Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh hasn't tweeted about the result of his team's quarterback battle like Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, but the Wolverines' head man eliminated nearly all doubt who his starting quarterback will be in a recent interview. Harbaugh told the Big Ten Network that, "Cade's the starter," in reference to redshirt sophomore Cade McNamara as Michigan gears up for its Sept. 4 season opener against Western Michigan.
From Harbaugh's descriptions of the quarterback competition dating back to Big Ten Media Days, it's been clear that the quarterback competition has primarily been a two-man race between McNamara and highly touted true freshman J.J. McCarthy, even though sophomore Dan Villari and Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman are also on the roster as scholarship quarterbacks.
"That's the way we anticipate it," Harbaugh said. "I mean, Cade's got these traits of begin very talented. But also the competitive traits he has, I don't see him giving that up. J.J. is trying to take it. He's got the same traits, all in a good way. But I think that's the best thing for our team, for J.J. and for the ball club."
McNamara played in four of Michigan's six games last season as a redshirt freshman, completing 60.6% of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions and was particularly sharp in a win over Rutgers. The former four-star prospect from the class of 2019 was ranked the No. 7 pro-style quarterback in his class. But fending off McCarthy has apparently been tall order as the five-star freshman has flashed his promise since enrolling in the spring. McCarthy is the highest-rated quarterback signee of the Harbaugh era and the Wolverines' highest-rated quarterback signee since Ryan Mallett from the class of 2007.
Finding elite play under center has been an issue for Harbaugh, a former Michigan and NFL quarterback, during his tenure at Michigan. Finding an answer at the position will be especially important for the Wolverines in Harbaugh's seventh season as coach as they look to rebound from a 2-4 season in 2020 that was marked by inconsistency at the position. Joe Milton, who began the 2020 season as Michigan's starting quarterback, is now battling for the starting job at Tennessee.