Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that redshirt freshman Brandon Peters will “likely” get the first start of his career this weekend against Minnesota.
“We’re going to prepare both quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said. “It’s likely that Brandon will play. It’s likely he’ll start too.”
Harbaugh did not give a definitive answer as to whether Peters or fifth-year senior John O’Korn would take the first snap, but in a lexical tug-of-war-esque press conference, he insisted that Peters would absolutely see additional playing time.
“We’re going in the way we have, preparing both quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not naming a starter today. We’ll see how the week progresses. Our system is a meritocracy where the best players play.”
Peters threw for 124 yards, completed 10 of 14 attempts and passed his first career touchdown against Rutgers on Saturday.
He adjusted well to his first major collegiate appearance but faces a bigger test this week against Minnesota. Rutgers gives up an average of 213 passing yards per game, and the Golden Gophers allow just 184. Harbaugh said that he is really looking to see how Peters builds on the successes he had against the Scarlet Knights.
And after jokingly going back and forth with reporters about the meaning of the word “likely,” Harbaugh attempted to clear the ambiguity.
“Brandon is definitely going to play. I’d say the 51 percent would be on the side of him starting,” Harbaugh said.
All in all, Harbaugh at no point definitively said that either Peters or O’Korn would start, but it does seem more probable than not that Peters will be the one to step out on the field with the Wolverines’ starting offense.
The Little Brown Jug
Fifth-year senior linebacker Mike McCray remembers losing to Minnesota three years ago. Then in his redshirt freshman season, McCray watched as the Golden Gophers stole back the Little Brown Jug trophy.
That year was 2014, the same year that Michigan went 5-7 and failed to make a bowl game, and the first year that Minnesota beat the Wolverines since 2005.
“They came in here and blew us out,” McCray said. “For me, most of the guys weren’t here for that. That’s one thing that’s in the back of some of our minds. … That year wasn’t a good year. The atmosphere is a lot better (now). … Rivalry games are always close, good games. Gotta stay level-headed. Don’t get too high, don’t get too low, just go out, compete and have fun.”
While the rivalry with the Golden Gophers doesn’t garner the same hype and attention as the games against Ohio State and Michigan State, McCray still relishes the chance to play for some hardware.
And when your team is expected to win the rivalry as often as Michigan is, losing can be even more uncomfortable for the Wolverines.
“As a kid, you always wanted a trophy,” McCray said. “I feel like it’s the same thing when you come to college. You win that game — you keep the trophy. That game (in 2014) was one of those awkward games that sits in your mind for a while.”
Walker getting more snaps
Redshirt freshman running back Kareem Walker has finally started to see time in the deep tailback rotation.
Whatever it is that Walker is doing in practice, it’s paying off on the field.
“He’s demonstrated a good, hard running style,” Harbaugh said. “The way he runs — feet are turning over fast, he’s picking the right hole, finishes runs with a nice lean forward. He’s the aggressor, not the aggressee.”
Walker was the nation’s fourth-ranked running back in his recruiting class, but did not play last year when Harbaugh said that he was “working through some things academically.”
This year, Walker has appeared in three games — Purdue, Indiana and Rutgers — rushing for a total of 49 yards. He ran for his first touchdown on a five-yard rush in the third quarter against the Scarlet Knights.
While he is still behind junior Karan Higdon and fifth-year senior Ty Isaac on the depth chart, he’s starting to make a bigger impact, and showing signs that he will be a big part of the Wolverines’ offense in the coming years.