The plan was for Brandon Peters to get the ball in garbage time.
With just over three minutes remaining in the blowout Saturday night, Penn State took over possession. Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens kept the ball for an 11-yard rush on the first play of the series. The ball came free, and Michigan seemingly recovered the fumble. Upon further review, though, Stevens was ruled down, and the Nittany Lions killed the clock from there.
On Monday afternoon, Jim Harbaugh said that if the call had not been overturned, Michigan’s redshirt freshman quarterback would have led the Wolverines’ final offensive series.
That doesn’t mean much, if anything at all. Harbaugh said nothing Monday that would suggest fifth-year senior John O’Korn is no longer the Wolverines’ starter.
“I won’t go into everything, but he managed the game very well, got everything communicated, ran the offense very well,” Harbaugh said of O’Korn’s performance at Penn State. “There was some duress and some plays that we could have made, et cetera. (We’ll) go back and look at it. That’s what we’re in the process of doing. (There was) some good, kind of a theme for our offense. There were some (missed opportunities) out there as well.”
The outside clamor for Peters has escalated throughout the year, and the 42-13 loss to the Nittany Lions — a game in which O’Korn averaged six yards per attempt with a fumble — has pushed that din to excess.
Harbaugh did say Peters has been improving since he began taking backup snaps in the wake of redshirt junior quarterback Wilton Speight’s injury.
But based on Harbaugh’s comments, the clamor is just that. While the progress is there, the starting job — as the situation currently stands — is not.
For Peters to see time on the field this year, it appears that Michigan will need to establish comfortable leads or find itself in insurmountable deficits. And with an offense that ranks 98th in pass offense, that first hypothetical does not fall in the redshirt freshman’s favor.
As for the players’ own outlook, there is no discrepancy.
“Kind of a little tidbit from Coach Harbaugh, I don’t like to compare people because someone gets demoted in the comparison,” said junior wide receiver Grant Perry. “But they’re both great guys; they’re both great leaders. But Brandon is learning from John and John is learning from Brandon, and that’s just kind of the scheme of things — people learning from each other.”
Added fifth-year senior fullback Henry Poggi: “Brandon’s been developing really well. I remember when he came in for spring ball his freshman year. He’s just really grown from there. He’s going to be a really good player for us.”
The quarterback controversy, of course, is not new. Speight faced his fair share of criticism prior to sustaining a hit against Purdue on Sept. 23 that left him with three cracked vertebrae.
Harbaugh never confirmed that the injury would rule Speight out for the season, but did address Speight’s status Monday afternoon, drawing from his own experience in 1984 when he missed an entire season after breaking his arm against Michigan State.
“First and foremost, get healthy,” Harbaugh said. “That’s where you concentrate most of your efforts. That’s where most of his efforts are being concentrated. Every single minute of the day he’s getting treatment they tell me, the doctors and trainers. He’s at practice; I know he’s chomping at the bit. The bones healing back together, that takes time.”
Added fifth-year senior running back Ty Isaac: “I talk to (Wilton) all the time. (He’s) just dealing with an injury like anybody else would. You’ve gotta rehab and work to get back, and I know how bad he wants to keep playing right now, so I don’t think his spirits are diminished at all. He’s got a task at hand right now, even though it’s not playing for us, it’s getting healthy so he can get back on the field.”
Whether Speight does get back on the field this season remains to be seen.
And until then, the outside noise will continue to surround the man under center for the Wolverines. But taking Harbaugh’s comments into consideration, it’s just noise.