When John O’Korn made the decision to transfer to Michigan last winter, he was viewed as one of a glut of quarterbacks Jim Harbaugh had to work with during his first few months on the job.
The junior quarterback from Houston, however, has had a different role than the rest of them. Unlike Jake Rudock, Shane Morris, Wilton Speight, Zach Gentry and Alex Malzone, the other scholarship quarterbacks on Michigan’s roster, O’Korn is unable to play this season because of NCAA transfer rules.
Other than Rudock, O’Korn has had more playing experience than the rest of the Wolverines’ quarterbacks. He started 11 out of 13 games for the Cougars as a freshman in 2013, throwing for 3,117 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was named the American Athletic Conference’s Rookie of the Year after the season.
O’Korn, though, struggled as a sophomore, and was relegated to the bench after starting the first five games of the season under a new offensive coordinator. He made the decision to transfer to Michigan after the 2014 season.
While he won’t see the field for the Wolverines this year, O’Korn plays a key role for the team in practice, leading the scout-team offense. He mimics the looks of Michigan’s opponents, preparing the defense for what will come its way Saturday.
He doesn’t take the task lightly.
“He’s a competitor, a great quarterback,” said Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. “He doesn’t take any B.S. from the defense at all. That’s why I like him. He’s got a little feistiness to him. I think he’s got a really bright future at quarterback.”
He will have his chance. The starting quarterback spot for next season will be very much up for grabs once Rudock departs, and O’Korn is expected to be in the mix.
O’Korn and Rudock are currently roommates. They attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. together, though Rudock is two years older than O’Korn. The experience of living with Rudock, according to Michigan passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch, has helped O’Korn.
“They study with each other, they test one another,” Fisch said. “You know, you can’t play this game if you only look at it within the confines of these walls. It’s an opportunity for them to go out, and John’s growth occurs because of the fact that he’s constantly testing Jake. It’s like a teacher-student type deal. He’s learning from it, and they’re continuing to switch responsibilities there.”
Because Fisch generally works with the first-team offense, he doesn’t see much of O’Korn in practice when he plays with the scout team. He has been impressed, though, by what he has seen from O’Korn in the meeting room. The quarterback doesn’t have the demeanor of someone who knows he isn’t going to play this season.
Fisch has studied O’Korn’s game in the past, both from when the quarterback was in high school and Fisch was the offensive coordinator at Miami, and from when O’Korn was at Houston. In Fisch’s eyes, little has changed.
“He’s got a gifted arm, he’s a good athlete, and it means a lot to him,” Fisch said.
Whether that translates into a starting job next season has yet to be determined.