It’s over an hour before kickoff, and I’m standing in the corner of the end-zone before Michigan’s game against Purdue, when I see someone jogging right towards me. He doesn’t see me, but I see him, that someone is John O’Korn.
O’Korn had a serious look on his face as he went by me, it wasn’t the look of a backup quarterback who wouldn’t attempt a pass in the game. I said to myself “This guy looks hungry.” Hungry in the sense of being ready for game action, for his opportunity to shine. What I didn’t know at that moment was O’Korn’s opportunity would happen just a couple hours later.
When Wilton Speight went down, the norm is for the offense to falter further with a backup quarterback being thrown into the fire. But that wasn’t the case on Saturday, the offense got better, and O’Korn put together one of the most impressive performances from the position during Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan thus far.
On his first drive, O’Korn went 5-5, converting two third down conversions, capping it with a touchdown pass to Zach Gentry. His footwork, poise, and reading of the Purdue defense was stellar from his first throw to his last.
There were multiple occasions where O’Korn showed his toughness
- The first noticeable instance was when he threw the touchdown to Gentry. O’Korn flexes his muscles, pounds his chest, and shouts toward the Purdue sideline that’s right in front of him. Who was he barking at? His former coach at Houston that benched him, who just happens to be Purdue’s co-offensive coordinator now. Talk about the stars aligning to earn redemption.
- O’Korn isn’t afraid to take a hit. He showed this when he was under pressure in the pocket, but he also showed it when he scrambled. In one instance, instead of sliding or running out of bounds, O’Korn decides to cut his run back in and truck a defender in the process. This was reminiscent of the play Jim Harbaugh received from his prized pupil at Stanford, Andrew Luck.
Accuracy | Mechanics | Decisiveness
O’Korn had an excellent day when you break down, from a scouting standpoint, each attribute a quarterback should perform well in order to succeed. Check-mark after check-mark was filled in.
Whether it was a deep pass or a short throw that required excellent timing and hitting the receiver in stride, O’Korn did it. Not only was nearly every pass an accurate throw, O’Korn’s mechanics were sound as well. His footwork was steady, maintaining proper balance to drive his throws. O’Korn uses his mid-section to put added torque onto his passes, as it’s not all about arm strength, the rest of the body adds to the strength of a throw. And O’Korn has a strong arm too.
Diagnosing the defense wasn’t a problem for O’Korn, he was able to get the ball out quickly, on time, and on target to his receivers. He went through his progressions superbly and continuously found the open man on the field. Not many opportunities were missed. O’Korn was putting Michigan in the best position to gain positive yards on a play. Whether it was a short throw or a deep shot, he was throwing to the option that had the highest percentage of success on that play.
O’Korn was doing things you don’t even see all NFL quarterbacks do consistently. Going through progressions, releasing the football swiftly, and consistently throwing accurate passes aren’t traits that come easy. O’Korn looked like he had “it”.
Hopefully for Michigan’s sake, their offensive line improves in pass-protection. But it sure helps when you have a quarterback that knows how to use his legs and still be able to keep his eyes down the field.
The case in point is the play in the video below. On third down, O’Korn somehow escapes what looks to be a for sure sack, and has the awareness to keep his head up and look for an open man down the field. And he find Grant Perry for a clutch first down. This is the type of play that wins football games, that puts needed points on the board
What happens now?
It remains to be seen how long Wilton Speight will be out, but the strategy that should be orchestrated is a plan to go with the hot hand. Right now, John O’Korn is the one who has it. The team can always go back to Speight, but for now, O’Korn has earned the right to showcase his talents for future showdowns on Saturday’s.
While we shouldn’t get overly enamored by one performance, it’s also one that is hard to ignore. The game film does not lie, O’Korn was the reason Michigan won this football game. The Michigan defense was phenomenal, but what good would that have been if Michigan wasn’t able to put enough points up? The offense started executing at a much higher clip once O’Korn was on the field.
While I have no crystal ball that can tell you what the future holds, there’s a strong possibility John O’Korn is Michigan’s starting quarterback for the rest of the 2017 season. And his skill-set looks like one that can win Michigan football games against the top dogs.
As I stated earlier, some people just have “it”. O’Korn is a natural born leader, with a positive aggression that is contagious, the type Jim Harbaugh calls an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. How can Michigan not give him an extended look? After all, he has the hot hand.
For a breakdown of every throw O’Korn made, CLICK HERE