Cade McNamara struggled in an Orange Bowl loss to Georgia, but has spent the early offseason looking to improve. Madeline Hinkley/Daily. Buy this photo.

The Michigan football team’s impending quarterback controversy stands to be the story of its offseason. And in his first public comments since last season crashed to an unceremonious end, Cade McNamara set his foot down when asked about the apparent competition. 

“I’m a Big Ten Championship-winning starting quarterback,” McNamara, who will be a senior in the fall, said. “And that’s how I see it.” 

McNamara won last year’s quarterback competition — if it can even be described as such — without much of a stir. And he flourished in his role as a mistake-free quarterback and proficient game-manager, steering the Wolverines to their best season in decades while earning third-team All-Big Ten honors. 

But clamors for J.J. McCarthy, the uber-talented freshman quarterback, never truly subsided. And once Georgia, boasting an otherworldly defense, stymied Michigan’s offense and seemingly exposed McNamara’s flaws in the Orange Bowl, those voices were amplified. McCarthy, some argued, could raise the Wolverines’ ceiling with his dynamic arm strength and elite mobility. 

That laid the groundwork for what figures to be a dramatic song-and-dance leading into September’s opener against Colorado State. 

Temporarily, though, McCarthy’s potential push to usurp McNamara is delayed. McCarthy is sidelined with a shoulder injury — one that will not require surgery, but is precluding him from throwing for the time being. 

Early advantage to McNamara. 

“Cade’s looked good,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Tuesday. “He’s really just been sharp. It’s been a nice continuation from the season.” 

McNamara’s goal is to build off of last season, rekindling the magic and parlaying it into another successful year, both for himself and the team. He believes he touts the requisite knowledge to fulfill that role. 

“I think I know what it takes,” McNamara began. “I think I know what a team has to look like. I think I know what I have to do in order for us to do that. I think I know the level at which we have to be executing on. Also, the critical moments that we have to execute in. Our Big Ten Championship could have stopped at Penn State. It’s going to take a lot, but this team, obviously our goal is to recreate that and do more.” 

And so McNamara has spent the early portion of the offseason honing his craft in an attempt to elevate his play to the next level. He recently spent Spring Break in Los Angeles working alongside his quarterback guru, Jordan Palmer, carefully parsing through film and re-evaluating his biometrics. He’s curated a rigid sleep schedule — he claims to function better when he wakes up earlier — and a nutritious diet. At physical therapy, he discovered certain areas of his body he can strengthen in the weight room. 

“I think I have a really good plan of things that I want to develop going forward,” McNamara said. 

That includes shoring up on-the-field aspects, too. He is focusing on his footwork in the pocket, hoping to maintain a better base; that way, he says, he can be more accurate on his intermediate throws. 

McNamara also spent much of his press conference preaching the importance of leadership, an intangible that he brought to the table last season. Of that core leadership group — which included McNamara, Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Ross and Andrew Vastardis — only McNamara remains, the rest off to the NFL. 

Their departures seemingly place more on McNamara’s plate, but he is hardly worried.

“Half the team now was not here for when we were 2-4,” McNamara said, referencing the ghastly 2020 season. “It’s my job as a leader to enforce that we don’t become complacent. … Right now, I’ve established myself as a voice on this team. It’s going to be my job as a leader to create leadership.

“… I think this team has a long way to go, and I’m happy to be at the forefront and to be pushing that development.”