Michigan would love for No. 1 QB to emerge now

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Shane Morris

Ann Arbor – Michigan is in its third week of spring practice and no one seems to be concerned a quarterback hasn’t separated himself from the pack and started to surge.

Shane Morris, John O’Korn and Wilton Speight continue to share equal reps.

“We’re in no rush,” Jedd Fisch, Michigan’s pass game coordinator / receivers coach, said Tuesday night after practice. “Somebody needs to become the guy, and we’ve got time to figure that out.

“We’re coaching ‘em very hard every day. The development will come from repetition, from film study, from how they want to work outside of the meeting room, outside of the coaching, how much can they take from what coach (Jim) Harbaugh and coach (Tim) Drevno or myself have told them and what can they do with it. Once we leave the room, how can they get better?”

A year ago at this time, Morris entered spring practice as the only quarterback with experience. He had two starts during his Michigan career and emerged from the spring game as the leader. But then Iowa graduate transfer Jake Rudock, who had started two seasons for the Hawkeyes, arrived in May, and he won the job in preseason camp.

Morris still only has two starts after redshirting last season while Speight was the backup. O’Korn, the Rookie of the Year as a freshman in the American Athletic Conference, sat out last season as a transfer from Houston and ran the Wolverines’ demonstration team.

Wilton Speight

“I don’t think it’s a John or Shane (competition),” Fisch said. “The quarterbacks have to work, they have to complete passes, they have to not turn the ball over, they have to not take sacks, they have to avoid negative plays, and we grade them on that. They have to have the highest number, the highest points, and if they can do that, they can take the lead into the fall.”

Fisch was asked if he’s at all disappointed one of the quarterbacks at this point in the spring hasn’t at least edged ahead a bit.

“Anybody who wants to edge ahead, certainly can,” Fisch said. “I tell them that all the time -- anybody that can do that, please feel free. But, we’re not going to force it. We have not decided that we’re going to say, ‘OK, you’re it.’ Just keep going, keep competing, keep finding a way and then it will happen, it always happens. You always find the starter.”

Morris, the big-armed left-hander, has developed touch in his throws.

“Shane is working at it very hard. He’s working at that part of his game,” Fisch said. “There’s always a challenge, you work on developing touch, and then I tell him, ‘Rip the ball in there,’ and he says, ‘Wait, am I developing touch or am I ripping the ball in there?’ Everything is based on understanding shot selection. Whatever sport you’re playing, you have to understand shot selection. And he has to understand throw selection.”

The challenge for O’Korn’s mirrors that of the other quarterbacks.

“He needs to go out and make more consistent plays,” Fisch said. “They’re all doing well, it’s a matter of watching them trying to find ways to get better.”

Early-enrollee freshman Brandon Peters has impressed Harbaugh and Fisch.

“Brandon has worked really hard and is trying to catch up and trying to feel his way through and is continuing to improve and continuing to understand how it feels to get better,” Fisch said. “He’s beginning to know more answers.”

John O'Korn

Receivers stepping up

Although receiver Jehu Chesson, voted team MVP last season, has not practiced yet this spring while recovering from a leg injury suffered in the bowl game, the receivers apparently are continuing to impress Fisch.

Amara Darboh, in particular, has drawn attention. Darboh led the team in receptions last season with 58 and had 727 yards (55.9 average) and five touchdowns. Chesson had 50 catches for 764 yards and nine touchdowns. Tight end Jake Butt had 51 catches.

“Really working hard at his craft,” Fisch said of Darboh. “It felt like he picked up where he left off against Florida (in the bowl game).”

Fisch said Grant Perry and Maurice Ways have had good springs, and he praised early-enrollee freshman Ahmir Mitchell. Drake Harris, nagged by injuries, had his best practice Tuesday.

“He has amazing jumping ability,” Fisch said of Harris. “He’s shown that ability.”

Fisch wants more production out of the third receiver this fall.

“We need someone else to be in that range of 40 or 50 catches. We need Amara and Jehu to be in the range of 75 catches, and the third receiver is at 20 catches,” he said. “Give us two more first downs a game, give us one more explosive play a game, keeps us on the field one more drive. It will be fun to see what these guys can do.”