Trieu: Michigan makes strong impression on 'special' 2021 quarterback J.J. McCarthy

By Allen Trieu
Special to The Detroit News
Quarterback J.J. McCarthy, a 2021 prospect, says Michigan "checked a lot of the boxes" for him.

After a recent visit to Michigan, the Wolverines are now one of the top contenders for La Grange (Ill.) Nazareth Academy class of 2021 quarterback J.J. McCarthy, ranked as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country by 247Sports.

“Michigan, it was just something that checked a lot of the boxes for me and my family,” McCarthy said, “how it’s only four hours away and playing in front of all those people.”

McCarthy finds himself today as a highly recruited, highly ranked player. This comes after a sophomore season where he led Nazareth to a state title, completing an eye-popping 77 percent of his passes.

Not long before his sophomore season, Greg Holcomb of Nxt Level Athletix, who serves as McCarthy’s private quarterback coach, told his pupil he could be a 20- to 30-offer recruit. McCarthy responded with skepticism. Holcomb said that is just one example of McCarthy’s character.

The truth is, Holcomb saw it very early. He was training Ben Bryant, now playing at Cincinnati, who is from the same town as McCarthy. Bryant’s father told McCarthy’s father to look up Holcomb if he wanted to take McCarthy’s already apparent talent to the next level. So they set up a session.

“I could see from the first time he threw the ball that he threw it better than any seventh-grader I had ever seen,” Holcomb said. “He had the natural ability. He was special from the jump. People say ‘Man, you’ve done a great job with him,’ but I didn’t have to do too much. He was really, really good and already very special.”

The summer before his ninth-grade year, before he had even taken a practice snap at the high-school level, McCarthy was offered a scholarship by Iowa State after the Cyclones saw him throw at their camp.

At last week’s Opening Regional in St. Louis, McCarthy showed his arm talent and also the continued progression from those early days.

“He does some things that are difficult for most other guys and makes it look easier,” Holcomb said. “At the Opening, you saw him doing drills where he has to run left and even backwards, retreat from the line of scrimmage, and still throw across his body with power and velocity. Then he can move in pocket and extend plays without turning into a runner first, he continues to be a passer first.”

Those are just some of the qualities that makes McCarthy a sought-after recruit. His presence in the huddle and smarts are part of the intangibles needed to play the position.

“J.J. has a presence, I think, that is really special,” Holcomb said. “That is one thing that really stands out, which is why skill players and high school players around our area want to play with him. He is not a rah-rah, scream-at-you guy, but has a positive energy about him and maturity beyond most 16-year-olds. I know his Naz teammates have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He does not have an arrogant bone in his body, and is super grateful for the opportunities he’s had.”

With his academic profile, football will not be the only part of the decision or even the primary part of the decision. McCarthy might go into engineering, and Holcomb said life after football will be an important component of what he chooses to do with his college future.

That is something Michigan showed him on his visit.

“Going into the visit, checking them out from the educational standpoint and how that’s so big with my family,” McCarthy said, “and just seeing how Coach (Jim) Harbaugh interacted with the quarterbacks and how (Ben) McDaniels worked with them and their offense that’s coming from (Josh) Gattis, who just came from Alabama (and) is really something that spoke volumes to me.”

The Michigan Insider’s Sam Webb and Steve Lorenz have both said they believe McCarthy is Michigan’s top target at quarterback in the 2021 class.

Ohio State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Arizona State and others also have offered and are schools McCarthy has visited.

Wolverine RB target nears decision

Baltimore (Md.) St. Frances Academy running back Blake Corum, a four-star prospect per the 247Sports Composite, posted on social media that he will be committing soon.

Currently, insiders favor Michigan in the race, but Corum has 26 total offers. The Wolverines already hold commitments from two of his teammates, Osman Savage and Micah Mazzccua.

The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Corum rushed for 1,415 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior.

Fastest player in Midwest offered by UM

Michigan, looking to find players who fit their “speed-in-space” mantra, has offered Plainfield (Ill.) North slot Marcellus Moore. Moore ran 10.31 in the 100-meter dash last spring to win a state title, and ran 4.35 electronic at The Opening Regional in St. Louis.

The 5-foot-7, 150-pound Moore  also is considering Kentucky, Purdue, Illinois and others.

He visited Michigan last fall for a game.

More information

J.J. McCarthy profile

Marcellus Moore profile

Blake Corum profile

Allen Trieu covers Midwest football recruiting for 247Sports. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at