Jim Harbaugh tells Michigan quarterbacks to 'get out and throw it every day'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said his quarterbacks are doing what they can to stay in shape, throwing and working on the offense install every day.

Harbaugh, who appeared Thursday on “The Rich Eisen Show,” was asked how he will evaluate the quarterbacks heading into the upcoming season considering there was no spring practice, which was canceled when all on-campus activities were suspended in mid-March.

Dylan McCaffrey

Shea Patterson, the Wolverines’ starting quarterback the last two seasons, has moved on to the NFL, and Michigan will break in a new starter. Dylan McCaffrey, Joe Milton and Cade McNamara will be part of an open competition once on-campus workouts and practices are allowed to begin.

“That’s to be seen,” Harbaugh said about the evaluation process. “We’ve got some guys we really love and they’ve been champing at the bit. The guys are excited to get back to working out with the team, back to practicing, but our quarterbacks, in particular, they’re champing at the bit, which is better.”

McCaffrey has the most game experience. Last year he was 10-of-20  for 116 yards and one touchdown, while Milton was 3-of-7 for 59 yards and a touchdown.

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Harbaugh said the staff meets frequently with the quarterbacks in Zoom video conferencing sessions.

“We’ve been installing football and told the guys, 'Hey, learn the system the best you can,'" Harbaugh said. "'Be an expert at it when we do get back together and also get in the best shape of your life and throw the football. Get out and throw it every day.' Each one has done that and taken advantage of that and gotten guys to throw to.

“Dylan McCaffrey’s has been throwing with his brothers, Christian and Luke in Denver. Joe Milton has been in Orlando and then he came back to Ann Arbor. He has a bag of balls and been finding guys to throw with. Cade McNamara has got his brother (Kyle), who’s going to be an incoming freshman wide receiver. (Quarterbacks coach) Ben McDaniel’s been coaching them every day, going over footwork and all kinds of stuff.”

Joe Milton

Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, in a recent video conference with reporters, said the quarterback competition is wide open, a point Harbaugh reiterated Thursday.

“No guy’s out front, no guy’s behind,” Gattis said. “There is no order. It’s not based on last year. It’s not based on depth chart last year. Those things are not important.

“We’re in no rush to make a decision. If it takes us however long it’s going to take us to make that decision, that’s how long it’s going to take us, and we’ll make the best decision to give our team the opportunity to win.”

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Eisen mentioned the NFL labor dispute in 2011 when Harbaugh first became San Francisco’s coach and asked if he has borrowed from that experience while working through the unknowns of the upcoming season.

“I have been drawing a little bit on that experience in 2011 when there was the lockout,” Harbaugh said. “There are some similarities. The things I’ve drawn from it, you’ve got to really consider everything, day by day, week by week, plan for the different scenarios, and there’s going to be a lot of them. You’re going to learn more as it goes on and you don’t know exactly when you’re going to start, but also try to be as creative and proactive so you can be as productive as possible.”

Harbaugh said there are a lot of opinions regarding the upcoming college football season. There is nothing definitive regarding the season, but the NCAA recently announced that football, and men’s and women’s basketball players, can return to campus on June 1 for voluntary workouts. The state of Michigan, however, has a stay at home order through June 12.

“You see the NFL with the commissioner, one person probably making that decision, getting a lot of advice I’m sure,” Harbaugh said. “College football, it’s more involved, multiple commissioners, school presidents, boards of regents, but I know players on our team all want to play.”

He told Eisen that the Big Ten coaches and athletic directors meet with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren weekly on a conference call. Doctors also join the call.

“You get updates, so you know what the NCAA is saying that voluntary workouts can begin June 1. It looks like mandatory will be July 1,” he said. “If the states are open and not sheltering in place, then the football players and athletes can come back to campus on a voluntary basis and do workouts.”

Harbaugh is hopeful for “better news” locally in the next few weeks.

“As it relates to Michigan that our governor will open up a little bit more so we can get back together and guys can do voluntary workouts,” he said.