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That Team Up North: Is J.J. McCarthy really all that?

AND a bag of chips? Unfortunately, he just might be.

Michigan Spring Football Game Photo by Jaime Crawford/Getty Images

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about Ohio State’s rival. We are talking all things TTUN. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”That Team Up North” articles here.

There were quite a few ugly parts of last year’s rivalry game. The TTUN cheerleader running back and forth down the end zone with the UM flag after every touchdown. Running back Donovan Edwards repeatedly breaking free and scoring. Perhaps the worst of all was true sophomore J.J. McCarthy just making it look easy tearing up the Ohio State defense.

Last year was McCarthy’s first year as a starter after sitting behind Cade McNamara in 2021. His stats aren’t eye-popping; there isn’t really one game that sticks out to you. He finished the season with 2,719 yards, 22 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 79.1 QBR, good for 16th in the nation.

It must be noted that he is also a dual-threat quarterback. He ended 2022 with 306 rushing yards on 70 carries and five touchdowns. Is that impressive? Yes, I would definitely say so. I’m certainly not bashing McCarthy — he had a really solid first season as a starter. He even performed pretty well in the CFB Playoff game versus TCU, passing for 343 yards and running for an additional 52. Clearly, the guy is cool under pressure.

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

But, what is his outlook for the 2023 season and beyond? If he decides to go pro following this season, a lot of analysts have him going easily in the first round, possibly as the second QB taken overall behind Heisman winner Caleb Williams.

He has already impressed many despite only being 20 years old (he was actually 19 for the entirety of last season, which is insane). McCarthy is very mature for his age and head coach Jim Harbaugh touts his leadership qualities. The fact that he had the ability to lead his team to the CFB Playoff and a 13-1 season at just 19 is really impressive.

When you combine those skills with his size (about 6 feet 3 inches, 200 pounds), running ability and arm talent, you got yourself a pretty dang good QB. The Wolverines didn’t have any mind-boggling receivers last season either — no 1,000-yard guys, and their leading WR, Ronnie Bell, went pro, so truly, the offense runs through McCarthy.

Vrbo Fiesta Bowl - Michigan v TCU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Yes, it helps that he had two great running backs in Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards (and they’re both back this year, unfortunately). But, even without Corum against Ohio State or TCU, the offense still dominated. McCarthy is the leader, no doubt.

Now, with a year under his belt as a starter, he should be even scarier this year. Coming into last year’s season, he missed spring ball as a result of offseason shoulder surgery. Now, he is fully healthy and played a full spring, feeling ready to go.

If McCarthy stays healthy and plays to his full potential this season, I don’t see many other quarterbacks being better than him. He definitely has what it takes to take this team back to the CFB Playoff. Hopefully now that Ohio State’s defense has played against him once, they have figured out what it takes to stop him the second time around.