UM's Jim Harbaugh: QB J.J. McCarthy set to resume throwing on Monday

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who participated in spring practice but did not throw because of an unspecified injury to his right (throwing) shoulder, has been cleared to resume throwing.

This was expected to be the spring where McCarthy, the backup last season as a freshman, and returning starter Cade McNamara would be in the thick of competition for the starting job this fall. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said last month that McCarthy had “soreness” in the shoulder but would not require surgery.

Harbaugh, during a conversation recapping spring practice with host Jon Jansen on the “In the Trenches’ podcast Thursday, offered his thoughts on the entire team after the conclusion of spring practice and updated McCarthy’s status.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy wasn't able to throw passes during spring practice due to an injured shoulder.

“He is set to start throwing Monday, so it’s great news,” Harbaugh said of McCarthy. “Even though he wasn’t throwing, he was still the same J.J., bringing all the energy, all the competitive fire, all the leadership, like a kid in the candy store. That’s the best way to phrase what he’s like. There’s certain guys who are like that, and he’s one of them. Just love being around him.”

Although McCarthy didn’t throw during the spring, he took “a lot of reps” during practices, Harbaugh said.

McNamara, who helped lead Michigan to a 12-2 record last season, the program’s first Big Ten championship since 2004 and a spot in the College Football Playoff, said during the spring he was working on his footwork, among other areas of his game.

He occasionally had issues last season with batted down passes, so Harbaugh said McNamara worked on elevating his arm at the line of scrimmage.

“Just overall quarterback play,” Harbaugh told Jansen of what McNamara worked on. “Accuracy, timing, decision-making, leadership. He continues to progress very well in all those areas."

Harbaugh reflected on where the program is coming off a successful season where it finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll, the highest for Michigan since the 1997 season. There are significant holes to fill on defense, with the departures of Aidan Hutchinson, the projected No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and defensive back Dax Hill, another possible first-rounder, as well as David Ojabo, who had 11 sacks to Hutchinson’s 14 last season but is recovering from an Achilles injury suffered at the team's pro day.

“There’s always room for improvement, kind of the go-to answer there,” Harbaugh said on the podcast. “Actually, I think it’s better than that. We’ve got a ton of momentum at this point and keep building on that as we hit these next four weeks of strength and conditioning.”

Here are some highlights from Harbaugh’s "In The Trenches" interview with Jansen:

► On the offensive line: Harbaugh said left tackle Ryan Hayes, left guard Trevor Keegan, center Olu Oluwatimi, right guard Zak Zinter and right tackle Trente Jones, along with tackle Karsen Barnhart are the top six linemen. Oluwatimi, a transfer from Virginia, is a great fit with the group, Harbaugh said, and Jones had a solid spring.

“He’s always been one of the best athletes in the room," Harbaugh said. "He’s improved his strength, his knowledge of the offense.”

► On the freshmen receivers: Tyler Morris was held out of the spring game and contact, Harbaugh said, because they wanted to be cautious in his final stages of recovery from an ACL injury suffered in high school.

“Darrius Clemons and Amorion Walker are prototypical outside-type of receivers catching contested balls, running the deep crosses," Harbaugh said. "Darrius definitely is more physically developed. Amorion, once he puts in the offseason, next four weeks then summer, gains strength, you can tell he’s going to be a tremendous football player.”

► On freshman cornerback Will Johnson: “You can just see it. He’s that type of athlete. He’s gonna play and be battling for a starting position.”

► On the running backs: Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards are the top returning backs, but Michigan is looking for a third, someone who can take that Hassan Haskins role. Tavierre Dunlap has got the “skill set to do it,” Harbaugh said. But Harbaugh moved linebacker Kalel Mullings to running back this spring and “he’s now a two-way player. He looked real good. … Could be Tavi, could be Kalel Mullings as that guy who replaces a lot of the carries Hassan Haskins had.” Also, Harbaugh said they are looking at receiver A.J. Henning at running back as a way to get him more touches and "it’s out of the experimental stage."

► On defensive linemen taking the next step: Harbaugh said there are a quite a few players attempting to fill the voids left by Hutchinson, Ojabo and tackle Christopher Hinton.

“Mazi Smith may turn out to be our best defensive player. Mike Morris is going to be right in there as well," Harbaugh said. "The guy who has come so far, so fast is Kris Jenkins. He’s continued to be dominant the way he gets off of blocks, runs to the football, continued to grow in his strength. Think of him as the J.J. McCarthy of the defense, a kid in the candy store, always looking for opportunity, always having a good day.”

► On edge defenders: “Really excited about Taylor Upshaw, a strong, physical, tough, relentless type of player, and the guy who has grown the most is Jaylen Harrell. He’s athletic, can drop, can rush the passer.”

► On freshman defensive linemen to watch: “Mason Graham would be the guy to keep an eye on. He’s somebody who can play early out of the freshman class. High motor, well thought of, already physically pretty strong, needs some more strength work. He’ll play as a freshman.” And Derrick Moore “is gonna be a fabulous player. Probably will also be a really good player right away in the fall. He is really gifted athletically, strength, it’s all there already. Learning the scheme and the counter moves, once he learns that, I think he’s gonna be a beast out there on the edge.”

Twitter: @chengelis