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Trieu: Michigan QB commit J.J. McCarthy shows he belongs at Elite 11 Finals

By Allen Trieu
Special to The Detroit News

The Elite 11 Finals, where 20 of the nation’s best high school rising senior quarterbacks were selected to travel to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is underway.

Through two days, Michigan commit J.J. McCarthy sits ninth in the rankings by the staff and has drawn praise from media attending the event.

The Michigan Insider’s Josh Newkirk is on hand and has seen it as comparable to the other times he has watched McCarthy throw.

“I’ve seen him, I think this is the third or fourth time in person,” Newkirk said, “and the No. 1 thing I see is he’s consistent, whether that’s a high school game, 7-on-7 or in a camp setting. That was evident again last evening. It is elite competition, the top quarterbacks in the country, and he didn’t look like he got invited because he’s committed to Michigan. He belongs here. I’m not going to say he will win it, but he’s among the elite.”

In a typical year, hopefuls would compete at a regional event and then be selected for the finals. Because of COVID-19, only two regionals were completed and McCarthy did not attend either one. On the strength of his high school career and what he did at last year’s regional, he earned an invitation.

During the pandemic, McCarthy has continued to work with Greg Holcomb, his longtime quarterback coach, at Next Level Athletix to prepare for the finals as well as a senior year at Florida's IMG Academy, his new school, where many eyes will be on him. Holcomb made the trip to Tennessee to support his pupil.

J.J. McCarthy

“It has been a combination of both (specific preparation for Elite 11 and normal training)," Holcomb said. “We focused more on training before, but the last couple weeks, having been around the regionals to at least know an idea of what takes place at the event, we did some of that. We’re always trying to set our athletes up for success, so we did more of the off-platform throws and repped those more in training sessions.

"But overall, it was par for the course, the same stuff we have been doing, focusing on his stroke, mechanics and feet. We’re still anticipating there will be a season, so we want to get him ready for that. Not a lot has changed.”

More: 'I hate image': Five-star QB J.J. McCarthy will bring hard work, vision to UM

Holcomb has worked with McCarthy since middle school. At this point, with no big holes in his game, the focus of training can be more nuanced than it would be with a more raw prospect.

“It’s pretty simple, we’re really helping him to be able to control his throws,” Holcomb said. “So when to fire a 90-mph fastball in there versus putting a little less velocity on it. It’s like golf, you can hit off the tee box and hit a great drive and have a great putting game, but it’s the in-between we’re working on. He can zip it into small windows, but taking a little more off the ball or when to put a little more touch on it, that’s what we’re working on.”

McCarthy also added weight from the end of his junior season and is now at 195 pounds.

“It’s noticeable,” Holcomb said. “I don’t want to say each time I see him, but there are aha moments. He’s filling out nicely, it’s healthy and good and he’s growing into his body. He might be the youngest kid (at the Elite 11) and he’s growing. He measured 6-foot-2¾, and matches up physically with some of the bigger kids.”

That is helping him make some of the more challenging throws at the Elite 11 so far.

“They had a competition at the end where they had to throw into a window high and tight at the goal line. It was a seam down the left side of the field and they had to throw it high up where only the receiver can get it,” Newkirk said. "He didn’t win it, but he made it to the fourth throw where half of them probably got eliminated after their first throw. He’s pretty consistent and even when he makes a mistake, he learns from it.”

That is also why Holcomb believes, regardless of what the final Elite 11 ranking is, there will be a better McCarthy on the field this fall.

“He's done a great job (at Elite 11),” Holcomb said. “He really has. I think the event is such a different event this year because of the pandemic. They’ve had to switch gears and move to an indoor facility, then the 7-on-7 portion was scrapped, and the Elite 11 guys have done a great job adjusting the schedule and the kids have adjusted.

“J.J. was really sharp on day one. I thought he stood out. On Tuesday, with the pro day thing, he probably missed — and I say missed with quotes because it wasn’t like the ball was 6 inches too high, but he missed on a couple throws. It’s one of those situations where you are with the best guys so you can’t miss a shot. All the kids are phenomenal and have adapted to the unique situation.”

McCarthy will enroll at Michigan mid-year.

UM commit gets new offer

Stanford offered Michigan linebacker commit Tyler McLaurin in mid-June.

The Bolingbrook (Illinois) standout said he was honored by the Cardinal opportunity but was firmly committed to Michigan.

McLaurin gave the Wolverines his verbal in May and said he has continued to speak to the staff every other day since.

Speaking with safety target

The Michigan Insider’s Brice Marich reports Michigan safeties coach Bob Shoop will have a FaceTime call with Reisterstown (Maryland) Franklin safety Daymon David this week.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound David has Michigan in consideration along with Boston College, Indiana, Louisville and Miami.

David had 67 tackles and four interceptions as a junior.

More information

J.J. McCarthy profile

Tyler McLaurin profile

Daymon David 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 detroitnews.com.