Preview 2016

Breaking Down The Michigan Quarterback Battle

The Michigan quarterback battle is one of the most engaging competitions this offseason, so let’s break down the Wolverines’ QB race.

2016 Michigan Preview

Jake Rudock was better than you think.

Michigan is supposed to be bigger and better than digging into Iowa’s garbage can for a quarterback, but that’s what it did when the Hawkeyes decided to go with C.J. Beathard as the starter and Rudock chose to transfer. He might have screwed up the opener against Utah, but Rudock settled down to throw for over 3,000 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions to usher in the Jim Harbaugh era.

Michigan, be better than Jake Rudock.

It’s okay to have a solid veteran who can get the job done, but Harbaugh is the guy who nearly turned Colin Kaepernick into Super Bowl Champion Colin Kaepernick. He made Josh Johnson college football’s most efficient passer at San Diego, and was good enough to recruit Andrew Luck to Stanford.

And now he has a wide array of quarterback options to choose from, with Michigan becoming the home for lots and lots and lots of passers yearning to be the main man.

Blowing off the walk-ons, Michigan has five quarterbacks in play for the starting job. Considering the head coach once ditched Alex Smith for Kaepernick, he’s never going to be afraid to do something bold.

So come fall, here’s the best guess on how the Michigan quarterback battle will shake out.

Sophomore Alex Malzone is a baller, but he had some off-the-field issues – the court dismissed the charge of driving on an altered license – and on the field he’s likely going to be the fifth-wheel on the depth chart. He’s got the arm, but he’s a smallish pro-style passer who has too much traffic ahead of him.

Hot-shot recruit Brandon Peters is the future, but the 6-foot-5, 205-pound true freshman is almost certainly going to redshirt unless there’s a total meltdown among the top options. Indiana’s Mr. Football has NFL tools – he just needs a little seasoning.

Shane Morris
was a superstar recruit for Brady Hoke, but he’s known best for being knocked into next Tuesday in the game against Minnesota a few years ago. It has never come together during his Wolverine career, and he’s more likely going to work at wide receiver while still serving as the No. 3 quarterback.

Houston transfer John O’Korn looked like the next big thing in 2013, throwing for 3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns with 10 picks as a freshman for the Cougars. Greg Ward became the main man in 2014, and O’Korn was off to Michigan where his combination of passing skills and mobility seemed perfect for Harbaugh.

It’s not that he’s been bad, he just hasn’t been able to take the job by the horns quite yet. He’s got the ability to stretch the field as well or better than any of the other Wolverine passers, and he has the experience he others don’t, but if the season began right now, he might not be the starter.

Wilton Speight
looked like a No. 1 quarterback in the spring game and might just be the safest of all options. O’Korn is better and Peters has the bigger upside, but Speight cranked up his production and steadiness this offseason. Hitting 5-of-6 passes for 46 yards and a score and running for another in a spring scrimmage hardly settled the issue, but he’s got the 6-foot-6, 239-pound size, just enough running ability to get by and, most importantly, the command and the poise.

This is also his moment to show what he could do when healthy, having suffered from a groin injury early last year. However, with just an okay arm compared to the other options, he’s more of the game manager type than the type of quarterback who can win games on his own. Being steady throughout fall camp will have to be enough to overcome a potentially spectacular run from one of the other quarterbacks.

Who’ll Be The Michigan Stating Quarterback?

Flip a coin between O’Korn and Speight winning the Michigan quarterback battle. With a phenomenal defense returning, a strong running game, and possibly the Big Ten’s best receiving corps, all the Wolverines need is a quarterback who won’t screw up. That’s Speight.

2016 Michigan Preview