star JJ McCarthy on the roster who did help the Wolverines win games last year with his next-level playmaking ability.
On Sunday afternoon, quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss met with the media. Being the main guy to work with the quarterbacks, he was asked plenty of questions about the position and the ever-important quarterback battle.
Weiss says that Michigan is blessed to have two quarterbacks on its roster that could be starting at a multitude of places. He says that both quarterbacks have been working to improve, and the Wolverines are in a good place having both on the team.
“JJ is definitely working his way back into it,” Weiss said. “I think we’re blessed to have two guys that would start at most places. And we have two really good quarterbacks and the best player’s gonna play. And I would say they’re both really improved.”
“Last fall, Cade has improved physically, just like any player has gotten better mentally with experience, and he’s playing at a really high level,” Weiss said of the incumbent starter. “And then JJ has done the same thing. So we’re in a great position with both those guys.”
Since McCarthy had to miss time in the spring due to an injury, it is important to monitor his reps during fall camp. But Matt Weiss stated that the coaching staff is monitoring everyone’s reps during the fall. They don’t want anyone getting more reps than their body can handle, but most importantly, JJ McCarthy is on the same plan as everyone else.
“We monitor all of our guys in terms of how many throws that happen in practice — even Cade,” said Weiss. “We put a lot into that in terms of, not only counting reps, but also making sure that everything they take out they’re putting back in with exercises and — throwing it stress on the arm, just the act of throwing the ball. It’s a weighted object, it’s an unweighted deceleration, so we do everything we can to make sure that they’re putting everything back into their arms and taking care of their bodies. And JJ is on the exact same plan as everybody else.”
Being a quarterbacks coach, Weiss was asked what he thinks the top traits are for being a successful starting quarterback. The co-offensive coordinator said there are two things that, as a coach, you can’t really teach: mobility and how far you can throw a ball. Then Weiss went on to say how he looks for accuracy, decision making, and timing. He noted that he believes Cade McNamara has all those traits.
“So, the way I kind of look at it is — so, first of all, you have two things you can’t really do much about; you can improve them certainly but it’s hard to really move the needle, which is: mobility and armcan either throw a football 70 yards or you can’t. You can either run a certain speed and be able to cut or you can’t. So you always look at that knowing that those things kind of aren’t gonna change.”
“And then we also look at accuracy, timing, decision-making, and those are things that you can potentially improve more, but that’s how you look at the skillset,” Weiss continued. “So, mobility and arm strength, knowing that those things are a little bit more fixed, accuracy, time and decision-making, knowing you can kind of shape those a little bit more. And then, obviously, the intangibles: right leadership, what type of guy I see, is he a winner? All the things that you want your quarterback to be.”
“Really all the stuff we have with our guys, right? Cade, you could certainly say all those things about him. He’s a winner. He’s the type of guy that has all those intangibles. And that’s what you look for.”
With McCarthy being such a big-time recruit and having an explosive skillset, it was important for the coaching staff to get his feet wet last year. Weiss was asked if he wished Michigan could have a defined starter and a backup. The quarterback coach went on to say that he thinks it’s important to have the starter and backup play. The starter is only one injury away from the backup becoming a necessity, and it wouldn’t be a good idea not to allow the backup to get comfortable early on in the season. Weiss, later on, added that McCarthy did a lot of good things for Michigan last year and even helped the Wolverines win games. Weiss said that he can’t see McCarthy being anything but really good, and he will be playing for Michigan, but the question remains, when.
“So we were able to develop our backup,” said Weiss. “But then at the same time, he was able to do things athletically that helped us — he helped us win games. And to his credit, he earned the opportunity to go out there and do that. And he helped us, he helped us win-win games, and he was really effective. And he’s a really good player, and he’s gonna be really good. So, we’re excited about him in his future. And I mean, it’s hard to see him being anything but really, really good at the University of Michigan, whenever his time comes, so we’re just gonna continue to develop them. And he’ll be playing for us at some point, it’s just a question of when.”
It’s going to remain a big battle all fall, but the coaching staff keeps clamoring that the best player will start. Our best guess will be that both quarterbacks will play, but the biggest question will be who trots out there for the first snap on September 3rd against Colorado State.