ANN ARBOR — Michigan freshman quarterback J.J. McCarthy was one of the most highly regarded recruits in the 2021 class.
Boasting a big arm and enough athleticism to make him a threat outside of the pocket, the five-star prospect who played his senior season at IMG Academy in Florida came to Ann Arbor with plenty of hype around him.
It only took the 6-foot-3, 197-pounder two and a half quarters to see the field. With the Wolverines up 33-7 in the third quarter Saturday against Western Michigan, McCarthy came in to replace starter Cade McNamara. While he wasn’t asked to do much with his team holding a commanding lead, his touchdown pass was one of the top highlights in Michigan’s 47-14 victory.
On a third-and-25 from the Michigan 31-yard line, McCarthy, escaped out of the grasp of a WMU blitzer and rolled out to his right. With two more defenders converging on him, he stepped and delivered a strike across the field to receiver Daylen Baldwin, who galloped into the end zone for a 69-yard touchdown.
To watch the touchdown pass, click here.
McCarthy, the No. 25 overall recruit in the 2021 class, took a big hit on the play, but the result was a perfect throw across his body. It can be a risky pass coaches usually want their quarterbacks to avoid, but in this case, it displayed McCarthy’s skill set, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said.
“Saw him get out of the pocket and was hoping he wasn’t gonna hold it much longer,” Jim Harbaugh said. “And then he did and he took a hit. That’s probably something — I don’t ever want to make him a victim of overcoaching or throwing back, running to your right, throwing back to your left. He’s got that in him; he’s got that creativity in him, and I’m not gonna coach that out of him. But he’s come a long way and going through his reads in a very short time. I thought he was cool in the pocket — you saw him step up in the pocket, climb the pocket, got a couple completions. Things that are all — any experience he gets is gonna be good, so that’s the thought process.”
Harbaugh said Monday that “all options” were open when asked if McCarthy could see playing time against the Broncos. Michigan ended up playing three quarterbacks Saturday as redshirt freshman Dan Villari also took a few snaps, but only starter Cade McNamara and McCarthy attempted passes. McCarthy finished 4-of-6 passing for 80 yards, including a laser to A.J. Henning for an 11-yard gain, but it was his dime to Baldwin that made the highlight reel.
“He was able to make a dude miss, and I feel like a strength of his is when he is out of the pocket and throwing on the run and throwing on the move,” said McNamara, who completed 9 of 11 passes for 136 yards and two scores. “It was an incredible catch and an incredible throw.”