What is Michigan going to do at quarterback?

That’s probably one of the biggest questions in the B1G heading into the 2021 season. With Joe Milton transferring out of the program, the battle likely comes down to Cade McNamara and incoming 5-star freshman J.J. McCarthy. The competition started this spring and will likely continue until the week leading up to Michigan’s season opener against Western Michigan on Sept. 4.

On a recent episode of the In the Trenches podcast with Jon Jansen, Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis talked about the ongoing quarterback battle between McNamara, McCarthy and Dan Villari.

“I think for us it’s about trying to create as many game-like scenarios to put the quarterbacks in,” Gattis said. “Real, contested scenarios. Because that’s the hardest thing about the quarterback. You really never know about the quarterback until you put them in game scenarios. Obviously, Cade is experienced. The players believe in him and his leadership. He has a tremendous understanding of the offense. He’s a leader. He moves the ball for the team, he moves the ball for the offense and he takes control on command. But he’s still only played in one, two, three games. He hasn’t played a ton of football. He gives you the feeling of a returning starter, but he hasn’t played a ton of football. So there’s a still lot left to be desired as far as game scenarios that he needs to take.

“And, obviously, add J.J. McCarthy in here. J.J.’s come in, he’s done a really good job of learning the offense, just grasping everything. He’s had his freshman moments, but he’s also had big-time moments that displayed his five-star ability and his skill set. He’s a kid with tremendous talent, but it’s about catching him up, getting him caught up and understanding every day is a new day when you’re a freshman, because you don’t have the banked reps or repeated opportunity to be able to grasp from other practice scenarios. And, obviously, when more of the defensive install goes in, the picture changes as well.

“Also, with Dan Villari. Having Dan who was a redshirt freshman last year, this spring has been totally new for him. Because what people don’t understand is when you’re a redshirt freshman, you’re the scout team quarterback, you’re not going through your offense. You’re going through the opposing team’s offense. You’re running plays on cards. We really have two freshmen right there with Dan Villari and J.J. McCarthy that are battling it out with Cade.”

McNamara is the only returning quarterback returning who has played a game at Michigan. Last season, he played in relief of Milton and made one start, ending the year with 425 passing yards, 5 touchdown tosses and a rushing touchdown for the Wolverines.

This offseason, Michigan is also adding Texas Tech transfer quarterback Alan Bowman to the mix, who could also be the team’s starter in 2021.