Following the Penn State game, Jim Harbaugh was asked about Rashan Gary’s performance after he had missed three games with a shoulder injury.
Harbaugh didn’t show concern — something else was on his mind.
“Yeah, the only player I really know that’s gonna be out now is Dylan McCaffrey,” Harbaugh said. “He did suffer a broken collarbone in the game, which is too bad. He was doing so well. But he’ll be back. But, little sad about that right now.”
Following a seven-yard keep the previous play, McCaffrey got hurt after a handoff to Tru Wilson in garbage time of Saturday’s game. And during Harbaugh’s Monday press conference, he stated that it would “probably” be a season-ending injury.
The redshirt freshman established himself as the No. 2 quarterback behind Shea Patterson following an adequate fill-in job at Notre Dame after Patterson exited from cramps. At the time, presumed backup Brandon Peters sat out from an undisclosed injury, and McCaffrey seized his single-drive opportunity, throwing 4-for-6 for 22 yards. Between multiple garbage time appearances, McCaffrey finished with 126 yards and two touchdowns throwing, as well as 99 yards and a touchdown rushing.
The news of McCaffrey’s injury reached Harbaugh immediately. He even answered a phone call from a team trainer mid-press conference. But for some players on the team, the information came later.
“I found out about it on Instagram,” said sophomore center Cesar Ruiz. “… I didn’t know what the actual injury was. I found out what the actual injury was later that day.
“That’s very unfortunate, but Dylan’s tough and he’s gonna get back.”
Now, the obvious question gets asked: Who becomes the new backup quarterback, Peters or freshman Joe Milton? Harbaugh answered in typical fashion.
“We’ll see this week,” Harbaugh said. “It’s definitely — Brandon and Joe will compete for that spot.”
Peters appeared in six games last season in injury relief as the third-string quarterback, tossing for 672 yards, four touchdowns and two picks. This season, the redshirt junior has only thrown one pass — an interception against Nebraska.
Milton, meanwhile, has only appeared in this year’s Wisconsin game. He ran twice for 22 yards and never got an opportunity to throw. Despite the news of McCaffrey’s injury, the team expressed steadfast confidence in the quarterback group.
“There are probably more similarities than differences,” said tight end Zach Gentry of the two quarterbacks. “They are both mobile. I think Brandon is more mobile than people realize. Joe is obviously a great athlete, they both have similar throwing styles, throwing arms.”
If Milton gets the backup nod, it comes with a caveat. To maintain redshirt status, Milton is only allowed to play in three more games, including any bowl games Michigan could compete in. Though Harbaugh has been a proponent of the four-game cushion for potential redshirt players, he also shared discontent for the inclusion of bowl games in that rule.
McCaffrey’s injury certainly impacts how aggressively Patterson will be used in upcoming games that have potential to get out of hand. If the Wolverines mount a comfortable lead against a downtrodden Rutgers team this weekend, Patterson will likely be removed from the game earlier than later by Harbaugh.
As far as who comes in for him, that won’t be known until Milton or Peters gets the chance to step on the field.