Now that winter semester is finished, there should be some news coming soon about transfers to and from Michigan. I have heard rumors about one incoming player (not Jake Rudock, Wayne Lyons, or Blake O’Neill) and four outgoing players, although two of the players leaving the team are for medical reasons.
Medical scholarships are frustrating but an understandable part of the game. However, one of the rumored transfers is going to be a little bit of a surprising disappointment.
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Houston quarterback John O’Korn is transferring to Michigan. You already know this if you are a Michigan football blogosphere fanatic, but I didn’t want to write a commitment post until things were more concrete. So here we are.
O’Korn is a 6’4″, 220-pounder who attended Fort Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas before committing to Houston; he also had offers from Arkansas, Louisville, Mississippi State, and North Carolina, among others. Coincidentally, he played at the same school as incoming graduate transfer Jake Rudock. O’Korn started for Houston as a freshman after the starter got knocked out with concussions; O’Korn was named American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year for his performance. He then lost his starting job in the middle of his sophomore year and is now headed to Ann Arbor.
Hit the jump for more on O’Korn and his future at Michigan. HIGH SCHOOL RATINGS
ESPN: 3-star, 77 grade, #38 pocket passing QB
Rivals: 3-star, #31 pro-style QB
Scout: 3-star, #38 QB
247 Sports: 3-star, #24 pro-style QB, #519 overall
As a freshman, he went 259/446 (58.1%) for 3,117 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. As a sophomore in 2014, he was 90/173 (52%) for 951 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions in seven games.
O’Korn is a good-sized quarterback who fits the physical mold of a pro-style quarterback. While Houston is more of a spread team, O’Korn was in a pro-style offense as a high schooler, so dropping back from under center, ball handling, etc. should not be major adjustments. He has a strong enough arm for college football, although not a cannon; he should be able to make all the throws necessary for Harbaugh’s offense. He shows some very nice touch on his throws and won’t try to laser in passes to wide open receivers. As a runner, he’s a strong kid who can shake off some tacklers. He’s not afraid to lower his shoulder if necessary – or sometimes even if it’s unnecessary – and he has enough athleticism to move the chains if defenses don’t respect his ability to scramble.
On the negative side, O’Korn has a bit of a three-quarters delivery that might see some of his passes get batted down. He also tends to fall off to his left side when throwing left, which can cause the ball to sail high and generally be inaccurate. Mechanically, he made significant strides from high school to Houston, but he still showed some issues with footwork. His biggest issue as a sophomore was that he seemed to be staring down his receivers, allowing defenders to converge on his intended target.
One thing to consider regarding O’Korn’s decline was the offensive coordinator change between his freshman and sophomore years. Doug Meacham was transplanted from high-octane Oklahoma State to passing game coordinator at Houston in 2013, and O’Korn enjoyed a great deal of success under him. After that season Meacham was hired away by Gary Patterson at TCU, where Meacham’s offense turned Trevone Boykin from mediocre (7 touchdowns, 7 interceptions) into a potential Heisman candidate (33 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 707 yards rushing). Meanwhile, replacement coordinator Travis Bush was not retained by new Houston head coach Tom Herman and, as far as I can tell, has not found a new job yet.
Overall, I think Michigan did a good job of bringing in O’Korn, who has a similar skill set to what Harbaugh brought in at Stanford. As an athlete he compares favorably to all but Shane Morris and Zach Gentry of Michigan’s other quarterbacks, but O’Korn is a better decision maker than Morris and more experienced than both. He will have to sit out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules, and he will be a redshirt junior in 2016. Unless Morris or an underclassman wins the job this year and plays well, I would guess that O’Korn would be the opening day starter going into 2016.
As of right now, there are six quarterbacks scheduled to be on the roster in 2016: Shane Morris (Sr.), O’Korn (RS Jr.), Wilton Speight (RS So.), Zach Gentry (So.), Alex Malzone (So.), and Brandon Peters (Fr.). Michigan is already technically over the limit for scholarships in 2015, so there will have to be some attrition – or some walk-on scholarships yanked – before this season begins. Either way, the quarterback cabinet is pretty full and it would be pretty surprising if Michigan went after another high school quarterback in the 2016 class besides Peters.
Weber State punter Blake O’Neill is transferring to Michigan. He has spent just one year playing American football and will be eligible as a fifth year senior graduate transfer in 2015.
As technically a redshirt junior in 2014, he punted 62 times for 2,737 yards (44.1 yards/punt). He had a career long of 74 yards, landed 25 punts inside the 20-yard line, and kicked 18 punts more than 50 yards. That punting average was #6 in the Football Championship Subdivision and #1 all-time at Weber State. Standing 6’2″ and 215 lbs., he ran a fake punt 20 yards and completed a 17-yard pass on another fake punt against Montana State.
O’Neill brings an array of punting talents to Michigan. He can deaden the ball near the goal line, punt directionally, boom it deep, and generally limit return yardage. The nice thing about punting is that it translates well from one level or team to the next, so regardless of whether he’s playing at Weber State or in the Big House, his kicks are going to travel a long way if that’s what he wants.
Michigan has had good punters for a while, including Zoltan Mesko and Will Hagerup in recent years. Unfortunately, Hagerup was inconsistent at times and even missed the entire 2013 season due to suspension. However, punt coverage was spotty last year, which should improve with the arrival of O’Neill as well as full-time special teams coach John Baxter.
O’Neill gives Michigan three scholarship specialists, including incoming freshman kicker Andrew David and redshirt sophomore long snapper Scott Sypniewski. However, O’Neill also puts Michigan at 87 scholarships for the upcoming season, which means that two players need to come off scholarship before the fall. There is at least one player who could become a medical casualty (Chris Fox), and there are a few walk-ons who have had scholarships in the past that might have to pay their own way (Graham Glasgow, Ryan Glasgow, Joe Kerridge).
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Dan Murphy and Bruce Feldman are both reporting that Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock has been granted a waiver from the Big Ten to transfer to Michigan. As a fifth-year transfer, he was also considering Boise State. Graduate transfers must enroll at a school in which their intended course of study is not available at the original institution.
Rudock is a 6’3″, 208 lb. quarterback who has started the majority of games for the Hawkeyes over the past two seasons. He sat behind James Vandenberg through 2012, but Rudock completed 204/336 (59.0%) of his passes in 2013 for 2,383 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He also ran 67 times for 218 yards and 5 touchdowns. As a redshirt junior in 2014, he completed 213/345 passes (61.7%) for 2,436 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. He ran 67 times for 176 yards and 3 scores.
Hit the jump for more on Rudock.
Rudock attended Fort Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas. In the 2011 class, he was a Rivals 3-star and the #29 pro-style quarterback. He chose the Hawkeyes over offers from Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, among others. St. Thomas Aquinas is a Florida powerhouse that has produced numerous big-time recruits over the years, including Joey Bosa (Ohio State), Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State), and Corey Holmes (Notre Dame). Coincidentally, Michigan is also accepting a transfer from John O’Korn, a University of Houston quarterback who was two years behind Rudock at St. Thomas Aquinas. Michigan hasn’t had a player from Aquinas in more than a decade, and now two are transferring in from other schools in the same year at the same position (O’Korn is a redshirt sophomore and will not be eligible to play in 2015). Perhaps even stranger is that cornerback transfer Wayne Lyons also comes from Fort Lauderdale, FL, although he went to Dillard. Here are Rudock’s senior highlights:
When I watch Rudock in both high school and college, I see a kid who has adequate football athleticism. He is not particularly tall. He has solid speed for a pro-style quarterback, but he won’t be the type to break open the game with his legs. More likely, he’s a guy who can pick up some short first downs or run bootlegs and threaten the edge. He’ll be able to outrun the occasional defensive end or linebacker, but he’s no match for most defensive backs. His arm strength is nothing spectacular, and he has to have his feet under him to make the deep throws. He won’t be able to throw posts or outs off of his back foot.
What I think Rudock can bring to the team is a steady hand at the quarterback position. He was a pre-med student at Iowa and wants to be a pediatric surgeon. Obviously, he has already earned his degree, and he has been a near full-time starter for a Big Ten team for two seasons. He did lose some time to C.J. Beathard this past season, but a 16-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 61.7% completions is pretty solid. Michigan fans would have gladly taken that kind of production over the past year, if not two. For a coach in Jim Harbaugh who wants to run the ball, use play action, and manage the game well, this is a pretty good fit. Harbaugh has had success with those types of players before, and Rudock should have a pretty seamless transition from one pro-style offense to another.
My early guess is that Rudock will be Michigan’s starter in 2015. (He finished fourth in a TTB poll last month about who would start.) Harbaugh has not been impressed by what Michigan already has in the program. Junior Shane Morris, the only returnee with experience, is 43/87 for his career with 389 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Otherwise, Michigan has redshirt freshman Wilton Speight, true freshman early enrollee Alex Malzone, and true freshman Zach Gentry coming over the summer. This also may not be the worst thing for Morris’s psyche, since the potential usurper is a fifth year senior with two years of Big Ten starting experience, and not a freshman who has never seen the field.
Rudock will give Michigan five eligible quarterbacks on the 2015 roster (with Morris, Speight, Malzone, and Gentry), and since he has just this one year remaining, he will not affect the 2016 recruiting efforts. Michigan has typically avoided transfers, but along with O’Korn, the Wolverines also recently announced that Stanford cornerback Wayne Lyons will be at Michigan this coming season (LINK).
I had been holding off on this until something official came from the university, but rising fifth-year cornerback Wayne Lyons is transferring from Stanford to Michigan and will play for the Wolverines this fall. He will be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer. This had been rumored for a while, and cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich confirmed Lyons’ pending arrival in an interview on Thursday.
Hit the jump for a rundown on Lyons:
Lyons is a 6’1″, 193 lb. corner. He was originally recruited by Jim Harbaugh to Stanford, and he was also recruited by Rich Rodriguez and Michigan in the 2011 class. Coming out of Fort Lauderdale (FL) Dillard, he was a 247 Composite 4-star, the #5 safety, and #98 overall. He chose Stanford over offers from Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and UCLA, among others. He was also a U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant in 2011. Here are his senior highlights:
I also happened to write a scouting report on him back in December 2010 (LINK). It’s interesting to look back at a little over four years later. Stanford played Lyons at corner as a freshman before he broke his foot, garnering a medical redshirt for the 2011 season. He made 25 tackles and 1 interception as a redshirt freshman backup corner in 2012. As a redshirt sophomore in 2013, he made 69 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 pass breakups; his 2 interceptions came late in the fourth quarter of a win against Notre Dame (starting at 2:33 in video below). He started at corner in 2014 and made 30 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 3 pass breakups. He has not quite lived up to his billing as a top-100 player, but he has been solid.
Michigan is pretty solid with their starting group of defensive backs right now, so bringing in a ringer to start is not absolutely necessary. As mentioned above, Lyons could play virtually any position in the defensive backfield right now. With the starters looking like cornerback Jourdan Lewis, cornerback Blake Countess, free safety Jabrill Peppers, and strong safety Jarrod Wilson, Lyons is a bit of a luxury. He can play in the slot, which is where Peppers has been rotating in nickel situations this spring. With Lyons on the roster, that might allow the Wolverines to keep Peppers at safety and bring in Lyons off the sideline. From what I’ve seen out of him so far, I think Lyons is a bit behind Lewis and Countess (at least the 2013 version of the latter) but ahead of Channing Stribling in the cornerback pecking order.
Most of all, this gives Michigan options at defensive back. Lyons can play safety if the need arises, or he can play corner if that’s where he fits best. If it were up to me, he would be the nickel corner because he’s physical enough to stop the run and blitz, and he’s good enough in coverage to handle the duties in the slot.
Lyons’s arrival was foretold by the fact that Jim Harbaugh hired his mother, Gwendolyn Bush, to be an advisor to the players at Michigan. This alleviates some of the issues from Michigan’s lack of depth at the corner position after they had two talented corners (Shaun Crawford, Garrett Taylor) decommit during the 2015 recruiting cycle. Michigan was looking for an instant-impact guy, and they signed only Keith Washington, a project from Alabama who was mostly a quarterback in high school. Obviously, Lyons is only a one-year fix and Michigan has a strong need for corners in the 2016 class with Countess and Lyons both graduating this coming year.
Michigan is now up to 85 scholarships for 2015, which means that any additions to the roster will require some attrition, putting someone on a medical scholarship, or taking away a scholarship from one of several walk-ons (Graham Glasgow, Ryan Glasgow, or Joe Kerridge). Weber State punter Blake O’Neill is supposed to join Michigan’s roster by the fall, so someone is on the “chopping block.”
The University of Michigan football program does not often receive transfers. In the past decade or so, they have been limited to:
Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s cornerback Grant Mason, who also attended Stanford right out of high school before playing for Michigan in 2004 and 2005
Butler Community College linebacker Austin Panter, a rare JUCO transfer, who played for Michigan in 2007-2008
Adrian (MI) Adrian quarterback Steven Threet, who attended Georgia Tech briefly before transferring to Michigan in 2007. He sat out the 2007 season under Lloyd Carr, started part-time in 2008 for Rich Rodriguez, and then transferred to Arizona State before retiring from the sport due to concussions.