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Harbaugh not tipping hand on Michigan starting QB

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Wilton Speight

Ann Arbor – Michigan’s quarterback competition may be decided. Then again, it may not be. 

Obviously, someone has to start when the Wolverines open the season next Saturday against Hawaii, but Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh apparently hasn’t given Wilton Speight and John O’Korn, the two main competitors along with Shane Morris, any indication.

Harbaugh didn’t reveal his starter last season until Jake Rudock ran onto the field in the opener at Utah.

“I don’t know if any of us saw it going this far,” O’Korn said Friday. “I think it will continue. Whenever that decision comes it’s not really up to us. I don’t know if any of us knows when it’s coming.”

Speight said the starter will get a “feel” who will start.

“I’ve got a feel now, and everyone has a feel,” Speight said. “Again, it’s coach’s decision. Not many people really know what’s inside coach Harbaugh’s mind. He’s one of a kind. So, we’ll wait and see what he does.”

John O'Korn

Speight emerged from the spring with an edge over O’Korn, a transfer from Houston where he started as a freshman and was American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year. He sat out last season running the demonstration team. Speight was Rudock’s backup and led Michigan to a game-winning touchdown at Minnesota after Rudock left injured.

“I feel good about where I stand,” Speight said. “I’m moving the ball up and down the field. Making sure I move the chains, take care of the ball and just go to the right guys when they’re open. I felt I’ve done that pretty well.

“They haven’t said anything. You think back to last year, they didn’t tell us anything until Jake ran onto the field, and we knew. Guys kind of get a sense based on practice and stuff like that.”

O’Korn said he also has done a good job in camp moving the team.

“I think I’ve protected the football really well and continued to score touchdowns and lead touchdown drives,” he said. “As cliché as that is, that’s what it’s going to take.”

He was asked if he is basing things off “feel” as Speight is.


“There’s so much back and forth honestly,” O’Korn said. “You’d like to think you know. There’s honestly been times that I felt like I knew and I’m sure there are times he and Shane both felt like they knew. It’s not the case. Coach Harbaugh will tell you he’s in no rush to name a starter. Whether that happens before the first game or after the first game, it’s out of my hands. It’s out of our hands.”

Harbaugh and Jedd Fisch, Michigan quarterbacks coach and pass-game coordinator, have said they keep detailed charts on the quarterbacks. But it goes beyond keep track of completions and turnovers.

“Everything is being evaluated from the way we walk down the halls to the way we throw a pass on a certain route,” O’Korn said.

Speight said charting matters to an extent. But there has to be something that weighs the job in favor of one over the others.

Michigan quarterback Shane Morris

“At the end of the day they know,” Speight said. “It doesn’t come down to a bunch of numbers. It comes down to what they feel and who’s led the offense the best.”

They said knowing for sure now, or finding out on game day does not make a difference in preparation.

“I don’t think it should change, honestly,” O’Korn said. “Another cliché, if you’re the first guy or the second guy, say you’re the second guy, you’re a snap away, so you should be preparing just as hard as the starter.”

What they don’t expect is quarterback experimentation. Offensive coordinator Tim Drevno has said he does not prefer the idea of playing two quarterbacks. Speight said he believes the starter in the opener will be set for the season.

“That kind of backfired on Ohio State last year,” Speight said. “You saw J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. I don’t think coach (Harbaugh) having played the position would like that situation. Whoever comes out on top at the end of camp is for a reason. It’s not, ‘Oh, you’d better play well this drive or you’re going to be looking over your shoulder.’

“It’s tough to play well (in that setting). For Cardale to be looking over his shoulder all last year, it’s tough. And that’s not just because it’s Ohio State. (That’s in) any offense.”

Twitter: @chengelis