INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — It certainly isn’t a surprise, but Jim Harbaugh confirmed it anyway on Thursday.
Cade McNamara will get first-team reps at quarterback when Michigan opens fall camp on Aug. 6 in Ann Arbor, giving him a leg up ahead of the 2021 season, the Wolverines’ head coach told reporters at Big Ten Media Days.
McNamara earned the spot after an “outstanding” spring, edging out true-freshman J.J. McCarthy and redshirt freshman Dan Villari.
“He’s played in some games last year and did very well,” Harbaugh said. “He went through spring practice and was outstanding. So, he’s our No. 1 quarterback going into fall camp.”
Harbaugh said McNamara — who emerged as Michigan’s best option at quarterback last fall, beating out Joe Milton — was a shining example of leadership in the spring, and has parlayed that into more of the same during the summer training cycle.
In four games last year, McNamara threw for 425 yards and five touchdowns (with zero interceptions) and helped lead Michigan to victory over Rutgers. His lone start, in the season finale against Penn State, ended with him leaving the game with a shoulder injury.
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“My example — and pulling other guys with him,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a fiery competitor; he’s got that gene — that he must win, (that) he must give it his best at all times.”
Next on the depth chart, at least as things stand currently, is McCarthy — the former five-star recruit who’s generated plenty of buzz upon his arrival. He enrolled in January and leap-frogged Villari with his play in the spring. But like McNamara last year, McCarthy hasn’t taken a game snap at the college level, nor been around the offense for very long.
“He’s fighting,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got the athletic ability, (and) the arm talent to get it done.”
But, as Harbaugh pointed out, McNamara “is not letting him take it away.”
“That’s probably the best thing for our team, for J.J. and for all of us,” Harbaugh said.
Of course, these spots are all subject to change — especially with the recent arrival of Alan Bowman, a graduate transfer from Texas Tech who has more college experience than the three others combined.
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In three years at Texas Tech, Bowman appeared in 19 games and threw for 5,260 yards and 33 touchdowns (with 17 interceptions) while navigating a host of injuries. He eventually lost his starting spot.
“I’ve heard good things,” Harbaugh said. “I like his energy. I like the confidence that he has, and the experience that he has. He’s played in a lot of football games.”
Last April, after Michigan concluded its spring practice schedule, first-year quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss — hired to help bring data-driven analysis and install the run game — hailed McNamara as the starter.
“Cade is a guy who I think, for everyone everybody is going to (say) about him, criticize him, he’s going to end up playing 10 years in the NFL,” said Weiss, a former NFL assistant coach.
“Because he’s really smart and makes great decisions. He processes things very fast. And his accuracy and arm strength are more than enough to win with.”
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A week-by-week look at the Wolverines’ 2021 schedule