Harbaugh: Speight, O’Korn take the early lead at quarterback

And then there were two.

The three-horse race to ride the Wolverines into Dallas Sept. 2 for the season opener against Florida apparently is down to two as experience seems to be winning out for Michigan’s coveted starting quarterback position.

Fourth-year junior Wilton Speight and fifth-year senior John O’Korn have “separated themselves,” said Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Harbaugh looked a little tired but was in good spirits Friday night for his first meeting with the press since the Wolverines opened camp earlier in the week. He has said that historically it takes about eight to 15 practices before a quarterback steps up and begins to take the starting job. Speight, O’Korn and redshirt freshman Brandon Peters were the candidates heading into camp.

“John and Wilton have really stepped up,” he said. “They’ve created a little bit of separation and they are battling it now. One is with the ones and the next day the other is with the ones and the other is with the twos. But we are keeping a very close eye on it and it’s progressing well.”

Obviously, Peters lacks the experience of the other two and with such a young team on both sides of the ball, Harbaugh naturally will lean a little bit towards experience with everything else even.

“It’s just a process for (Peters),” Harbaugh said. “He’s competing hard and doing good. It’s not to say that anything is set in stone right now but the other two guys have created a little bit of separation.”

O’Korn played in eight games with his one start against Indiana (Nov. 19) where he completed 7-of-16 pass attempts for 59 yards while adding 19 yards on six rushes, including a 30-yard run.

He tossed his first touchdown as a Wolverine at Rutgers (Oct. 8), completing an 11-yard pass to Khalid Hill. He led three touchdown drives against the Scarlet Knights.

The Huntingdon, Pa., native completed 4-of-5 passes for 38 yards against Illinois (Oct. 22), including a season-long 23-yard connection.

Speight was a 2016 All-Big Ten third team (coaches and media) selection and has played in 19 career games with 12 starts at quarterback.

He tied for most touchdown passes in the first two games of a season by a Michigan quarterback with seven touchdowns passes. He also set the Michigan record for most passing yards in the first half of a game (292, vs. Maryland, Nov. 5, 2016).

The Richmond, Va., native completed 204-of-331 passes (61.6 pct.) for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns with seven interceptions last season.

In the final two games of the season last year, Speight completed 23-of-36 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns at Ohio State (Nov. 26), tossing a five-yard touchdown to Amara Darboh in the first overtime session on a fourth down play to keep the game alive; and completed 21-of-38 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown vs. Florida State in the Orange Bowl (Dec. 30).

Harbaugh greeted everyone inside Schembechler Hall on Friday with an overall update on the happenings on the field during week one.

“We had a good day today (Friday),” Harbaugh said wearing his traditional ‘M’ hat and a whistle still hanging down over his ‘M’ shirt. “Our guys had more energy and we’re moving around better. We had a bounce in our step.
“This will be a big weekend. The guys are going to get on the train and get into playing positions. This is a big weekend for it because we are going to start making those two-deep rosters soon. The train has already left the station and it’s picking up steam.”

The Wolverine Express will carry only the best in those top two spots at each position and from all reports competition has been at an impressive high since the first whistle was blown on Monday morning. Apparently, the quarterback position is one already close to being “two-deep.”

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