With National Signing Day in the books, Michigan now has four quarterbacks on its roster rated 4-stars or better. That includes former 5-star quarterback Shea Patterson, who will be the starter in 2018 if he’s ruled eligible (and no, he’s still not John O’Korn).

That doesn’t include Wilton Speight, who hasn’t officially transferred yet (he also wasn’t a 4-star QB), nor does that include Alex Malzone, who transferred to Miami (OH) a couple weeks ago.

At the very least, Michigan will open its 2018 spring camp with the following scholarship quarterbacks:

  • Shea Patterson, junior
  • Brandon Peters, redshirt sophomore
  • Dylan McCaffrey, redshirt freshman
  • Joe Milton, true freshman

In all likelihood, Jim Harbaugh will say that all four are in the competition to win the starting job. He’d be foolish not to say that.

And also in all likelihood, at least one of those quarterbacks will transfer before the start of the 2019 season.

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That’s not some message board rumor or something that I heard elsewhere. Those are just the odds of the situation.

Talented quarterbacks don’t stick around to hold a clip board these days. The prospect of getting drafted is too lucrative for a 4-star quarterback to accept his place at the end of the bench. Whether the Danny Kanells of the world want to admit it or not, the game has changed.

The question Michigan fans have is which quarterback ends up being the odd-man out?

We don’t know the answer to that today. If Harbaugh plays this right, we won’t have an answer to that until perhaps 10-20 months from now.

But make no mistake, we’ll get an answer.

My guess is that Patterson wouldn’t be part of that conversation. The guy is far more talented (and experienced) than any quarterback on Michigan’s current roster, and even if he’s ineligible for 2018, he’d likely stick around and play the 2019 season before heading off to the NFL.

Speaking of him leaving for the NFL, I believe one of the other three quarterbacks would still transfer at season’s end if Patterson started in 2018 and entered the 2019 NFL draft. Which one would it be, you ask?

That depends. By this time next year, Peters will be entering his redshirt junior season. If he is indeed second on the depth chart to Patterson as I suspect he’ll be, he wouldn’t be a likely candidate to leave Ann Arbor. It could finally be his time to shine. There would be a quarterback battle that goes into August, and even if he doesn’t win it, Peters could sit on the bench for the 2019 season and leave as a graduate transfer.

Still with me? Good.

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The scenario I see unfolding is either McCaffrey or Milton leaves sometime in that 10-20 month range. Both are pro-style quarterbacks who had plenty of suitors as recruits. They would still have great value on the open market as transfers with multiple years of eligibility left. Why wouldn’t they still be willing to wait it out and stay at Michigan? They could, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

In Harbaugh’s perfect world, here’s how this goes:

  • 2018 starter — Patterson (junior), enters 2019 NFL draft
  • 2019 starter — Peters (redshirt junior), enters 2020 NFL draft
  • 2020 starter — McCaffrey (redshirt junior), enters 2021 NFL draft
  • 2021 starter — Milton (redshirt junior), enters 2022 NFL draft

Oh, wait. Every coach’s perfect world is having veteran starting quarterbacks who dominate and leave for the NFL draft after four years.

That’s not happening. Someone is going to see the writing on the wall here.

Maybe McCaffrey doesn’t like the idea of sitting on the bench for three years before getting the starting job. Or maybe he does become the 2019 starter, which forces Milton and Peters to wonder if they should stick around Ann Arbor and wait some more.

Who knows how this thing plays out? I don’t. All I know is that when I try and think about that quarterback room a year from now, I can’t envision a world in which Peters, McCaffrey and Milton are all on board for the 2019 season. By the way, you can probably count on Harbaugh to bring in another elite 2019 quarterback.

I don’t have a crystal ball, and neither does Harbaugh. He and everyone else knows that he has yet to have a quarterback who beat a team like Florida State or Ohio State (yes, I know Speight was a 50-50 call away from doing that). Harbaugh is hedging his bets right now that there’s at least one star on his current roster.

That’s why he went out and got Patterson, and that’s why he’ll continue to bring in elite quarterback recruits and not worry about whose feelings he hurts. He knows the odds of all of them sticking around are slim to none.

If that’s the price he has to pay to get the Ohio State monkey off his back, he’ll do so with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.