Can Joe Milton go from 3rd to 1st?

Can Joe Milton go from 3rd to 1st?

May 29, 2020
Joe Milton (image via Wolverines Wire)

Much has been made of the 2020 quarterback battle between Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton. I did a post analyzing McCaffrey (LINK) and plan to do more, but in an effort to handicap the race, I wondered how many Michigan quarterbacks have taken over the starting job after being the #3 (or lower) in the previous season, or ever.

Hit the jump for the rest of the post.

The chart below shows Michigan’s starters from 1995-2019 and how they ascended the depth chart. The depth chart was determined primarily by passing attempts through that season, and sometimes by educated guesses (such as 2002, 2003, and 2007) GREEN means they made it to starter, and RED means they fell short of that goal.

You can see above that since Lloyd Carr took over in 1995, the only two quarterbacks to go from 3rd to 1st were Tom Brady and Devin Gardner. Both made a pit stop at #2 on the depth charter (in 1997 and 2011-2012, respectively). It’s also noteworthy that they didn’t overtake anybody in front of them on the depth chart. Gardner took over after Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier left, and Tom Brady got the job after Scott Dreisbach and Brian Griese graduated.

Meanwhile, eight players have ascended from #2 to #1

I also should point out that Nick Sheridan went from fourth string or worse in 2007 to being the #1 guy in 2008. Of course, that was in Rich Rodriguez’s anomalous inaugural season, when he went 3-9 while Sheridan and Steve Threet (who redshirted in 2007) shared time in the starting role.

It remains to be seen whether Milton can pull off the rare feat of going from #3 to #1 in a single off-season, and unfortunately, we haven’t had spring football to see McCaffrey and Milton battle it out.


  1. Avatar
    Comments: 8
    Joined: 2/23/2016
    May 29, 2020 at 2:40 PM

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but I can only see a small portion of the chart.

    • DonAZ
      Comments: 514
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      May 29, 2020 at 3:17 PM

      You can scroll the chart up and down and left/right.

  2. DonAZ
    Comments: 514
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    May 29, 2020 at 8:03 PM

    Imagine you’re Josh Gattis, and Jim Harbaugh has given you complete liberty to select and groom the QB of your choice based on what offense you’re trying to run. Truly, Harbaugh is 100% hands-off.

    Who would you pick: McCaffrey or Milton?

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 1855
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    May 29, 2020 at 11:05 PM

    The gap between 1&2 was huge. 2&3 wasn’t known, because neither played much (either year), not did they impress when on field

    My guess is Mac wins, only because I see Milton as a TO machine. Problem is, I don’t think Mac can stay healthy. I would though, rather have Milton in than a shorter, less talented version of Shea, or a last-minute steal from UMass

    Should have gone for JTDaniels

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 5906
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Jun 01, 2020 at 11:05 AM

    In most years there is more than one starter.

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