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Urban Meyer addresses Michigan quarterback competition between Cade McNamara, JJ McCarthy, who he would start

On3 imageby:Andrew Graham09/07/22


The Michigan quarterback derby between returning starter Cade McNamara and up-and-comer J.J. McCarthy has kept a fair bit of attention in Ann Arbor despite the Wolverines playing a mundane trio of sacrificial non-conference opponents. Urban Meyer, the former head coach of arch-rival Ohio State, thinks having two playable quarterbacks is ultimately a good problem to have and offered his opinion on what to do.

Speaking on “Urban’s Take with Tim May,” Meyer said he thinks McCarthy presents the higher upside, but that unseating McNamara isn’t a guarantee. With McNamara being the starter a year ago and clearly holding the respect of his teammates, anointing McCarthy isn’t so easily done.

“Yeah, that’s a tough one,” Meyer said. “You know, our Big Noon Kickoff, they did a bunch of Team Up North games last year and they feel that J.J. is the more talented guy. Highly recruited. But then you start thinking, wait a minute, the guy who took them to the first Big Ten championship, first win over Ohio State in 10 years, whatever it was. How can you do that to him? A coaches responsibility is to play whoever can help you win the game. Now that’s so much easier said than done, especially if there’s loyalty. The fact that there is, this guy is a great leader. So, you know, that’s going to be interesting see how it plays out.”

The most recent tricky quarterback situation Meyer had to navigate at the college level was likely in 2015, when Ohio State returned Braxton Miller, JT Barrett and Cardale Jones at quarterback. Miller had been the long-time starter. Barrett acquitted himself well taking over as the starter when injury struck Miller. Then the same happened and Jones famously (along with Ezekiel Elliott) led the Buckeyes to a national championship in the inaugural college football playoff. All three were, on varying levels, viable options. Meyer ultimately went with Barrett at quarterback as Miller moved to receiver.

And at Florida, Meyer won a national championship in 2006-07 by spelling Chris Leak on occasion with Tim Tebow as a change of pace.

His counterpart in question, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, has also managed a split-quarterbacking situation before with the San Francisco 49ers as they pivoted from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick.

There is certainly no specific blueprint for how to handle Michigan’s quarterback conundrum, and if there were Harbaugh certainly eschewed it via his decision to run the Michigan quarterback competition into the season. After Week 1, where McNamara failed to dazzle, McCarthy seemingly has the opportunity to seize the job and slam the door. Meyer thinks he needs to.

“But once again, I always look at that as a positive. If you have two great quarterbacks, play them both. Play ’em both and see what happens. So I’m going to watch that close like everyone else. Because, how do you — Cade McNamara to me, is the starting quarterback, until he is beaten out,” Meyer said. “And you better beat him out, then.”