2016 Season Countdown: #22 John O’Korn

2016 Season Countdown: #22 John O’Korn

August 20, 2016

John O'Korn 230x

John O’Korn (image via MLive)

Name: John O’Korn
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 215 lbs.
High school: Ft. Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas
Position: Quarterback
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #8
Last year: I ranked O’Korn #91 and said he would redshirt (LINK). He redshirted and I am Nostradamus.

O’Korn spent the 2015 season redshirting after transferring from Houston.

He didn’t sit around and twiddle his thumbs, though. He was the scout team quarterback most of the time, and some observers said he was the best quarterback on the roster, and that included the option of starter Jake Rudock. Rudock threw for over 3,000 yards, got drafted, and has completed about 80% of his passes in two NFL pre-season games. To say O’Korn was better than him might be a stretch, especially because here I have him sitting at #22 on the team, and a starting quarterback should be higher than #22.

You may have guessed by now that I’m pegging Wilton Speight as the starter. I like the physical tools that I’ve seen from O’Korn, both at Houston and in the practices where I’ve seen him. He is a better athlete and a more natural quarterback than Speight. They say slow and steady wins the race, and while that’s not always true . . .

. . . it may hold some water in the quarterback battle. O’Korn has starting experience from Houston, he runs well, and he has a strong arm. You keep hearing that he makes more bad decisions or turnovers, though, and that’s a problem for a ball control offense. Jim Harbaugh won’t settle for a QB who throws 25 touchdowns and 25 interceptions, at least not if he can help it. I don’t think O’Korn would be that careless after spending two seasons at Michigan, but I do think Harbaugh would rather have a guy with an 18:5 TD-to-INT ratio than a 1:1.

O’Korn still has some considerable value here at #22. First, he may still earn the starting job, whether it’s for the opener against Hawaii or if Speight doesn’t play up to Harbaugh’s standards. Second, a backup QB is often needed in key situations, just like Speight was needed against Minnesota last season after Rudock got injured. And third, as Harbaugh likes to say, steel sharpens steel. Even if O’Korn doesn’t take a single snap this year, his presence will keep Speight working hard to hold on to the pole position.

Prediction: Backup quarterback


  1. Avatar
    Comments: 48
    Joined: 1/2/2016
    Aug 20, 2016 at 7:58 AM

    Jet curious, whom would you favor to start?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3849
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 20, 2016 at 8:57 AM

      I don’t know for sure, because I haven’t seen enough of either one. I like O’Korn more overall because of what he brings to the table as a scrambler/runner, but also because he has a lot more playing experience. I don’t see Speight as anything special, but if we can run the ball and manufacture offense with yards after the catch, Peppers playing offense, etc., then I think he can do fine.

  2. DonAZ
    Comments: 523
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Aug 20, 2016 at 8:01 AM

    Harbaugh himself has said the key to QB is avoiding the big mistakes. What’s not quite so clear is whether O’Korn is making those in practice … we don’t really know, I don’t think.

    My guess — pure hunch — is that Speight and O’Korn are essentially tied for the role right now. The rest of camp is going to be used to make the starter position. It could go either way, and I would not be surprised by a decision on game day for either Speight or O’Korn.

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 1357
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Aug 20, 2016 at 8:09 AM

    I think O’Korn’s ability to run is seductive for sure. I also think that a significant percentage of O’Korn’s issues at Houston were system related. The guy came in and won the job as a freshman. You hand your freshman QB the football knowing beyond certainty that you are going to get picks. When he comes back as a sophomore, he has his second brand new system in two years. That second system is pretty much hardcore read option. As an aside, Greg Ward Jr. is about as fun as it comes. Think Denard lite, without all the jaw dropping acceleration.

    I really liked Speight’s high school film. He got hit early and often and still put real nice balls into really good spots over and over and over again. He has a big time physique and a big time pedigree which will I cheerfully admit to giving way more significance to than most people will, having raised show horses most of my adult life. He also kind of makes me think of good john Navarre.

    I have always thought that Speight would end up the guy, but I’m not scared of O’Korn in the role. I think we’re sitting pretty good at QB.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 12
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      Aug 20, 2016 at 6:36 PM

      O’Korn actually didn’t win the starting job as a freshman at Houston. He was second string and took over the starting job after David Piland was forced to retire from concussions. FWIW.

  4. Avatar
    Comments: 1364
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Aug 20, 2016 at 10:23 AM

    Unlike with Ruddock, the coaches have had a chance to work with both of these guys for quite a while now, and they’ve practiced with the same coaches, same receivers, same RBs and most of the same Oline all that time. Both have game experience (O’Korn quite a lot), so there should be no reason that both of them shouldn’t be ready as high quality starters from Day 1.

    Given the softness of our NC schedule and that O’Korn and Speight seem to be running fairly close, I would not be surprised to see both of them get a lot of prime-time snaps in our first three games. Depending on how the rest of fall practice goes, the coaches may decide to float the decision on the “real” starter until Big Ten play starts. There is the potential for a real QB controversy, especially given what seems to be a difference in playing styles. Speight gives the impression of being steadier, while O’Korn looks more like a guy who will make more big plays but also more mistakes. Which do you choose? If we had a better power running game, I’d expect Speight to be more likely to get the nod, but with questions about the ground game, and some high quality receivers, O’Korn may be the more productive one. Be interesting to see how it plays out.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1863
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      Aug 20, 2016 at 11:42 AM

      Our questionable run game is something that has me leaning toward O’Korn as well.
      The other is the spring game. JOK showed some happy feet in the pocket, but he wasn’t the wreckless turnover prone guy UM fans have convinced themselves of either.
      Instead, with Shane Morris as a WR and going against our #1 Secondary, he led an impressive drive to bring the the game within reach. I jist don’t see a scenario where the Blue coaches let the first team Secondary all go against them, while they have the “turnover QB… ” unless that’s the way JH wanted it

  5. Painter Smurf
    Comments: 263
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Painter Smurf
    Aug 20, 2016 at 10:25 PM

    I also have a sneaking suspicion that Speight will win the job, but believe that the staff is sincere about the guys being close and the competition tight (unlike last year, when similar talk was B.S.).

    I do know for a fact that O’Korn has been overly hyped by the UM commentators/insiders. He is fast and has a good arm, so of course he is the type of player who shines in shorts. It has just been overstated and has made for a painful offseason as the WTKA guys and others offer non-stop rationalizations why OKorn was #2 coming out of spring.

    I did not think O’Korn looked particularly comfortable in the pocket in the spring game. And hanging in the pocket under pressure is one of Speight’s biggest strengths going back to his HS film (not to mention Rudock too). If O’Korn does not win the job, that might be the reason.

  6. Lanknows
    Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:17 PM

    I’m an O’Korn believer. We’ve seen Speight and for much of his time he looked barely more effective than Russell Bellomy. New doesn’t mean better necessarily, but O’Korn isn’t totally ‘new’ either. He’s been around campus for over a year and gotten steady praise all along. I’m glad Speight’s pushing O’Korn, but I think it’s O’Korn’s job to lose. Hoping all this ‘steady-hand’ talk is as much motivation for O’Korn as anything else.

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