While basketball rules the weekend, the football program has been going to work on the 2019 class, and it paid off last night in a big-time commitment. Four-star Reno (NV) Damonte Ranch quarterback Cade McNamara, a recent Notre Dame decommit, announced his pledge to Michigan on Twitter, choosing the Wolverines over offers from Alabama, Georgia, and USC, among others.
While one can safely assume McNamara hasn't shot a man in Reno, he's watched a lot of defenses die: the junior was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Nevada after accounting for over 3500 yards and 48 touchdowns in his third year as the varsity starter. He's the sixth commit in Michigan's 2019 class, which now ranks fifth in the country, and the first at quarterback.
|4*, 5.8, #9 Pro-QB||
3*, 78, #8 QB-PP,
4*, 90, #9 Pro-QB,
4*, #9 Pro-QB,
McNamara is just a bit outside the Rivals250 (their #7 pro-style QB makes the cut), and in fact is better-regarded there than at ESPN, which includes him at the tail end of their top-300 list but only gives him three stars, and 247, which has him just outside their top 300 overall. That's a pretty tight range in rankings for a quarterback still yet to play his senior season.
McNamara is listed at 6'1" at all three sites with a strangely wide range of weights, as low as 170 pounds (Rivals) and as high as 203 (ESPN). The latter figure, which appears to come from a Nike camp, looks more accurate. 247 splits the difference at 187 pounds, FWIW. His shorter-than-prototype size limits how high he'll rise in the rankings (and how many programs will show interest); as we've seen with some prominent quarterbacks lately, that doesn't mean he won't be a very productive signal-caller.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
McNamara started his entire freshman season; he was already a name to keep an eye on when he impressed 247's Scott Eklund at Washington's 2016 Rising Stars camp:
It's never to early to get started on looking ahead to different quarterbacks and Washington is doing just that with a player like McNamara who started his entire freshman season and looks like he could wind up being one of the top passers in the West in the 2019 class. He's not very big, but he's got the frame to add more size and he's got outstanding instincts and anticipation.
As a sophomore, McNamara led his team to its first conference title and set a state record for most passing touchdown in a season as a sophomore with 46. The biggest difference appeared to be his ability to get the ball downfield; he raised his yards per attempt from 7.2 to 9.6. NevadaPrepReport praised his arm strength and deep accuracy:
With a live arm, McNamara is a skilled passer with great feet and sees the field well. With a strong arm and the ability to reset his feet quickly, he is a dangerous downfield passer that shows great touch on his deep balls. He is also an effective passer on short to intermediate throws that can make plays in the clutch.
When McNamara committed to Notre Dame the following summer, Irish247's Evan Sharpley saw a lot to like about his mechanics when breaking down game film:
Clean, quick release out of the hand. Elastic stretch on the backstroke allows for easy velocity and spin rate. Smooth and efficient in the pocket; doesn’t waste a lot of movement. Has a feel for in the pocket, play action, and movement throws. ... Has room for growth, maturity in the coming years that will no doubt add more power to his level one, head-high throws.
His talent still seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Scout's Greg Biggins really liked what he saw at this February's Under Armour Southern California camp:
It was good to see Reno (Nev.) Damonte Ranch quarterback Cade McNamara in action and the Notre Dame commit flashed arguably the quickest release in the camp. He has an effortless delivery and throws a very catchable ball.
UCLA's 247 outlet saw the same quick release at the same event, but they did not see much upside:
He’s listed at 6-1 but he has one of those deceptive looks that make him appear shorter. Perhaps he is. We did think he had the best, quickest release on the day, and he throws a tight, nice ball. But physically he doesn’t have much upside and didn’t look particularly athletic. He’s committed to Notre Dame, and we’re a little puzzled that Notre Dame would go to Nevada to take this early commitment.
The day after that article published, Alabama offered; Georgia followed a day later.
McNamara attended the Opening Bay Area regional without receiving an Elite11 invite or position MVP honors; I can't find an eval on him from that camp. He had a strong performance at a Rivals regional camp last week, playing "right there" with coveted four-star Michael Johnson Jr., per Adam Gorney.
One area that doesn't necessarily show up in camp settings is a grasp of advanced concepts. McNamara stands out in that area. He works exclusively with his head coach at Damonte Ranch, who told Blue and Gold Illustrated that he's formed a bit of a mind-meld with his young charge:
“We’re to the point now where I get half the play out of my mouth and he turns and runs on the field,” Dupris said. “He knows exactly what the other part is. It’s a lot of fun and it allows me to do a lot of things that I want to do.” ...
“It’s a luxury,” Dupris explained. “I’ve had some good quarterbacks in the past who mentally have understood what I’m looking for and what I want to see, and some who could physically do those things. With Cade, it’s the whole package. For example, I can ask him to roll out one way and throw a back-side corner route. He understands how to make that throw.”
His coach isn't the only one who sings his praises as a football mind. Biggins' post-commitment evaluation prominently features that aspect; I'm not bothering to bold anything because I was about to highlight the whole thing:
McNamara has a strong arm and can dissect defenses from the pocket, but he's capable of hitting receivers in stride when rolling out as well. ... He's tremendously effective on throws to the perimeter and fits passes into tight windows over the middle, knowing when to look off linebackers and safeties to find his weapons. His leadership qualities inside the huddle and on the sideline make McNamara an even bigger coup, especially considering that he shows a great understanding of offensive concepts and can recognize defenses at the line of scrimmage.
Despite being unwilling to grant McNamara a fourth star, ESPN sees his potential and doesn't find much to knock beyond his size and maybe his arm strength:
Strengths: Late bloomer build. A good decision maker out of the gun in the spread offense. An accurate passer who is able to fit the ball into tight windows. This is a poised and confident competitor. Shows touch and timing. Changes ball speeds nicely. Has just enough zip and finesse to anticipate throws and lead targets. Areas of Improvement: Marginal height and strength. Not sure he has elite arm power. Bottomline: McNamara throws a very nice deep ball and possesses a smooth quick release. One of his better traits and one that is certain to draw attention.
Even if his arm strength isn't outstanding, his instincts, anticipation, football IQ, and accuracy should help cover for that at the college level. Jim Harbaugh has plenty to work with here.
In addition to his early Notre Dame commitment, McNamara picked up offers from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, USC, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Nevada, and San Diego State. The ND offer was obviously legit, and the flurry of offers from Bama, Georgia, and USC in February suggest he was on the verge of more major offers—it wouldn't be a surprise to see more come in if he chooses to report them to medie outlets.
For now, at least, he's got a short offer with with a rather strange split; he's certainly a type of quarterback—not the NFL prototype, some mobility but not a true dual-threat—that some programs value much more than others.
McNamara is the first player from Damonte Ranch in the Rivals database (2002-present) to earn more than two stars or commit to a school other than Montana, Air Force, or... George Fox, which is apparently a real school and not just some guy.
Via MaxPreps, these require a table:
|Comp-Att (%)||Yards||YPA||TD (%)||INT (%)||Rush||Yards (YPC)||Long||TD|
|JR||225-384 (58.6%)||3470||9.0||44 (11.4%)||8 (2.0%)||76||109 (1.4)||35||4|
|SO||218-374 (58.3%)||3577||9.6||46 (12.3%)||11 (2.9%)||54||80 (1.5)||29||5|
|FR||150-284 (52.8%)||2042||7.2||17 (5.7%)||10 (3.5%)||24||16 (0.7)||15||1|
|TOTAL||593-1042 (56.9%)||9089||8.7||107 (10.3%)||29 (2.7%)||154||205 (1.3)||35||10|
They are quite impressive.
FAKE 40 TIME
ESPN lists a SPARQ-verified 40 time of 5.01 seconds, which gets zero FAKEs out of five, as well as decent combine figures: 4.36 shuttle, 30.9-inch vertical, and 37.0-foot powerball for a 72.03 SPARQ rating. McNamara's Hudl page lists an unverified times of 4.81 in the 40 and 4.06 in the shuttle that get four FAKEs out of five.
Sophomore/freshman highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
When McNamara gets on campus, Michigan should have Shea Patterson, Brandon Peters, Dylan McCaffrey, and Joe Milton already in the quarterback room; a redshirt is all but assured. From there, your guess is as good as mine given how recent QB battles have shaken out. If McNamara is ready to see the field, he'll get his shot. The more likely scenario involves him sitting for 2-3 years before being a serious contender in a heated battle for the starting job. That's a great situation for Michigan.
McNamara intends to enroll early, so he'll get a head start on grasping the playbook and getting used to academic life. He could very well surprise and see the field earlier than expected.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It has a quarterback, and it ranks fifth in the country. Here's the class as it currently stands: