O'Korn 'knows how to take command' of UM offense

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
John O'Korn

Ann Arbor — Michigan quarterback John O’Korn didn’t win the starting job coming out of preseason camp, but that apparently never stopped him from preparing week to week as a starter.

While Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh indicated again on Tuesday that starter Wilton Speight is questionable with an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder and is expected to miss some practice this week, O’Korn and Shane Morris are getting all the work in practice.

The fourth-ranked Wolverines are coming off their first loss of the season at Iowa last Saturday night and face Indiana on Saturday at Michigan Stadium in what will be the final home game for the seniors. Harbaugh has offered no timetable for Speight’s return but said Monday that reports he is done for the season are not accurate.

O’Korn, the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year in 2013 after his freshman season at Houston, has been the first in to take over for Speight in games this season. O’Korn sat out last season as part of NCAA transfer rules and led the Michigan scout team.

“All the quarterbacks were really playing well in the fall, and I think all of our quarterbacks have continued good play, improving play (this season),” Harbaugh said on the Big Ten call.

Chris Wormley, a senior defensive lineman and co-captain, said he’s always been impressed by O’Korn’s work ethic.

“John’s been doing a great job all year being a leader,” Wormley said Tuesday night after practice. “He watches film after practice probably more than I’ve ever seen at the college level, which is weird (for someone) who isn’t asked to play as much as he does. He’s not the starter.

“Him doing that for the last two, three months it’s going to help him out big time when he’s starting Saturday. I’m excited to see what he can do and what he can do for our offense.”

Speight 'remains questionable' for Indiana game

Wormley said he admires O’Korn’s work ethic and sometimes wishes he were as diligent in terms of studying. He believes the experience O’Korn had as a starter at Houston has kept him in the mindset he must always study and take notes and be attentive to detail.

“When you’re called you’ve got to be ready, so he’s been working this whole season to be the starter,” Wormley said. “He fell short at the beginning of the season but he still worked as hard as if he were the starter. It’s nice to see somebody is working as hard as they can when maybe coach Harbaugh or coach (Jedd) Fisch doesn’t see him watching film for a couple hours after practice.”

O’Korn was quite the scout-team leader last fall. Fisch, the pass-game coordinator, raved a year ago about how O’Korn was preparing the defense each week.

And that’s when Wormley said he first saw his leadership.

“You could see him getting the guys together, running the offense like it was Michigan’s first offense, getting the guys together, getting them motivated and ready to play,” Wormley said. “He might have won scout player of the week six or seven times, which is crazy. He knows how to take command of the offense and control the offense.”

Freshman tailback Chris Evans said O’Korn has had two solid practices so far this week.

“Everybody on the team is kind of bringing him up, letting him know we’re here for you,” Evans said. “I sent him a text message talking about how good he’s going to be this week and just being there for him because I would want him to do that for me.”

What has Evans liked most about O’Korn in practice this week?

“His leadership, making sure everybody is in the right places at the right time and just being vocal for everybody,” Evans said.

The Wolverines said Monday and Tuesday they are confident with O’Korn and Morris as the quarterbacks.

“Wilton is a great player, but he’s not the only one who made the Michigan offense and the Michigan football team as a whole great,” Wormley said. “There’s a lot of pieces that work together and a lot of pieces that have come together as a team to make us as good as we’ve been this season.”

Tight end Jake Butt on Monday said he seems similarities between Speight and O’Korn. Speight, however, is 6-foot-6, 243 pounds while O’Korn is 6-4, 215. O’Korn looks to run more than Speight.

“We’re going to be running the same exact plays,” Butt said. “John has been doing a great job understanding his role and he’s been ready every single week and preparing every single week as if he were the starter. If his number is called, everyone’s confident John will be able to get this job done for us.

“They both put it where it needs to be. They both have great arms, great accuracy, both are throwing tight spirals, they spin the ball really well. John might rely on his feet a little bit more, as we saw in the spring game. Wilton’s a little bit bigger and can stand in the pocket. The name of the game is just find a way to get the job done. Both have done that, can do that and will do that.”

Wormley chuckled a bit as he shared his impressions of how O’Korn differs from Speight.

“He’s a little more athletic than Wilton. You see Wilton try and scramble and it looks like it hurts,” Wormley said, laughing. “But O’Korn, he’s a little shiftier, he’s a little faster and more athletic. He’s got a great arm. I’m excited to see what he can do.”


Twitter.com: @chengelis