The Michigan football team seems to be in no rush to announce its starting quarterback.
That’s usually a phrase reserved for August. But after redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight went down with an undisclosed shoulder injury in the Iowa game two weeks ago, the Wolverines are (at least publicly) in the dark about who will start against Ohio State on Saturday.
Redshirt junior John O’Korn started last week against Indiana and would stand to lead the Wolverines offense again if Speight can’t go.
In his weekly press conference Monday, Harbaugh said Speight has looked better every day. But he didn’t say much more.
“To clarify, I’m not a doctor,” Harbaugh said. “No medical degree. Didn’t even take any medical classes in college. But to my eye, he’s looked better every day.”
The status of Speight, who guided Michigan to a rank among the nation’s best offenses for the first nine games of the season, has been a constant topic of conversation this week. Fifth-year senior receiver Amara Darboh said that Speight “seemed fine” and has been taking reps in practice this week.
Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno said Speight was day-to-day and that Harbaugh would make the final decision with the team doctors.
“I think you can (make the decision) whenever you can do it,” Drevno said. “We’ve had guys before, Frank Gore when we were (with the San Francisco 49ers), he was kind of a little banged up, we took him out and warmed him up, he looked good and made the decision. You’ve got the head coach, you’ve got the doctors, you’ve got the trainers and you make what’s the best decision for that young man’s health and for the football team.”
Drevno said Speight wasn’t one to lobby coaches to play throughout the week, though he did say Speight was ready to go if he was able. But when he was asked whether the determining factor would be whether Speight could play, or whether a banged up version would be better than O’Korn, Drevno was non-specific.
“We want the best for Wilton and for our football team,” he said.
Speight warmed up in a limited capacity last Saturday, but he never played in the game. O’Korn completed seven of 16 passes for 59 yards against the Hoosiers, a performance that didn’t inspire excessive optimism from fans. The two were long said to be locked in a tight quarterback battle, and O’Korn is surely capable of doing more than he did Saturday.
But in the biggest game Michigan has played in years, quarterback play will be under the microscope. Ohio State has picked off 17 passes this season, tied for the fifth-most in the country. The Buckeyes’ 24 sacks are not overwhelming, but they mean O’Korn or Speight can expect to be sacked a couple of times. And with the intensity inherent to rivalry games, that pressure could be even greater.
As the days tick past, that pressure looms. But there has been no sense of urgency from the Wolverines, even with the most important position on the field still uncertain.
“Regardless of who it is,” Darboh said, “I think they’re going to give it their all come Saturday.”