ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan likely faces a pivotal stretch of the season without Wilton Speight, at least for its final two games of the regular season.
And, given what Michigan faces in order to forge a path to the College Football Playoff — it needs to win out in order to earn one of the top four rankings — that route could become a lot tougher, given that Michigan’s first option behind Speight is a quarterback who hasn’t played a full college football game since 2014.
Multiple outlets, including the Detroit Free Press, reported Monday that Speight, Michigan’s starting quarterback, will miss the final two games of the regular season with a broken collarbone, sustained during the fourth quarter of a 14-13 loss Saturday at Iowa.
Michigan, which is No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, hosts Indiana at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh did not comment on the severity or nature of Speight’s injury Monday during his weekly press conference, but said Speight could be a game-time decision Saturday against Indiana. Harbaugh also said John O’Korn would be Michigan’s likely starter, with Shane Morris as his backup, if Speight is to sit out this weekend.
“We anticipate today, and the next couple days, at least them getting the majority of the reps,” Harbaugh said. “They both have extensive practice time through the course of the year.”
Harbaugh did not specify Speight’s injury, and did not give any short- or long-term prognosis for the redshirt sophomore. MGoBlog.com first reported the injury to Speight.
“We’ll know more,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to depend on how he feels.”
Despite sustaining the injury, Speight spoke Saturday night with the media in Iowa City, Iowa, after the loss.
“It hurts,” Speight said after the game. “I got it checked out, but we’ll look into it more when we get back to Ann Arbor.”
O’Korn has been Speight’s backup this season; Speight beat out O’Korn for the starting quarterback job in fall camp. As Speight’s primary backup, O’Korn has 114 yards on 13 of 18 passing, with two touchdowns in eight appearances. O’Korn has also rushed for 12 yards on six carries.
But with O’Korn at quarterback, Michigan has experience to fall back upon. This isn’t like 2015, when there was no proven backup behind Jake Rudock; even when Speight replaced Rudock in win at Minnesota in October of 2015, he only had four pass attempts in two games that season, after redshirting in 2014.
O’Korn, a redshirt junior, transferred to Michigan in February 2015 and had to sit out the 2015 season, per NCAA transfer restrictions. He primarily worked with Michigan’s scout team last season.
In two seasons at Houston, O’Korn threw for more than 4,000 yards, including 3,117 as a freshman in 2013. However, O’Korn was benched in 2014 for Houston’s final seven games, and transferred after the season.
Speight’s injury would be the third major loss for the Wolverines this season: cornerback Jeremy Clark tore his ACL earlier this season, and offensive lineman Grant Newsome was hospitalized for 38 days with an injury to his right leg, sustained Oct. 1 in a 14-7 win against Wisconsin.
“If John’s number is called, we’re fully confident in him,” Michigan tight end Jake Butt said. “If it turns out Wilton can’t go, he’ll be ready to go.”
John O’Korn at a glance
Year: Redshirt junior
Hometown: Huntingdon, Pa.
High school: St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Previous college: Houston
Height/weight: 6-foot-4, 215 pounds
|2013, at Houston||259-446||3,117||28||10|
|2014, at Houston||90-173||951||6||8|
|2015||Did not play|