Michigan Football Preview 2017

2017 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 59 QUARTERBACKS FYI Michigan's pass completion accuracy in 2016 was 61.6 percent, marking the Wolverines' fourth-best effort in that department (two of them under Jim Harbaugh) since the national championship season of 1997 — U-M completed 62.2 percent of its passes in 2015 and 2006, and 63.1 percent in 2010. Redshirt junior Wilton Speight threw a combined seven touchdown passes in the opening two games of 2016, tying the Michigan record for the most TD tosses in a season-opening couplet of contests. He also passed for 292 yards in the first half of the win over Maryland, setting the U-M record for most passing yards in an opening half of football. Fifth-year senior John O'Korn's start against Indiana in the penultimate game of the 2016 regular season marked his first starting effort since the fifth game of his sophomore year, in 2014 at Houston. Redshirt freshman Brandon Peters threw for 6,843 yards, 79 touchdowns and only 17 interceptions in his high school career at Avon (Ind.) High, where he became the state's Mr. Football in 2015. The rookie knows what Michigan's staff is really looking for out of him involves the ability to take charge of an offense and to be vocally assertive. Peters spoke about that fol- lowing the spring game, assuring that he's growing in that area. He's winning the respect of teammates for his performance, and Speight noted it's not difficult competing and keeping matters civil. "It's not that hard at all," Speight said. "Last year with John and I, it was such a tight com- petition throughout spring, but we were sup- portive of one another the whole time. Through camp, he was very supportive of me as well. "Brandon is an unreal dude. He's a great friend of mine, so it's not hard at all." "What is impressive about Peters is being able to drop the ball into a small window," Karsch noted. "Against tight coverage, he made some throws that really led you to be- lieve the guy might have something. "But it's about doing it repeatedly. If that's what he looks like every practice, it's going to warrant some playing time. He's obviously got ability. He's obviously got a strong arm. He needs to know when some touch is better than coming with the fastball. "But his performance in the spring game would lead one to believe that quarterback position is in pretty good hands this coming season and in the future. He's providing com- petition, and he's pushing the starter. What's better than that?" Not much, for a position that proved way too thin not so many years ago. "It's becoming evident, that's a position of strength," Karsch said of the quarterback spot. "If Brandon Peters can play well enough to unseat Wilton Speight as the starter, I've got to tell you, he's going to be pretty special." Meanwhile, O'Korn showed flashes in the spring game of what made him a strong con- testant for the job last year. He's very much in charge of the huddle when entering the game, and threw for 60 yards on three completions with a touchdown while breaking out for 42 yards on three runs. O'Korn didn't put up big numbers in his one start last season. He went 7 of 16 for 59 yards against Indiana, subbing for an injured Speight on an afternoon in which Michigan Stadium turned into a snow globe by the end. On the season, O'Korn completed 20 of 34 passes (58.8 percent) for 173 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. "He has experience, and they might be play- ing a game against Florida in a few months and get to a late-game situation where they need a backup," Karsch said. "They have a guy who has been there and done that. They might call for him over a guy who has a rocket arm but is not quite there yet. "I don't want to count anybody out. I've learned my lesson about that in the past." YEAR-BY-YEAR PASSING STATS Year Passing Yards Touchdowns Interceptions 2016 2,756 20 7 2015 3,090 21 10 2014 2,042 10 18 2013 3,221 21 13 2012 2,591 20 19 2011 2,377 22 16 2010 3,252 23 15 2009 2,380 15 15 2008 1,718 11 12 2007 2,862 25 14 In 2016, Speight threw for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns with only seven interceptions while leading the Wolver- ines to a 10-win season in his first year as a starter. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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