Given Michigan’s glaring question mark at quarterback, head coach Jim Harbaugh is tasked with determining the Wolverines’ next starter without having spring football to rely on. As a result, the U-M staff has had to install the offense virtually on Zoom, but the team has stayed in close communication as the summer workout period approaches.
Coach Harbaugh appeared on The Rich Eisen Show on Thursday and spoke about Michigan’s plan for the future, specifically mentioning June 1 as the beginning of a voluntary practice period. Mandatory team activities are slated for July 1.
As it pertains to the quarterback position, Harbaugh mentioned that although a clear starter has not emerged yet, the team is pleased with the potential opens for 2020.
“That is to be seen,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got some guys we really love, and they’ve been chomping at the bit. There’s guys that are excited to get back to working out with the team and back to practicing, but our quarterbacks in particular, they are chomping at the bit, which is better.”
Entering the 2020 season, Dylan McCaffrey has an edge over Joe Milton in terms of playing time but only marginally. Those two are considered the front-runners for the starting quarterback job this season, and Harbaugh has worked closely with these players despite the need for social distancing.
“Specifically with the quarterbacks, we’ve been having Zoom meetings,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve been installing football. We told our guys learn the system as best you can. Be an expert at it when we do get back together, and also be in the best shape of your life and throw the football. Get out and throw it every day.”
Last season, McCaffrey went 10-for-20 for 116 yards and one touchdown in his seven games played. Milton, on the other hand, went three-for-seven for 59 yards and one touchdown in his time on the field. And while McCaffrey offers the potential to run the read-option on the edge with his mobility, Milton presents one of the strongest arms to suit up for Michigan football in recent history.
Both McCaffrey and Milton are embroiled in a heated quarterback competition, and Harbaugh touched on how the two play-callers are staying active and engaged in an effort to earn the starting nod.
“Each guy, the quarterbacks in my mind here, has done that and taken advantage of that and gotten guys to throw it too,” Harbaugh said. “Dylan McCaffrey has been throwing with his brothers Christian and Luke in Denver. Joe Milton has been in Orlando and then he came back to Ann Arbor. He’s got a bag of balls. He’s been finding guys to throw with. Cade McNamara has his brother who is going to be an incoming freshman wide receiver. They’re calling, chomping on the bit, what can they do and getting coached. Ben McDaniels has been coaching them every day. They are on installation, and they are going over footwork and all kinds of stuff.”
An old adage exists that “if you have two quarterbacks, then you have none,” and while often true, that phrase does not accurately capture Michigan’s quarterback race.
With McCaffrey, Michigan has a football-savvy passer that is agile enough to break the pocket and run the read-option when called upon. McCaffrey’s wheels are an advantage and above average for the quarterback position, so his potential ability to open up the playbook cannot be discounted.
When considering Milton, the throwing power that he offers is just not paralleled in the Big Ten. Milton not only has a live arm, but he’s committed himself to improving his pocket awareness and mechanics over the offseason, so he may be an even sharper version of himself this fall.
Michigan currently has two quality passers that could conceivably start in 2020, but a situation like that can be easy to mismanage. Following rhythm and using players to their specific strengths is key in executing a two-quarterback system, but Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis have the football acumen to do so smoothly.
McCaffrey can pass when called upon while also running a read-option package, and Milton could flee the pocket in convincing fashion to imitate McCaffrey’s set of plays as well. This combination of players who possess different skill set could mesh well to complement each other, and they are both working hard to carve out their section of playing time for the 2020 season.
Who will take more snaps for Michigan at quarterback this fall? Does Michigan attempt to run a two-quarterback system? Let us know!