J.J. McCarthy is now an integral part of the Michigan Wolverines operation, and his head coach thinks the world of him.
At Big Ten media day Thursday, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh explained how McCarthy, who’s entering his second season as the team’s starting quarterback, is a special signal-caller.
“I have searched my memory for somebody who has been a first-time starter and had a better first year as a first-time starter, and I can’t come up with one,” Harbaugh said about McCarthy. “He’s a once-in-a-generational type of quarterback at Michigan, and his progress continues to grow. Daily, he’s at the top of his game right now, really in all aspects.
“Everything that he does athletically, everything that he does throwing the football are at the elite level, and then I think the thing that makes him the most special, differentiating good and great, is that he’s willing to do anything for his teammates, anything for his team.”
McCarthy, now a junior, has exhibited the ability to make plays with both his arm and legs. He totaled 2,719 passing yards with 22 touchdowns, five interceptions, and a 155.0 passer rating while completing 64.6% of his passes last season. McCarthy also ran for 306 yards and five touchdowns on 4.4 yards per carry.
McCarthy’s high point came in Michigan’s road victory against Ohio State. While he completed just 50% of his passes (12-of-24), McCarthy threw three touchdown passes — each of which went for at least 45 yards, with two going for 69-plus yards — and ran in a score en route to a 45-23 victory.
The win capped off a 12-0 regular season for Michigan, which was followed by a win over Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game. TCU presented the end of the line for Michigan’s season, as the Horned Frogs beat the Wolverines, 51-45, in a shootout College Football Playoff semifinal game.
The year prior (2021), McCarthy backed up Cade McNamara, but he earned reasonable playing time as both a passer and runner; McCarthy totaled 516 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, 124 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in 2021. He then beat out McNamara for the starting job last season, and McNamara transferred to Iowa.
McCarthy’s mobility is complemented by running backs Blake Corum, who returned for his senior season, and Donovan Edwards. They combined for 2,454 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns last season.
Harbaugh also explained how there are similarities in McCarthy’s mindset to that of NFL star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.
“I think some compare him [McCarthy] to Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, would be two,” Harbaugh said. “And I know there’s others that have that level of talent plus the quarterback position willing to do anything for their team. I base that off of watching the way that Patrick Mahomes interacts with his teammates, what he says about his teammates, what they say about him. Josh Allen, what he says about his teammates, what they say about him. So just looking through the keyhole that way, but that’s what I see in J.J. McCarthy every single day.”
McCarthy and Michigan open the 2023 season at home against East Carolina on Sept. 2, with its Big Ten opener coming at home against Rutgers on Sept. 23.
Harbaugh might miss both games, as he faces a potential four-game suspension from the NCAA for making alleged false statements to investigators.
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