DETROIT — Around 1 p.m. Saturday, when the Michigan football team split into offense and defense for live practice, redshirt sophomore Wilton Speight took the first snap under center.
But Jim Harbaugh’s second quarterback competition at Michigan continues to rage on.
“We’re looking for a quarterback who can move the team and not make the big mistake,” Harbaugh said. “They’re all in the mode of a big mistake a day, so we’re just going to keep plugging away and keep getting better, give them things they can improve on, things they can take and use.
“Looking forward to the game setting, that will be another good test. They’re getting a lot of tests right now. Strides are being made, but we’ve still got a long road to go.”
Harbaugh admitted “it’s not dead-even anymore,” with Speight and redshirt juniors John O’Korn and Shane Morris out in front of the rest, but he declined to name an order between the three.
Speight, O’Korn and Morris took almost all of the reps Saturday, while early enrollee Brandon Peters stepped in sporadically during the Wolverines’ open practice at Ford Field on Saturday. Early on, Speight was first to step in with the first team, but O’Korn nearly evened it out as the afternoon went on. Morris was largely entrenched on the third string.
While Speight spent more time with the first team, O’Korn delivered more highlight plays. He threw the first touchdown pass to fifth-year senior wide receiver Amara Darboh, one of few healthy regulars at wide receiver. Later, he hit sophomore wide receiver Grant Perry from near midfield for a long touchdown pass.
Still, the biggest play of the day may have come from redshirt freshman tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr., who hauled in a one-handed catch from Peters, then outran the secondary for a 70-yard touchdown.
Other than those plays, the offense struggled to connect downfield, checking down to short routes for tight ends and running backs. Redshirt freshman Zach Gentry, a convert from quarterback, made the most plays at tight end.
Speight, O’Korn and Morris will have their last battle together until the summer when they play live action — and live hits — Friday night in the Spring Game at Michigan Stadium, where the quarterbacks will face live hits from the defense. The team has not yet released rosters for the game.
“It means a lot to all of them,” Harbaugh said. “You can tell the way they play, just continuing to be able to play loose but play smart, continue to get repetition, continue to get looks, learn. That’s what they need to see right now. Looking forward to some game-like action.
“That’ll be a nice, good-sized test for us. Looking forward to seeing how that plays out.”