What should Michigan do at QB in 2024?

What should Michigan do at QB in 2024?

January 14, 2024
Alex Orji (image via WFAA)

It was a very understandable move, but Michigan suffered a big blow on Sunday when incumbent starting quarterback J.J. McCarthy announced he would be entering the 2024 NFL Draft. McCarthy is a two-year starter who went 27-1 in that role and won a national championship. According to draft projections I’ve seen, he’s considered to be a potential 1st round pick and is thought to be anywhere from the #3 to the #6 quarterback in the class. He could come back in 2024 and potentially be the #1 quarterback on the board for the 2025 draft, but it looks like that won’t happen.

So where should Michigan turn for a quarterback in 2024?

JADYN DAVIS (6’0″, 202 lb. freshman)
2023 season stats (high school): 204/288, 3370 yards, 43 touchdowns, 9 interceptions
The argument: Davis, from Charlotte (NC) Providence Day, is a 4-star recruit, the #7 quarterback, and #93 overall in the class of 2024. Michigan recruited Davis hard and put most of their eggs in his basket during the cycle, so the coaching staff really likes him. While he’s ranked anywhere from #61 to #116 overall by three of the four main recruiting sites, the fourth – On3 – has him all the way down at #218. One thing that really helps true freshman quarterbacks be successful is some kind of physical advantage – speed, size, and/or a cannon for an arm – but Davis has none of the above. He’s more of a game manager in the mold of Cade McNamara, and while McNamara did eventually captain his team to a very successful season, it wasn’t until his third year on campus.

Hit the jump for more.

JAYDEN DENEGAL (6’5″, 235 lb. redshirt sophomore)
2023 season stats: 4/5, 50 yards, 1 touchdown; 4 carries, 10 yards
The argument: Denegal was called upon as a true freshman in 2022 to play in one game and hand off the ball, therefore redshirting. He and Alex Orji – see below – were recruited in the same class, with Denegal seen as the superior passer and Orji being a better overall athlete. Denegal is a decent athlete who had to do a lot of work as a passer, but he looks to have taken to the coaching of quarterbacks coach Kirk Campbell. Still, he has just 5 career passing attempts, and he did not play in a game after the October 21 blowout of Michigan State.

ALEX ORJI (6’3″, 236 lb. redshirt sophomore)
2023 season stats: 15 carries, 86 yards, 1 touchdown
The argument: Orji was hailed by Jim Harbaugh in the pre-season as potentially the greatest kickoff returner in Michigan history, so naturally, he didn’t return a single kickoff. Another thing he didn’t do is attempt a pass. Brought in purely as a runner, he had some big carries down the stretch for the Wolverines. And Sherrone Moore did eventually call for a pass play on a fake QB run against Alabama in the Rose Bowl, but the Crimson Tide sniffed it out. His career completion percentage is 100% on the strength of going 1/1 for 5 yards as a true freshman in 2022. If Orji or Denegal were to become Michigan’s starter, he would be the least experienced passer since Rich Rodriguez recruited Tate Forcier and started him as a true freshman in 2009.

DAVIS WARREN (6’2″, 195 lb. redshirt junior)
2023 season stats: 0/5, 1 interception; 2 carries, -4 yards
The argument: Warren is a walk-on quarterback who has done well in some spring action, but the 2023 season was a rough one. He started off the year as the #2 quarterback behind McCarthy, but newcomer Jack Tuttle took over that spot once he was able to grasp the playbook after transferring from Indiana. (Tuttle was a sixth year senior in 2023 and is now out of eligibility.) Warren did complete 5/9 passes for 89 yards in 2022 and ran 3 times for 30 yards that year, but going 5/14 for 89 yards and 1 interception doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence for a starting position for the national champions. Warren is a great story of a young man who beat leukemia to go play FBS football – and get on the field at a place like Michigan – but he’s a game manager at best.

THE TRANSFER PORTAL (?’?”, ??? lb. ???)
2023 season stats: ???
The argument: Lots of teams have found success by grabbing quarterbacks out of the transfer portal, and Michigan is no exception. Jim Harbaugh has been at Michigan for nine seasons, and three of those years have been led by transfer portal quarterbacks: Iowa’s Jake Rudock (2015) and Ole Miss’s Shea Patterson (2018-2019). Additionally, Houston’s John O’Korn and Indiana’s Tuttle have come in to serve as capable backups during that stretch. Examples from around college football are too numerous to bother naming, but big names have already changed schools this off-season, such as Dillon Gabriel (Oklahoma to Oregon), Will Howard (Kansas State to Ohio State), Riley Leonard (Duke to Notre Dame), and Dante Moore (UCLA to Oregon), among others.


I will be very concerned for the 2024 season if Michigan does not pull a capable starter out of the transfer portal. Coming off of a national championship, they should not have trouble finding someone. They are playing from behind considering McCarthy just made this decision and Michigan missed the first round of transfers, since they were too busy playing in the playoffs to be involved with recruiting transfers. According to the 247 Sports transfer portal, the top three available options are:

  1. Mississippi State/Washington’s Will Rogers (6’2″, 215): 142/237 (59.9%), 1626 yards, 12 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
  2. JMU’s Jordan McCloud (6’0″, 199): 281/412 (68.2%), 3657 yards, 35 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
  3. Holy Cross’s Matthew Sluka (6’3″, 216): 122/197 (61.9%), 1723 yards, 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions

I don’t necessarily think Michigan’s answer is on that list. There’s a good chance that someone else enters the transfer portal, either now or following spring ball. Rogers already tried to transfer to Washington, at least until head coach Kalen DeBoer left for Alabama, and I’m not so sure he fits what Michigan would want at the position. McCloud is undersized and would be at his fourth school (USF, Arizona, JMU previously), and Sluka would be an FCS transfer. The national champions should be able to attract a little higher level prospect.

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