In the most Jim Harbaugh way imaginable, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh made his presence at Big Ten Media Day on Tuesday dressed as if he was getting ready to coach on a Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor.
He was also prepared to answer any and all questions regarding the 2017 Wolverines and what the upcoming season entails for them. A team that features a lot of roster change and questions from a year ago, there appears to be nothing set in stone at the quarterback position for Michigan.
Though Harbaugh did provide a brief handicapping of the position battle as the team enters fall camp in the coming days.
“(Wilton Speight) is in a good spot,” Harbaugh said. “He comes in really tied for first with John O’Korn and Brandon Peters, legitimately, through competition, throughout all the spring, went through 15 practices and was a dead heat. But the good news is they all did some things. … Brandon really shot up. John O’Korn really played consistently good. And Wilton really had some impressive moments as well.”
Senior Wilton Speight got the starting nod in 2016, starting in 12 of the team’s 13 games. While he did not blow up the stat sheet by any means, Speight proved to be a very commendable and adequate signal-caller for Harbaugh, complemented with an above-average running back carousel and NFL-caliber weapons to throw to.
Much of that has disappeared from last year’s team, however. Speight has gotten some preseason national recognition in the last week or so, being named to the Maxwell Award watch list (top overall player) as well as the Davey O’Brien Award watch list (top quarterback).
This is not all that surprising to hear from Harbaugh around this time. In fact, it’s been standard protocol for him at Michigan and really any coaching stop he’s had, as he takes time during the spring and summer months to determine the best suited quarterback for his team.
“There’s a lot a quarterback can do over the summer to get better at playing quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “It’s one of those positions, like a kicker. A quarterback can just go out there and throw balls on the net, can work on their drops. There’s a lot of ways that they don’t even need other players to be out there to improve some part of their skill game.
“So you want to see what’s transpired over the summer and see who has gotten better.”
Harbaugh specifically mentions fifth-year senior John O’Korn and redshirt freshman Brandon Peters. The former O’Korn announced back in January he would return to the Wolverines this season. The latter Peters enters the fray after sitting out his first year; he was a 4-star prospect and top overall player in the state of Indiana from the Class of 2016.
The depth at quarterback was whittled down some after Shane Morris announced he would transfer out and finish his career at Central Michigan this season.
Michigan begins fall camp next Monday, July 31. Harbaugh says that he expects to have a starting quarterback named after somewhere between 8-15 practices. And while all three candidates feature their own highs and lows, the constant remains the same.
“The biggest thing I want to see out of the quarterback is I want to see who can consistently move the team,” Harbaugh said. “… We’ll go through training camp starting on Monday, just throw the balls out there and let the fellas compete.”
Michigan begins the 2017 season on Saturday, September 7 down in Arlington, Texas against Florida.