Whoever wins the starting quarterback job for Michigan is going to have pretty high expectations to live up to. Even though we haven't seen very much of Dylan McCaffrey or Joe Milton, they're both plenty capable and most fans think they can be better than Shea Patterson.
Patterson was good, not great, at Michigan, but statistically speaking, he had two pretty productive seasons at U-M. Patterson is 7th all time at U-M with 5,661 yards passing and 6th all time in passing touchdowns with 45. So with that in mind, what should fans expect from either McCaffrey or Milton in 2020?
Let's start with the facts we know.
McCaffrey is entering year four at Michigan while Milton is ready to start year No. 3. Both of them are in year two of Josh Gattis' tenure as offensive coordinator, which seems to imply a pretty level playing field for the inexperienced QBs.
At 6-5, 220 pounds, McCaffrey has good size but has also suffered two long-term injuries during his time at U-M. Milton goes 6-5, 245 pounds and definitely looks more durable and tougher to bring down.
Both players have stronger arms than Patterson but Milton might legitimately have the strongest arm in the country. Both players are also better pure runners than Patterson. If winter conditioning reports are to be believed, Milton actually ran a faster 40 time than McCaffrey did (Milton was reportedly in the 4.6s while McCaffrey was in the 4.8s). Whatever their electronic 40 times are, they can both run and will.
In very limited action, McCaffrey is 18 of 35 for 242 yards and three touchdowns. He also has two rushing scores to his name. Milton is just 6 of 11 for 117 yards with a score and two interceptions. He also has two rushing touchdowns during his time at U-M.
What do those numbers tell us? Nothing. We simply haven't seen enough of either of them to make a decision in terms of who should start.
And that's part of where the problem is. Neither has played enough to really now what they're each capable of and since there was no spring football, Gattis really has his work cut out for him once players are allowed to report.
"Obviously we missed a significant chunk of time with spring football being cancelled," Gattis said a little over a week ago. "Spring gives everybody an opportunity to get an equal amount of reps. I have been encouraged by the mental reps and engagement during meetings. The quarterbacks have been really engaged and we've challenged those guys to take on bigger leadership roles.
"We've missed the timing, we've missed the reps and we've missed the good on good, but we'll pick back up."
How McCaffrey or Milton gels with wide receivers Nico Collins, Ronnie Bell, Giles Jackson, Mike Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson and tight ends Nick Eubanks, Erick All and Luck Schoonmaker will be the most important goal to accomplish once players can practice together again.
With those kind of weapons in year two of Gattis' system, it's not a stretch to think that either quarterback could eclipse Patterson's best year of 3,061 yards and 23 touchdowns, and that's what I think the goal should be. Set a floor of 3,100 yards and 25 touchdowns and go after it. Michigan has a plethora of weapons so how the quarterback plays will determine how far U-M goes in 2020.