Happy Tuesday, Folks. Welcome to Morning Brews. Before we get started, I want to highlight the fundraiser we’re having here at MnB. In honor of rivalry week, we wanted to channel some Michigan pride toward a good cause. Because of it’s ties to the Michigan Wolverines, we thought the ChadTough Foundation to be the perfect organization to raise money for. If anyone is unaware of the foundation, it was created in honor of Lloyd Carr’s grandson - Chad Carr - who died at the age of five after battling Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG), a rare form of brain cancer. The foundation raises awareness for the disease and funds research into pediatric brain cancer. Every little bit helps this great cause, whether it’s a dollar or ten or a hundred, so if you’re interested in donating click the story above and follow the link to the donation page.
This morning we’re processing the news from Jim Harbaugh’s Monday press conference that Wilton Speight will be out for multiple weeks. The next man up for Michigan Football is John O’Korn, who performed well when filling in for Speight against Purdue. Below we take a more in-depth look at Michigan’s heretofore backup QB.
Let’s get to it:
Michigan looks to be in good shape with gunslinger O’Korn
John O’Korn is Michigan’s new starting QB, as head man Jim Harbaugh relayed in comments during his Monday press conference. The fifth-year senior transferred in from Houston during Harbaugh’s first year, before losing the QB competition to Wilton Speight during fall camp before last season and again this season.
At Houston, O’Korn had an impressive stat line - completing 58.1% of his passses for a little over 3,100 yards, 20 TDs, and 10 interceptions in his freshman season. Since coming to Michigan, O’Korn has seen limited playing time. He appeared in eight games last year but attempted only 34 passes, completing 20 of them for 173 yards and two TDs. Because Michigan fans haven’t seen a whole lot of O’Korn, I wanted to take some time this morning to share my thoughts on his playing style - and what fans can expect with him at the helm of Michigan’s offense.
The first thing I want to highlight is something that I’m not convinced is a characteristic of O’Korn; but even if it was just a play calling adjustment to ease O’Korn into the game, it’s an encouraging development. Michigan has notably underutilized TEs in the pass game so far this year, but that seemed to change when O’Korn entered the game.
In this clip, we have Kekoa Crawford at the top of the screen and Sean McKeon as the TE at the top of the line. Crawford runs a post route (not sure if it was supposed to be a pick play or if he was just supposed to get the CB out of there). O’Korn hits McKeon, who successfully runs for a first down. While I’m not wild about this play call given the situation (running a designed three yard pass on third and nine is a little whatever, in my opinion), it’s good to see the short passes that helped keep Speight on track last year make another appearance. There was a similar play design to Henry Poggi a little earlier in the same drive, and then again to Zach Gentry to finish off the drive with a TD.
The reason I refer to O’Korn as a gunslinger in the title is because I think he has an affinity for tight windows. Sometimes (most of the time) it works out because he’s able to deliver the ball accurately enough and quickly enough that his gambles either pay off or fall incomplete. Other times, they result in interceptions - which I suspect will be on the rise with O’Korn in at QB. In this second clip we have an example of a time when things don’t work out.
On a third and ten play, O’Korn tried to squeeze the ball into double coverage. Grant Perry isn’t able to make it all the way back to the ball, which is tipped by Purdue’s corner and then intercepted by the safety. I can’t see what route the receiver at the bottom of the screen was running, but after giving it a quick glance O’Korn locks in on the left side - which was, unfortunately, pretty well covered by Purdue. The TE is picked up in the flat, Eddie McDoom fails to get open (not sure if it was play design or his choice, but running an out route and letting O’Korn throw him open to the sideline would have been perfect here), and Perry was double covered. The optimal play would have been throwing it away and letting Brad Robbins try to play the field position game.
This third clip is an example of when O’Korn’s fearlessness works out. On second and long, Harbaugh and Co. dial up a pass. Purdue is in zone coverage. You have Grant Perry at the top of the screen running a straight go route drawing the safeties back, Donovan Peoples-Jones running a 15 yard stop route, Khalid Hill leaking into the flat from the backfield, and McKeon running into a soft spot in the zone and sitting down. Perry and DPJ were covered, so eliminate those from possible recipients of the pass, leaving Hill and McKeon open - albeit with only a tight window for McKeon.
Personally, I would have thrown to Khalid Hill. The LB and CB are drifting back into coverage so he’s open by about 10 yards in every direction. Assuming he catches the pass, he would have set up a third down of manageable length (that is, if he doesn’t truck the CB and get the first down, which is what I would expect to happen). O’Korn elected to go with McKeon, and it worked out. He had to fit the pass between the two LBs, and he was able to do just that. However, if one of the LBs was half a step closer to McKeon, he might have tipped that ball and maybe it’s picked by the player who ultimately makes the tackle - just like what happened in clip two. High risk, but high reward.
Off the field, John O’Korn is a Michigan Man fans can be proud of. In his comments after the Purdue game, O’Korn was humble and self-effacing, saying, “I hated that Wilton had to get hurt for me to go in . . .,” and, “I'm just happy that I could contribute to a big win on the road, beat the elements and beat the team in their house and have a happy ride home.” With O’Korn being the starter for the foreseeable future, we’ll get to see much more of the fifth-year senior in the coming weeks. Given the upcoming games and O’Korn’s gunslinging style, expect it to be exciting.
We’ve been talking a lot about Michigan Football lately, but many of Michigan’s fall non-rev. teams have started their seasons as well. Men’s Soccer is off to a 6-3-2 start, with a 3-1-1 record in conference play - including the double overtime win against Penn State in the video above. Women’s Soccer has a 5-2-6 record and is 2-1-3 in conference. Men’s Lacrosse is off to an 8-6 start, including a win over No. 10 Penn., but has struggled to an 0-5 start in conference play. Finally, Field Hockey has gotten off to a strong 9-2 (4-0) start to the season, tallying wins against No. 1 UNC, No. 15 Wake Forest, No. 25 Liberty, No. 3 Penn State, and No. 15 Maryland.