No pecking order as Michigan QB competition opens in Florida
BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) There is no pecking order in Michigan's quarterback competition this week in Florida.
While the unique setup of Jim Harbaugh's latest attention-getting idea has been the main story line during Michigan's spring practice at the IMG Academy, the Wolverines do have work to do on the field.
Among the top priorities is finding a starting quarterback to replace Jake Rudock, the Iowa transfer who helped Michigan to 10 wins last season.
Another transfer, John O'Korn from Houston, is the presumptive front-runner, but he is one of five quarterbacks from which Harbaugh has to choose.
''Jim and (quarterbacks coach) Jedd (Fisch) have done a good job with them, progressing them,'' offensive coordinator Tim Drevno said Thursday after the third of four practices at IMG Academy, a boarding school of elite athletes. ''I'm very pleased with all of them. We're rotating them through. There's no person that's going with the ones. We're just rolling the balls out and playing football and seeing where it takes us.''
Michigan wraps up its fun-and-football-in-the-sun spring break Friday with a practice that will be open to the public and held in IMG's 5,000-seat stadium.
''I think it's completely normal for them,'' said Drevno, who also coaches the offensive line. ''This is a team that's mature and really handles tasks. I don't see anything different. Just the great team bonding down here.''
Unlike Rudock, who was a graduate transfer and one-and-done at Michigan, O'Korn was a more typical transfer. He arrived last year and sat out last season, fulfilling NCAA rules.
O'Korn was a star in his freshman season at Houston. He was the American Athletic Conference's top newcomer, throwing for 3,117 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
His sophomore season was a mess. O'Korn's completion percentage fell to 52 percent and he threw six touchdowns and eight interceptions in six games. After the season, coach Tony Levine was fired and O'Korn transferred.
Michigan is hoping O'Korn can blossom under Harbaugh the way Rudock did. Rudock threw for at least 256 yards in each of his final five games, with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions.
With a full season to learn the system, O'Korn should be way ahead of Rudock.
''He has a really good leadership in the huddle,'' Drevno said. ''Like all those guys.''
Juniors Shane Morris and Wilton Speight are O'Korn's top competition. The Wolverines also have sophomore Alex Malzone and freshman Brandon Peters, who enrolled in January.
Morris came to Michigan as a five-star recruit, one of the prize prospects of Brady Hoke's four-year tenure as coach in Ann Arbor. Morris played sparingly in his first two seasons, did not show much when he did get on the field, and is best known for being allowed to keep playing in a game after taking a hit that left him with a concussion.
Harbaugh and his staff hit the reset button on Morris' career last season, redshirting him to leave him with two more years of eligibility.
''He's a fighter,'' Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis said of Morris.
Speight served as Rudock's backup last season. He appeared in six games, mostly mopping up. His shining moment came against Minnesota, when he directed Michigan's game-winning drive after Rudock went out with an injury.
''All those guys are competitors,'' Lewis said. ''They're making the right throws. They're out here looking comfortable. Even from the freshman Peters to O'Korn. Shane. They're throwing the ball with confidence.''
Drevno said there was no timetable to start whittling down the field of quarterbacks. The competition is likely to be settled in August.
''You have to prove yourself every time you take the practice field,'' Drevno said. ''Compete, compete, compete.''
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