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Michigan Football 2023 Position Preview: Quarterbacks

Michigan football quarterback preview

With Fall camp on the horizon, the start of the 2023 college football season will soon follow. Michigan will look to defend its back-to-back Big Ten Championship titles and get back to the College Football Playoff for the third consecutive season. Last season, Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy entered the year in a tight battle for the starting job. McCarthy overtook McNamara as the starter and never looked back. McNamara eventually transferred to Iowa while McCarthy helped the Wolverines reach the College Football Playoff. Despite a strong first season as the starter, McCarthy’s mistakes in the CFP contributed to the loss to TCU. If the Wolverines are going to take the next step as a program, they will need more consistent production from their quarterback. McCarthy has all the talent to emerge as a star, but what else does Michigan have in its quarterback room? Here is what to expect from Michigan’s quarterbacks this season.

Michigan Quarterback Preview: McCarthy Must Turn Talent Into Consistency

Who is in and who is out?

Returners: J.J. McCarthy, Davis Warren, Alex Orji, Jayden Denegal, Brandon Mann, Declan Byle

Key Additions: Jack Tuttle (Indiana Transfer), Kendrick Bell

Key Losses: Cade McNamara, Alan Bowman

Michigan returns its starter in McCarthy but also brings back much of its room from last year. Last season’s backup Davis Warren and redshirt freshman Alex Orji are the most notable names among the returners. Both players received most of the snaps in relief of McCarthy last season and are in contention for similar roles this fall. The departures of McNamara and Alan Bowman left Michigan without much veteran depth in its room. However, the Wolverines offset their losses with the addition of Indiana transfer Jack Tuttle. He will compete with Warren and Orji for backup duties behind McCarthy.

The other notable addition to the quarterback room is three-star Kendrick Bell who is the brother of former Michigan wide receiver Ronnie Bell. The younger Bell is a good athlete and his best position may be receiver like his brother. However, he will be given the chance to make it at quarterback.

Projected Depth Chart

Starter: J.J. McCarthy

Backup: Jack Tuttle or Davis Warren

Key Contributors: Alex Orji

McCarthy is the unquestioned starter, but there remains tight competition behind him. Tuttle and Warren are the main contenders for the backup quarterback job, but neither did much to separate themselves in the Spring game. Tuttle is the safe bet given his Big Ten starting experience, but the coaching staff likes Warren and he may be the better overall passer of the two. Expect both to split time behind McCarthy early until one separates himself from the other.

Orji has upside as a passer, but his running ability stands out. He will likely contribute on designed quarterback runs and see some playing time in spurts as a gadget quarterback. He isn’t listed in this projection, but keep an eye on redshirt freshman Jayden Denegal. The former three-star is an intriguing athlete at 6-4, 238 pounds, and has a dual-threat skill set. He could earn some playing time with a strong fall camp.

Outlook At Quarterback In 2023

In 2022, McCarthy emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten and arguably one of the better ones in the entire country. When he plays at his best, Michigan is a tough team to beat and can compete with the best teams in college football. That being said, McCarthy is far from a finished product. He had his fair share of struggles that are not uncommon for first-year starters. However, he is expected to take the next step in his development with another offseason under his belt. The true junior has the physical tools and intangibles coveted by NFL scouts, so this season will be crucial for McCarthy as he looks to prove he is worthy of high draft consideration.

McCarthy’s decision-making, touch, and overall ball placement must improve. Despite his shortcomings, he has the athleticism, arm strength, and intelligence to play the position at a high level. That playmaking skill set combined with his leadership ability should put him in the conversation as a first-round pick, but he will need to take a step forward in terms of production. Michigan’s offense is heavily predicated on the run game, but look for offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore to turn McCarthy loose more this season. If Michigan is to reach the College Football Playoff once again, the Wolverines will need to turn to McCarthy’s arm and playmaking ability more often.


Michigan football quarterback preview

Photo courtesy: Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK


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