It's year 7 for Jim Harbaugh and once again the quarterback situation is a mystery ahead of the season. With Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton both gone via the transfer portal, Jim Harbaugh will choose a starter between Texas Tech grad transfer Alan Bowman, true freshman JJ McCarthy, redshirt sophomore Cade McNamara and redshirt freshman Dan Villari.
There are legitimate reasons why each guy should and shouldn't start, which honestly isn't ideal.
Why he should: Bowman has the most experience of any quarterback on the roster. He threw for 1,602 yards in eight starts last season and finished the year with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Overall he has played in 19 games over the course of three years at Texas Tech and has started 16 times. He was good enough to start as a true freshman in 2018 before injuries cut his season short. During his three-year career he has compiled 5,260 yards and 33 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. He's not necessarily elite at anything, but he's played a lot of football and has enough talent to win games.
Why he shouldn't: He's been hurt a lot. If Jim Harbaugh decides to start Bowman, there's a pretty good chance he won't finish the season. That's simply based on all three of his years at Texas Tech being cut short by injuries.
There's also the whole "transfer quarterback" stigma as well. Transfers are a part of the game these days, but this would signal, yet again, that Harbaugh has not developed his own recruit in McNamara. Sometimes that kind of situation can fracture the culture of a program, which is the last thing Michigan needs. I haven't heard anything negative about Bowman, but it's always possible.
Why he should: McCarthy should start because he's talented, he's a winner and he's likely the quarterback of the future. We don't know how he'll look in college yet, but he was a superstar in high school at both Nazareth Academy and IMG Academy. McCarthy has everything you look for in a quarterback — arm talent, smarts, a strong work ethic, plus athleticism, an incredible passion for the game and a winning pedigree. The kid wants it and is definitely going to think he's the guy.
Why he shouldn't: The obvious reason here is because he's a freshman and he's not ready. Making plays and winning in high school is easy for star athletes — college is a completely different animal. Everything suggests that McCarthy will be able to handle the jump right away, but we see big time recruits fall short of expectations all the time.
Why he should: McNamara is the only quarterback on the roster with game experience as a Michigan signal caller within Josh Gattis' scheme. That has to be worth something. Sherrone Moore is now co-OC along with Gattis, but I wouldn't expect much to change in terms of wording, formations or general game plans, which gives McNamara a leg up over everyone else. McNamara showed that he can make some plays and he's got a coolness about him as well. He's accurate and heady, but isn't as talented as McCarthy.
Why he shouldn't: It just doesn't feel like McNamara is the guy. He seems like a fine quarterback and would certainly be serviceable if Michigan was a much better overall team, but right now U-M needs a QB to elevate everyone else. McNamara is the safest play, but probably doesn't have as high a ceiling as McCarthy or Bowman.
Why he should: Because why not? Villari is the most physically gifted quarterback on the roster as a runner and he's also the biggest, checking in at 6-4, 227 pounds. His high school tape is full of huge throws and long runs and he seems to be the type of QB who is borderline irrationally confident. He hasn't played at all but he has been in Gattis' system for a year as well.
Why he shouldn't: He's simply not ready. He was a lightly recruited prep player and was a very late add to Michigan's class because of JD Johnson's medical condition that caused him to retire from football. There's been nothing to indicate that Villari can seriously compete for the job in 2021 so it really feels more like a three-horse race.