We continue our series as we look at each potential contributor on Michigan's roster in numerical order and look at what would be a stellar, standard and subpar season in 2020.
We're on to No. 10, redshirt junior quarterback Dylan McCaffrey.
As far as we know, the battle to start at quarterback is wide open, but we do know it's between McCaffrey, redshirt sophomore Joe Milton and redshirt freshman Cade McNamara.
McCaffrey hasn't played much at Michigan but everyone knows about his family background, ability as a runner and mental makeup as a quarterback. Michigan fans have been clamoring for him to play for at least one season but so far, it's just based on hope.
McCaffrey has thrown the ball 35 times and completed 18 of them for 242 yards and three touchdowns during his time at U-M. He's also carried the ball 23 times for 166 yards and two more scores. Despite being 6-5, 220 pounds, McCaffrey has gotten hurt on two of those runs, which has resulted in him missing significant time over the last two seasons. Durability is a concern with him as is accuracy, but he's been somewhat effective and hasn't thrown an interception, which is more than Joe Milton can say.
With a chance to win the starting job and be the guy, what kind of season would be considered stellar, standard and subpar for him?
A stellar season for McCaffrey would involve him first winning the starting job. If he beats out Milton, he'll have the potential to put up some really nice numbers in his first year as QB1. He'd be a slight upgrade over Shea Patterson athletically and arm wise, but what about his ability to complete more passes and stay healthy? Patterson definitely left some plays out on the field, but he completed 60% of his passes and was pretty much always available. McCaffrey has the abilities to be more of a playmaker, but he's got to be more accurate and be available in order to showcase his skills.
If he stays healthy and hits receivers at a more consistent clip, he could have a really good year. A stellar statistical season for him would be somewhere in the 3,000-yard range with 20 or more touchdowns and 10 or less interceptions. It would also be really encouraging to see him complete 60-65% of his passes or better. Those aren't exactly eye-popping numbers, but everyone would probably be pretty happy with that in his first year as a starter. I do think there's a chance he's much better than that, but I also think that worse is a very realistic possibility as well.
I think a standard season for McCaffrey would be splitting some time with Milton and playing situationally. If he gets a chance to show what he can do as a runner on a consistent basis, that would be more than he's done so far.
A standard season for a non-starter quarterback is tricky to predict so I'm not going to try. I do see a scenario where Milton wins the job but maybe doesn't perform like the coaches hope. I hope I'm dead wrong on that, but Milton has thrown interceptions and been pretty inaccurate, albeit in mop up duty, as well. If Milton wins the job but is not leading the offense effectively, McCaffrey might get a chance by default.
A subpar season is pretty straight forward for McCaffrey — it's on the sidelines.
If Milton wins the job and performs well, I don't think we'll see McCaffrey much at all. Jim Harbaugh has not played two quarterbacks even though he said he would, so I don't see that changing in 2020. That would definitely qualify as subpar for McCaffrey in his fourth year at U-M. We know he can run and he seems to have the "it"factor, but after riding pine for what would be four years, his time in Ann Arbor could be over if he doesn't win the job.
I don't know if McCaffrey would transfer at this point, but he's talented enough to play somewhere and he might have to look at those options if Milton beats him out.
This one is very tough for me to break down. I think if I were making the decision, I'd start Milton and let him figure it out. I just see the offense having so much upside with him at quarterback. With that said, I actually think McCaffrey will win the job. He's played a little more before when it's mattered and he hasn't thrown the ball to the other team in twice as many tries. He's a good enough runner and has enough arm strength to do anything on the field, even though I think Milton has the edge in both of those areas.
At the end of the day, the quarterback has to lead an the offense and take care of the ball, and McCaffrey has just done a little more of both so far. If he is the guy, I think it's safe to say he'll have a stellar season, at least by first-year starting quarterback standards. If he does rise to the top of the depth chart and throw for more than 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, I don't know you could describe that as a standard season.