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. 5, redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Milton.
As far as we know, the battle to start at quarterback is wide open, but we do know it's between Milton, redshirt junior Dylan McCaffrey and redshirt freshman Cade McNamara.
Milton has hardly played at Michigan but everyone knows about his size at 6-5, 245 pounds, above average athleticism and rocket arm. Michigan fans are really excited about Milton's potential but are also wary about his accuracy issues, which date back to his high school days.
Milton has only thrown the ball 11 times during his two years at Michigan with six completions for 117 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions. He also has two rushing touchdowns.
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 Milton would start with him winning the starting job. If he beats out McCaffrey, he'll have the potential to put up some really nice numbers in his first year as QB1. He'll be an upgrade over Shea Patterson athletically and arm wise, but what about as a decision maker and game manager? Patterson definitely left some plays out on the field, but after his early fumble troubles, he did a pretty good job taking care of the ball. Milton has the ability to make bigger and better throws downfield and should be more of a threat running the ball, but there's a lot more to playing quarterback than that.
A stellar statistical season for Milton 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 I'd 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 that worse is a very realistic possibility as well.
I think a standard season for Milton would be splitting some time with McCaffrey and playing situationally. If he gets a chance to show what he can do as a runner and with that big arm, 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 McCaffrey wins the job but doesn't remain healthy. I hope I'm dead wrong on that, but McCaffrey has missed long stretches over the past two seasons with a broken collarbone and a severe concussion. If McCaffrey gets dinged again, it would Milton's time to shine.
A subpar season is pretty straight forward for Milton — it's on the sidelines.
If McCaffrey wins the job and stays healthy, I don't think we'll see Milton 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 Milton. We know he's big, fast and blessed with a huge arm, but if he's on the sidelines he might as well be a walk on. That's harsh, but it's true.
I don't know if Milton would transfer in that scenario, but riding pine for the third year in a row wouldn't be very enjoyable when he definitely has the tools to play somewhere else.
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. He might be a little looser with the ball than McCaffrey is, but the idea of him winging it downfield to Nico Collins, Ronnie Bell and the bevy of young speedsters at wideout is really intriguing.
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.