Brady Quinn owns 36 Notre Dame Fighting Irish records and ranks 40th all-time among FBS players in passing yards (11,614) and 32nd in passing touchdowns (95).
During a Big 10 media day interview Monday with Isaiah Hole, the publisher of Wolverines Wire, Quinn suggested an alternate reality where he played for the Michigan Wolverines.
“I almost went to Michigan,” Quinn, now a FOX Sports analyst, said. “But at the last minute I just felt like Notre Dame was a better fit for what I was looking for out of my experience. So I chose Notre Dame, but I became very close at the time with Scot Loeffler. He was the quarterback coach. He was the one that was really responsible for recruiting me. [Jim] Hermann was my area recruiter -- great guy. My family loved him. We loved Michigan; we really did.”
Quinn said he used the four Michigan games as a barometer to convince himself he made the right choice. The quarterback was 2-2 in those outings, going 56-for-107 (52.3 percent) for 588 yards, 42 first downs and seven touchdowns. Quinn threw seven picks, fumbled four times (lost it twice) and was sacked five times. (While the play calls were almost dead even, Notre Dame gained twice as many yards through the air against the Wolverines from 2003 to 2006 than they did on the ground.)
The Irish and the Wolverines will play for the 43rd time — and the ninth time since Quinn’s graduation 11 years ago — on Sept. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium.
Quinn, as analyst, offered the following:
Isaiah Hole: First taking a look at Michigan, now that you were in a position to, to analyze what they’ve done, what do you see out of Michigan? And obviously there’s a lot of consternation when it comes to Michigan, when just given the, you know, last year going eight and five overall. What do you see as far as just taking --?
Brady Quinn: It was a step back. I mean, that’s the only way to put it. Look, I think there’s high expectations placed on Michigan and rightfully so. Jim Harbaugh is a good coach. They’ve got a ton of talented players there. And 8-5 is not good enough. Many programs will be satisfied with that, but that’s just, that’s not the standard you’re held to at Michigan. So they’ve got to figure out how to get things going again. It’s going to start on offense. I think that’s why you saw so many changes on their offensive staff bringing in a guy like Ed Warinner and a guy like Jim McElwain who’s just always seemed to be able to get the most out of his players, whether it was at Colorado State or even for the guys who had at Florida. I mean, people tend to forget: He won a couple of SEC East division titles and it was mostly defensive lead, but he also kind of got the most out of who he had there at quarterback. So I’m, I’m excited to see, you know, who’s going to be the guy, in my opinion. It’s probably gonna be Shea Patterson. Uh, I think he’s going to be the most talented passer Jim Harbaugh has had at Michigan since he’s gotten there, so that should bode well for their offense and being able to open up that offense. I mean, you’re only as capable as your quarterback is. You’ve got a strong running game, right? Or at least you should with the two running backs you have to coming back and Evans and Higdon. On the offensive line, there’s some question marks there, but I think over time they’ll get that. I think Jim Harbaugh is going to rely on his recruiting and his coaching staff to be able to get those guys ready to play. Two studs on the outside: Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black.
Brady Quinn: Those guys should be able to go up and make some plays, big time plays. And then you’ve got a litany of tight ends, right? Probably led by Wheatley. Defense: returning starters. So Don Brown should be able to, again, keep the standard that he set there and getting this team to play at a high, high level defensively, whether it’s with the studs they have upfront, lead by Gary or the two cornerbacks, right? Lavert Hill and David Long are two of the better cornerbacks in college football especially as a tandem. So like there’s a, there’s a lot of talent on this defense. I think this team -- and depending on how things go versus Notre Dame could all of a sudden be one of the teams we’re talking about in consideration for playing in the College Football Playoff.
Isaiah Hole: Now, I don’t know how much you gotten a chance to watch Shea Patterson during his time at Ole Miss, but assuming that you were able to, what kind of -- what do you see out of him as a quarterback? And one of the knocks that a lot of Michigan’s rivals tend to have against him is that he, you know, he played really well against teams like Tennessee Martin, but against Alabama and LSU kind of some subpar outings. Like what do you see out of him --
Brady Quinn: I don’t know a lot of quarterbacks that played that well against Alabama and LSU last year. I mean maybe a guy like DeShaun Watson, right? Johnny Manziel, I think, did it one time. He got a lot of praise for that. I hope we’re not making that the standard because there’s a lot of quarterbacks are gonna look bad then if that’s the standard. But there is something to I think him having better performances versus some of the lesser opponents and that maybe is padding his stats. But look, the bottom line is the guy can create. He can make plays by buying time with this feet to make throws down field. He keeps his eyes downfield, which is huge, especially when you’re talking about an offensive line that could need to work on some things and it’s going up against one of the best defensive lines in the country in Ohio State at the end of the season. So that’s going to come to big time into play then. And, in particular, versus Notre Dame early depending on how that all shakes out. But he can make all the throws. He’s got a live arm. He’s got the ability to throw with touch, but with pace, um, we always talk about a “two ball.” There’s your fastball, there’s your high arching, you know, deep ball, but there’s also got to be the ball you can throw in between and that’s the one that has enough zip and enough arch to get over the secondary level defenders, but in behind them and in front of the deep safety now where you can drop those throws in. He can do that. He has displayed the ability to do that at Ole Miss. So, uh, again, I think he’s going to open up a lot of things for this offense this season.
Isaiah Hole: Now, switching gears to your alma mater, Michigan fans probably don’t have the kind of knowledge that they had about Notre Dame from a couple of years ago because when you know, back when the rivalry was happening every year, it’s been several since 2014 now. Uh, what should Michigan fans know about what Notre Dame is good at? What maybe Notre Dame needs to work on going into the game this year?
Brady Quinn: The biggest thing that they need to improve from last year is their passing game and that is still being decided right now. There’s a quarterback competition between Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book and whoever comes out of that, there’s gonna be a little bit more pressure on their shoulders because Josh Adams moved onto the NFL.
Dexter Williams is back. They’ve got some depth there at running back, but no one with the same type of proven ability and that we’ve seen really do it at a high level in the backfield returning. So that’s the, that’s the first thing is there’s going to be more pressure on whichever quarterback that is. The running game is not proven like it was before. McGlinchey, Nelson -- their left tackle, left guard -- went both in the top 10 of this year’s first round in the NFL Draft. Those guys are gone. So you know, their interior offensive line should be really good. It’s the edges that are more concerns and probably more left tackle, considering that’s been a cornerstone of their offensive line since McGlinchey was there and really that left side, the blind side with Nelson on that side too. But Hainsey over at the right tackle, he should be fine. Then Eichenberg, I think is going to be slated, at least now, at left tackle. That could be a problem spot, right? Especially when you’ve got a guy like Rashan Gary who is on your defensive line and Chase Winovich away on the other side. It’s not like you could just focus on one side. You’ve got two guys, you have to worry about week one.
Their wide receivers going to be tough for Michigan to match up with, not so much because of speed, but because of size. Miles Boykin, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Chase Claypool’s about the same size, Alize Mack, their tight end, he’s got a lot of size and athleticism too, like 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. So, um, those are tough match ups, I think, even for the best cornerbacks. Because unless you’re Richard Sherman and you’ve got that 6-foot-2 frame and the ability to leap and still make plays on the football, it becomes tough then when you’re not one of those taller, lankier cornerbacks or even safeties that that’s good in coverage. So that’s something that they’re going to have to look out for.
From the Notre Dame defense, they should be improved upon last year even though they missed some pieces, but they’ve got guys like Tillery coming back on the defensive front, Daelin Hayes who’s kind of poised for a breakout year as far as rushing the passer. And you look at their secondary, a lot of depth. You go through the two deep on their defense, a lot of experience. A lot of guys returning who are juniors and seniors, upper classmen. So there’s not gonna be any gimmes. There’s not going to be busted coverages. You know Mike Elko left with Texas A&M, but Clark Lea who was there last year as well, he’s taken over as far as the defensive play calling, so they’re going to be on the same page. Those guys should be a very disciplined group that they’re going to have to go up against.
Isaiah Hole: In that same vein that you mentioned, Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich being a problem for, you know, whatever ends up being the left tackle for Notre Dame, what other key areas do you look at Notre Dame and saying like, “Wow, I don’t really like this matchup for them” when it comes to Michigan?
Brady Quinn: Again, you look at some of the play-making ability on the outside of Michigan. I don’t know that anyone feels comfortable when you’ve got a guy like Donovan Peoples-Jones -- with that sort of size and ability -- matching up against him. I mean, I think if you are going to compare the cornerbacks at Michigan right now and at Notre Dame, the ones at Michigan are more proven, you know. Don Brown’s defense is more proven. So that there’ll be a slight edge towards Michigan if we’re just being completely objective about it. But it should be a really interesting match up. It really should be, because there’s going to be growing pains that Shea Patterson goes through, right? And the entire offense goes through when you’ve got Warinner and McElwain and different guys not calling the plays. And it’s Week One, so you can’t really afford to make those mistakes.
And Brandon Wimbush has, you know, more experience if he ends up being the guy and I think he will be just because he adds that element of being able to hurt you with his legs. So I know I’m not necessarily gives you an advantage for Michigan so much, but for me I think it’s a, it’s a pretty even match up. I think one thing to keep an eye on is with the youth or I should say inexperience on the offense line for Michigan, one of the struggles for Notre Dame last year was just getting pressure with rushing four. And that’s something that I will be kind of keeping an eye on is, you know, how often Clark Lea has to bring pressure in order to get pressure on Shea Patterson. And how does that offense line hold up in their first game, um, with a lot of inexperienced guys working together versus that Notre Dame defensive front?
Isaiah Hole: My last question for you being very specific about Michigan. Fill in the blank: Michigan wins the Big 10, goes to the College Football playoff if...
Brady Quinn: Shea Patterson plays the way I think he’s capable of. I think if he can throw for 28-plus touchdowns, under eight interceptions, this is going to be a really, really dangerous team. It will be a productive offense with that sort of balance, and those sorts of stats coming from your quarterback. I think they’re a team, that again, because of their defense, they can always rely on that, and the talent they have on offense. If he can play that way, this could be a team that can compete for a national championship.