Michigan Football Chatter: The Quarterbacks In 2020
Shea Patterson participated in the Senior Bowl this weekend and while he told The Detroit News he contemplated requesting another year of eligibility for a fifth year at Michigan, it was time to move on. Thus, U-M officially begins a new era at the quarterback position, and the battle between redshirt junior Dylan McCaffrey and redshirt sophomore Joe Milton could last until the eve of the 2020 season.
So who's in the lead?
Multiple sources believe that McCaffrey is the frontrunner. He had displayed such strong leadership skills a year ago, that a person close to the program said it reminded him of the buzz created by Matt Gutierrez.
If you know your U-M history, however, Gutierrez got Wally Pipped when he suffered an injury prior to the 2004 season. Chad Henne started as a true freshman on opening day and never gave the job back (Gutierrez eventually transferred).
McCaffrey's future at Michigan largely depends on his health too as he has missed significant time each of the past two seasons after suffering injuries while running the football.
Both hits he took - in blowout duty late in a big win over Nebraska in 2018 and as a backup while Michigan trailed 35-0 at Wisconsin in 2019 - were unnecessary ... time and place type things, but as one former QB noted, he completely understands why McCaffrey was selling out.
"He's the No. 2 quarterback at the time, and when you're in that position, you're trying to prove to your coaches and your teammates that you will do anything for the team. We can all sit up in the stands and say it wasn't smart football, that he put himself at risk when he didn't need to, but that's not the mindset of second-string guys. They are so desperate to prove themselves, they're always trying to get one more yard."
Some in and around the program believe McCaffrey's style of play won't change even if he is the starter.
"When you look at that family, start with their dad, Ed, and then Christian and now Dylan ... there is a culture there. Both Christian and Dylan are superior athletes than their dad but Ed built his NFL career by always going the extra mile. He was a beast. Physical. Tough. Do you think he was stepping out of bounds to save himself for the next play? Absolutely not. And he's instilled that football relentlessness in his sons."
Even if McCaffrey wins the starting job, there is considerable concern his style of play will lead to another injury, putting a series, a game, maybe a few games on Michigan's backup quarterback.
As one person on the U-M payroll noted, the last thing anyone is concerned about is losing one of these two quarterbacks to the transfer portal.
"If Dylan wins the job, Joe will likely get his chance at some point, and we think he understands that his time is coming, one way or another, and if he delivers, the job could be his forever. At the same time, if Joe wins the job, there is a role for Dylan.
"Probably one of the great frustrations of this past year was all that work and game planning that went into using Dylan in a unique way and then by Week 2, we just dumped it.
"But Dylan can do a lot of things, different than Shea, different than Joe, and I'm confident that he would play a complementary role even if he's not the full-time guy."
As for the opening-day starter eight months from now ... a lot can change, but three sources I spoke to all said they expected Dylan to win the job, based off what they know about Jim Harbaugh.
"He's been, maybe to the surprise of so many, reluctant to take chances. You see this with a lot of young players, guys like Dax Hill and Cam McGrone this past year, Giles Jackson. Sure, there is a learning curve with young guys, but Jim places a lot of emphasis on previous experience and seems to favor experience when making decisions on who starts.
"I get it. He's not unique in that respect, but what I'm saying is I think Joe would have to be head-and-shoulders better than Dylan in the spring and fall camp to get the job, because if it's close, I think it's Dylan because Jim is more likely to go with what he's seen than take a chance on an unknown."