O’Korn May Get His Shot as Michigan Still Controls Their Destiny

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Despite the tough loss against the Iowa Hawkeyes and having key injuries occur, the Wolverines are still in the hunt for a Big Ten Championship and more importantly still in control for a national title after three of the top five teams crumbled this past weekend. However, Michigan suffered their first loss which has left no room for error and must win out, possibly without their starting quarterback.

Kinnick Stadium was everything that we expected. It was very possible that they could have lost. But no one expected that they would be handed their first lost in Iowa City. Some even thought that it was our “first tough” road game (apparently playing in East Lansing is no big deal). With it being a night game, the underperforming Hawkeyes, who started 17th in the preseason AP poll rankings, played like they had nothing to lose and insisted to ruin our season with a last second field goal. After the game, senior captains defensive end Chris Wormley and John Mackey Award semifinalist Jake Butt greeted the media in disbelief but remained hopeful for the remainder of the season.

“When it comes down to it, we didn’t make the plays we needed,” Wormley said. “Plain and simple, they made more plays than us. A few things went their way. Looking at today, we’ll look back at the film, see what we did wrong, see what we did right. Figure out those things. But at the end of the day that we lost.”

“We left a lot of opportunities, a lot of plays out on the field today,” Butt said. “There were some big plays we left out on the field. We’re just going to have to look in the mirror, look at the film, and become better because of this. There’s really no excuse. There’s absolutely no excuse. We’ve got to be a lot better than we were today.”

Harbaugh stressed to the team after the game that it’s not over yet and that their goals are still ahead of them.

“Just keep going,” Wormley said. “We’ve got two more games left. We win those two, we’re right where we need to be. Just got to get those done. There’s a lot of things we left out there, a lot of things we could have done better. We’ll watch the film and continue to keep working.”

The fourth quarter was an absolute mess for the Wolverines’. Not only could they uncharacteristically stop the run but they would suffer multiple injuries as well. One being the heart of the secondary, Delano Hill who left the game with an undisclosed injury. Both Channing Stribling and Wilton Speight also injured their shoulders. It appears that Striblings’ injury is nothing too serious to be worried about but Speights’ shoulder has me a little concerned regarding the rest of the season.

There have been non-stop rumors of him being questionable for the Wolverines final home game against Indiana to him being declared out for the season. But Harbaugh is denying anything that is circulating around and currently saying that “its day-to-day thing right now”. We may not even know till the afternoon kickoff if he’s even able to play or not. To be honest, it’s sounding a lot like his decision when he announced the season starter before the opening game against Hawaii.

If Speight is out for this week, John O’Korn is likely to step in and showcase as to why he should’ve gotten the call as the starter. So, who the hell is O’Korn?

O’Korn started his freshman year at Houston, passing for 3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2013 while leading the Cougars to an 8-5 record on the year. Even though his first year went well, his sophomore year didn’t go as planned. O’Korn then lost the job to Greg Ward Jr. after a 2-3 start his sophomore year. Houston would go 6-2 the rest of the way as O’Korn watched from the sideline. He then transferred to Michigan and had to sit out a year due his transfer which was made official in February of 2015.

Many people had believed that O’Korn might have been the better option for his ability to scramble out of the pocket and make big plays down the field. Quite frankly there is an argument for that case. O ‘Korn is a pro-style quarterback who fits the Michigan system better than the spread at Houston. But Harbaugh knows his quarterbacks and it obviously showed what separated the two QBs’ apart as Speight progressed every game and led the team to a 9-0 record before falling to Iowa.

“He watches film after practice probably more than anybody I have seen at the college level, which is weird for someone who isn’t asked to play as much as he does (because) he’s not the starter,” U-M co-captain Chris Wormley said Tuesday night after practice. “I guess doing that for the past 2-3 months, it’s going to help him out big-time, starting Saturday.”

It’s frightening to know that it is November and a new quarterback may be taking over the helm with two of the most important games remaining on the schedule. O’Korn is a hard worker and by the sounds of it has been waiting for his opportunity to come knocking at the door. He doesn’t have to play great this weekend. He must be consistent, smart and protect the football. If his teammates believe in him, so should we.

Go Blue!

The Tape, The Tape, The Tape – Michigan 41 Illinois 8– A Cornucopia of Manball

Michigan served notice to Illinois on the opening drive that there would be no rust or dawdling on Saturday.  The offense marched the field in 10 plays for an opening touchdown and never looked back.  The drive included three different quarterbacks, and oh yes, a formation that featured no less than five tight ends to serve as the perfect finale to an authoritative opening possession.

Have you ever seen a five Tight End formation?  No, you haven’t.  At least you hadn’t until Saturday.  The play started off with the second appearance of Michigan’s new “train” formation this year:

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Let’s go ahead and circle the tight ends:

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Yep, that’s five: Asiasi, Butt, Hill, Jocz, and Wheatley Jr.  All of the action of this play headed towards the bottom of the screen, save for Jake Butt.  Tyrone Wheatley Jr ran a perfect rub route that left Jake Butt uncovered coming across the field.

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Unlike Michigan State’s receivers against Maryland, Wheatley Jr did not engage in a block on the defensive player and avoided an offensive pass interference flag for a pick play.

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The Tape, The Tape, The Tape – Peppers On Offense

Jabrill Peppers
Jabrill Peppers

Six games down, six games to go in the regular season.  As Michigan navigates into the meat of the conference schedule, I thought it would be interesting to track how the offensive staff has used Jabrill Peppers and what that may mean for match-ups down the road.   In the short year and a half of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure it has been fascinating to watch him build off of a litany of different looks and motions to put his players in positions to succeed on the field.  Additionally, with this staff it’s safe to say that certain formations, packages, and plays are put on film for a reason.  We’re a far cry from the Diamond Formation frustrations of yore, thank goodness.

So, Peppers.

Jabrill’s first offensive touches last year occurred on the road against Minnesota.  He finished the ’15 campaign with 18 carries for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns, 8 catches for 79 yards, and one incomplete pass attempt.  It wasn’t much of a leap this offense to predict that he would have an increased role in the offense.  Through the first half of 2016, his presence on offense indeed has increased, though a cursory glance at the box score does not tell the full story of his impact.  To date, Peppers is credited with just 5 carries for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns through six games.  This does not account for the eight snaps he has taken at QB or the times he has been on the field as a wideout both in motion and static as a decoy.   We’ve seen him in a lot of different areas on offense and with the ball in several different spots on the field.

The defenses remaining on the schedule grade out thusly based on S&P+ advanced stats at Football Outsiders:

  • Illinois: 70th overall, 122nd rushing,  88th passing
  • Michigan State: 59th overall, 84th rushing, 102nd passing
  • Maryland: 44th overall, 110th rushing, 24th passing
  • Iowa: 34th overall, 83rd rushing, 36th passing
  • Indiana: 30th overall, 27th rushing, 21st passing
  • Ohio State: 7th overall, 30th rushing, 7th passing

The trend is a slow but steady uptick over the course of the final six games in the level of defense that Michigan will be facing.  For the sake of reference, Wisconsin grades out at 5th overall, 7th in rushing, and 13th in passing defense.  This all adds up to a scenario where I fully expect an increase in Jabrill’s snaps going forward, particularly at QB and RB where Harbaugh can dictate the matchups he wants to help even blockers vs tacklers.  I would hazard a guess that this is also why you’ve seen Shane Morris in spot duty thus far out blocking, as well as why he played some at wideout in the spring game.  Let’s take a look at some plays after the jump…

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