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Harbaugh keeps QB contest his secret

08/12/2017, 12:05am EDT

O’Korn, Speight at top of Wolverines’ list

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is keeping the Wolverine's QB contest close to his chest. ASSOCIATED PRESS

ANN ARBOR — He has spoken.

Well, sort of.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media Friday for the first time during fall camp, and the guarded coach talked a lot without revealing many details.

Perhaps the biggest nugget of news was in regards to Michigan’s ongoing quarterback derby.

“John [O’Korn] and Wilton [Speight] have really stepped up,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve created a little bit of separation, they’re battling. We’re keeping a very close eye on it.”

Speight’s starting job was not secure, according to Harbaugh, despite his clear advantage in experience. 

Speight completed more than 61 percent of his passes last season for 2,538 yards, 18 touchdowns, and seven interceptions.

During the offseason, it seemed as if Harbaugh was making Speight the face of the program, which made Harbaugh’s comments at Big Ten media days — that Speight, O’Korn, and Brandon Peters were all even — so surprising.

Peters was a spring sensation, becoming a twinkling curiosity for coaches and fans because of his consistent spiral and accuracy. Quite simply, Peters looked like a prototypical quarterback.

Harbaugh’s muted praise of the redshirt freshman seemed to signal that Peters’ chances of being the opening day starter were null and void.

“It’s a process for him,” Harbaugh said. “He’s competing hard and doing good. Nothing is set in stone right now. I just think [Speight and O’Korn] have created a little bit of separation.”

Quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton noted Tuesday that Michigan had several quarterbacks that potentially could be the starter. Harbaugh said it would take 10 to 15 practices before one of the signal callers solidified their status.

That magic number is fast approaching.

“This will be a big weekend,” Harbaugh said. “Guys are going to get on the train and get into playing position. 

“We’re going to start making those two-deep rosters soon. The train has already left the station, and it’s picking up steam.”

Harbaugh’s history with the quarterback position is well-documented — he starred at Michigan and in the NFL at the position and, since becoming a coach, he has turned into a quarterback whisperer of sorts, routinely getting every ounce of production out of his passer.

Hamilton, who replaced Jedd Fisch in the offseason, also is a noted quarterback genie. He brings a wealth of NFL experience to Ann Arbor, and coached Andrew Luck with Harbaugh at Stanford before a three-year stint as Luck’s offensive coordinator in Indianapolis.

How should Michigan’s starting quarterback operate?

“They all have to execute our offense at a high level,” Hamilton said. “Our goal is to score the ball every time we have the ball. In attempting to do just that, the guy that can manage bad plays when the play breaks down and ultimately mitigate situations where we could have a negative play is a guy we would hope could be the guy that could lead our offense.”

Speight seems to fit the bill for what Harbaugh and Hamilton covet. But nothing is likely to be revealed until someone lines up behind center against Florida.

Asked if he would give the media a glimpse of the two-deep roster, Harbaugh smiled and said, “No, I didn’t say that.”

Contact Kyle Rowland at, 419-724-6110 or on Twitter @KyleRowland.

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Tag(s): College  Michigan