Wolverines: O’Korn will be OK if Speight can’t play

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight is tackled by Iowa defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie in the fourth quarter.

Ann Arbor – It could be a game-time decision whether Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight will be healthy enough to start Saturday when the Wolverines play Indiana.

Speight took two hard shots to his left (non-throwing) shoulder late in the loss at Iowa last Saturday.

“I’ve felt better, but I’m all right,” Speight said after the game.

But Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday at his weekly news conference he will “know more later” in the week about Speight’s status. He would not go into specifics of the injury.

“Could be,” Harbaugh said when asked if it could be a game-time decision. “When we’ll know is based on what the doctors say and how Wilton feels.”

Harbaugh at his radio show Monday night said reports that Speight is out for the season are "incorrect."

Jon Jansen, who hosted the show from the Pizza House, asked Harbaugh about reports circulating that Speight is done for the season.

"The report you're referring to that he's out for the season, I have not heard that from the doctors, so that's incorrect."

Harbaugh again said that it could be a game-time decision whether Speight plays against Indiana.

"He's going to be out of practice for a couple days," Harbaugh said.

Michigan's regular season ends the following week at Ohio State.

Speight has started every game for the Wolverines (9-1) this season. He has completed 62.3 percent of his 257 attempts this season for 2,156 yards. He has thrown for 15 touchdowns – and run for one – and has four interceptions.

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John O’Korn is the backup along with Shane Morris. Harbaugh said he is confident in both.

“I anticipate today and the next couple of days, at least that they’ll get the majority of the reps,” Harbaugh said. “It will be good practice for them. They’ve both had extensive practice time through the course of the year and we’re confident they will do a good job.”

O’Korn, a transfer from Houston who sat out last season per NCAA rules, has appeared in seven games this season. He is 13-of-18 for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Most recently, he and freshman Kekoa Crawford connected on a nine-yard touchdown pass against Maryland. He made 16 starts at Houston and was the American Athletic Conference rookie of the year in 2013.

Morris has been in six games this season. He is 4-of-5 passing for 45 yards.

“If John’s number is called we’re fully confident in him,” tight end and co-captain Jake Butt said Monday. “We’ve seen what he can do. Since he got here, he’s been a hard worker, great note-taker, great leader. He’s got everything you need to do to get the job done. If his number is called, if it turns out Wilton can’t go, he’ll be ready to go. We’re fully confident in him.”

Speight is 6-foot-6, 243 pounds while O’Korn is 6-4, 215. O’Korn looks to run more than Speight.

“Him and Wilton are pretty similar quarterbacks,” Butt said. “We’re going to be running the same exact plays. 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.

“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.”

Speight emerged as the leader in the quarterback race after the spring and won it in preseason camp, although many thought the job would go to O’Korn, following in the footsteps of Jake Rudock, last year’s starter who transferred from Iowa.

O’Korn did not win the job and yet has stayed engaged in the process all along.

“It’s tough but it speaks to the kind of person he is,” Butt said. “That’s kind of where the confidence starts and comes from is the way John’s prepared. Even when he redshirted last year and couldn’t play, he was sitting in the front row every meeting, probably one of the best note-takers on the team, always wanted to be the first guy in watching film. That preparation speaks to the way he is as a player, as a person, and as a leader. That’s where the confidence comes from.”

Defensive lineman Maurice Hurst got to know O’Korn last season when he was leading the scout team against the defense in practices. He describes O’Korn as religious and leads the players in prayer.

“He’s a great leader and person,” Hurst said. “He did a great job, phenomenal job when he was running our scout team. He was making a lot of great throws and plays against us. He works hard and does his job. He knows his role and he’s always there putting in extra work.”

And he’s mobile.

“Oh, yeah,” Hurst said. “We always have our scrimmages on Fridays. We got to see John get after it in a live sense. He’s a great quarterback and a special athlete.”