Wilton Speight and John O’Korn are the two leading candidates to be Michigan’s starting quarterback when the 2017 season opens against Florida. That’s the message that is being delivered by Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh as the Wolverines continue with preseason practices in Ann Arbor.
“It’s not to say anything is set in stone right now, but I think that the two guys have created a little bit of separation,” Harbaugh said Friday following practice, according to Dan Murphy of ESPN.
Speight was Michigan’s starter for the 2016 season and entered the spring as the most likely starter for the offense going into the fall. O’Korn, who transferred from Houston started one game in place of an injured Speight last season, was expected to push for the starting job. Harbaugh has kept the competition wide open from the start of practices, but Harbaugh’s latest comments suggest redshirt freshman Brandon Peters is no longer in the running for the starting job and will be designated in a backup role for the upcoming season.
With such a big game to open the new season, Harbaugh may choose to hold off on naming a starter for as long as possible. Such a move would be a typical coaching move seen around college football in an attempt to not give the opponent any advantages. It’s a tad silly, but makes sense from a gamesmanship point of view as well. There is no timeline for when Harbaugh is expected to name a starter, so until then it is still a bit of a guessing game.
Michigan kicks off the 2017 season in Arlington, Texas against the Florida Gators. The Wolverines are coming off a 10-3 season that ended on a bit of a sour note. Harbaugh has also said he hopes the way last season ended drives the Wolverines to take the next step this season despite a good amount of roster turnover in the starting lineup.
Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight did not have a terrific showing in the spring game last weekend, but head coach Jim Harbaugh says he is still the top quarterback on the depth chart coming out of the spring. That said, Speight could be under pressure to keep it once the summer rolls along and the 2017 season gets underway.
“It’ll always be (a competition,)” Harbaugh said when speaking to the media, according to a Detroit Free Press report from Mark Snyder. “Still over the course of the whole spring practice, Wilton on our depth chart, he’s No. 1. But it’s a meritocracy. By your effort and by your talent you will be known. That’s a good thing for our football team.”
Harbaugh’s comments are none to surprising. The 2017 season could be a slight step back for Michigan coming off a big step forward for the program in 2016, but Harbaugh has always been one to ramp up the competitive fire in the program. It has not led to a Big Ten division championship yet, but there is no question it has helped get Michigan back on the right track as a program. No position is considered safe under Harbaugh, who will focus on playing the best possible players at every position for a chance to improve as a team and win games. That’s his job, after all.
Speight played 12 games for the Wolverines last season. In those 12 games, Speight passed for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns while completing 61.6 percent of his pass attempts and was picked off seven times. Other options that could replace Speight if a chance is deemed necessary would include senior John O’Korn (who previously started at Houston) and Brandon Peters, who was also less-than-impressive in the Michigan spring game.
It looks as though Ole Miss is bringing in a very talented and highly-respected quarterback in the Class of 2016. Shea Patterson, a five-star dual-threat quartreback from Shreveport, Louisiana was named the MVP of the Elite 11 camp in Oregon this week. Patterson finished in first place among the 25 quarterbacks invited to the high-profile football camp at Nike’s headquarters, and headlined the final Elite 11 class.
Maybe Texas has found a good quarterback as well. Longhorns commit, and four-star recruit, Shane Buechele finsihed in second place during the week. Other quarterbacks receiving elite status were KJ Costello (Stanford), Jacob Eason (Georgia), Feleope Franks (LSU), Jarrett Guarantano (Tennessee), Dwayne Haskins (Maryland), Malik Henry (Florida State), Brandon McIlwain (South Carolina), Brandon Peters (Michigan) and Anthony Russo (Rutgers).
For those keeping score at home, that would be five Elite 11 quarterbacks heading to the SEC. Three are going to the Big Ten, and one each to the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12.