Ann Arbor – With Michigan preparing backup John O’Korn to likely start this weekend, the running backs aren’t feeling added pressure to shoulder more responsibility.
Starting quarterback Wilton Speight endured an unspecified injury to his left, non-throwing shoulder late in the game last Saturday at Iowa. While Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has said Speight’s availability could be a game-time decision, he said backups John O’Korn and Shane Morris are taking the first-team snaps this week in practice.
Speight was seen walking out of Schembechler Hall without a sling or anything that seemed to be supporting his left arm.
From all indications, O’Korn, the No. 2 quarterback, will start against Indiana on Saturday at Michigan Stadium, the last home regular-season game. He is 13-of-18 this season for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He also has six carries for 12 yards.
Running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley said his group is not feeling like they have to shoulder more with the change to O’Korn.
“The thing of it is, we don’t look at the quarterback going down as a rallying cry,” Wheatley said Wednesday before practice. “Week in and week out, we always look at what is our job, first and foremost.
“O’Korn is going to do well. You don’t look at it as a drop-off, you don’t look at it as ‘Hey, it falls on us.’ To be honest with you, it always falls on us (running backs). That’s the way I like to look at it. Nothing different. Nothing different.”
Wheatley said he is so focused on the running backs in practice that he hasn’t studied O’Korn in practice this week, but he doesn’t detect a drop off.
“To be honest with you, from Wilt to O’Korn, I’m in practice watching my guys, concentrating on what I’ve got to do, you don’t really notice a difference in the quarterbacks that’s in there,” Wheatley said. “It’s just a change. Little idiosyncrasies for the guys in huddle like how they call the play the cadence might be a little different, but for me, watching my players, it’s not like you’re saying, ‘Wow, it’s such a difference in quarterbacks it’s that noticeable.’”
Backs coming along
Freshmen running backs Kareem Walker and Kingston Davis are coming along, Wheatley said.
“Kingston and Kareem are still developing, still growing,” Wheatley said. “Some guys just take a little longer.”
Davis is 6-foot-1, 245 pounds and has been dealing with a knee issue, Wheatley said, and the 6-1, 207-pound Walker initially had academic issues he has worked through, Harbaugh has said.
Getting Johnson back
Veteran back Drake Johnson, hampered by a hamstring injury and unable to play this season, is hopeful to get a medical redshirt to return next season.
Wheatley referred to him as “Father Time” and said it would be great to have a veteran like Johnson in the position room next season.
“Drake is awesome in the room,” Wheatley said. “Incredible with the younger guys, so it’s like having an assistant coach in there. It would be great to have him back. A security blanket so to speak. It’s not that he’s going tob e a security blanket, he’ll play, he’ll do some things for us.
“It’s always nice to have a guy you don’t have to really worry about. Just keep sharpening his tools, keep getting him ready, but at the same time he’s helping the younger guys get better and then he’s also, as I said, a security guy, if something happens, he can go in without a flinch.”