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.
In the month or so since reports surfaced that John O’Korn would be transferring, the erstwhile Houston quarterback’s name has been connected to programs such as Florida, Texas, Miami and Wisconsin.
In the end, it looks like he’ll end up in the latter’s conference, albeit in a whole other division.
Around noon Eastern time Thursday, O’Korn tweeted out to his Twitter account the news that he has decided to transfer to Michigan to continue his collegiate playing career. This is the point in the program where we note that UM has yet to confirm O’Korn’s addition to the roster.
Barring something unforeseen, O’Korn will have to sit out the 2015 season. He would then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.
O’Korn, a three-star member of the Cougars’ 2013 recruiting class, passed for 3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns in being named the AAC’s 2013 Rookie of the Year. After starting the first five games of the 2014 season, however, he lost his starting job to Greg Ward Jr. He threw eight interceptions in 173 pass attempts this past season after throwing 10 in 446 throws last year.
In mid-January, O’Korn was granted a release from his scholarship.
As alluded to over the weekend, former Oregon wide receiver Chance Allen has officially joined Houston’s roster, and he brought a friend from the Pac-12 along for the ride. In addition to Allen, Houston announced the arrival of former Utah quarterback Adam Schulz.
A native of the Houston area, Allen signed with Oregon in 2012 and caught five passes for 98 yards and a touchdown in two seasons of action. He’ll have one season left to play in 2016 after sitting out the 2015 campaign.
Hailing from Muskego, Wis., Schulz walked on to the Utes’ roster and started the final three games of Utah’s 2013 season. In all, he threw for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns to go with 25 carries for 78 yards in eight career games.
With John O’Korn looking for a new destination, Schulz will provide reinforcements for a quarterback depth chart that features incumbent Greg Ward, Jr., (2,010 passing yards, 573 rushing yards, 18 total touchdowns) and no other FBS experience.
Houston also announced the additions of junior college transfer tight end Rusty Clark and high school wide receiver Devin Smith.
The group should provide depth to an offense that ranked 58th nationally in yards per play and 60th in scoring offense in 2014.
It turns out there is more transfer news coming out regarding the Houston Cougars. Houston will reportedly be the new playing home for Oregon wide receiver Chance Allen, who has decided to transfer closer to home in order to be able to take care of his mother.
247 Sports first reported news of Allen decided to transfer out of the Oregon program, and Daily Emerald reported he will transfer to Houston to attend to the family situation.
Allen played in five games for the Pac-12 champions in 2014, but he did not record a single reception. Despite the lack of playing stats, he will still have to sit out a season of football before being eligible to play again at Houston due to NCAA transfer rules. The sophomore will be eligible to play again in 2016 with one year of eligibility to use.
It is reported he will file a waiver to be exempt from the standard NCAA transfer rules, and there is precedent for that exemption to be approved by the NCAA due to family.
It has been a busy time for Houston roster changes. Houston quarterback John O’Korn is officially on the move out of the program.