ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan football team officially is in Prime time — Amazon Prime time, that is.
All or Nothing: Michigan Wolverines premiered Friday on Amazon Prime. The eight-episode series covers 2017 for Michigan. Camera crews from Amazon chronicled the Wolverines’ season, from their trip to Rome and Vatican City in April 2017 to their loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018.
Narrated by Mark Harmon, an actor and the son of former Michigan tailback and Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon, each 45-minute episode profiles player relationships, the decisions that coaches make and provides glimpses into the families and personalities within and around the program.
Land of 10 provides a synopsis of each episode.
Episode 1: Faith, Family, Football
What happened: The series opens with a team meeting, and continues in April 2017 with Michigan’s team trip to Italy, where the Wolverines visit Rome and Vatican City. Highlighted are the Harbaughs’ audience with Pope Francis, and a visit to the Trevi Fountain in Rome, where Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh tosses a coin into the water. He makes a wish: to win a national championship.
Spoiler alert: Not in 2017.
The episode fast forwards to August, when Harbaugh helps players move into their dorms, and then to Sept. 1, and Michigan’s 33-17 win against Florida in Arlington, Texas. At one point in the game, though, quarterbacks Wilton Speight and John O’Korn are unsure of who will start the second half.
Who starred: Jim Harbaugh
Quotable: “I’m going to have to get you a manicure and a paraffin treatment to keep your hands. … Would you please wear your retainer? … And are you keeping your feet dry between your toes? … I’m proud of you, Rashan.” — Jennifer Shepherd, Rashan Gary’s mother
Takeaway: If you thought Jim Harbaugh was animated and expressive, he’s extremely animated in the first episode of All or Nothing: Michigan Wolverines. From the opening seconds, as he addresses his team and his football staff, he conveys fire, passion and energy. That continues in Rome and through Michigan’s season opener against Florida.
Episode 2: Big Man On Campus
What happened: The episode picks up with the second half of the season opener against Florida, and Wilton Speight learns that he will continue to play when Jim Harbaugh simply tells him “we’re going back with you.” Later in the episode, Speight laments to his father, Bobby, the fan and media reaction to his less-than-stellar game against Cincinnati. The episode closes when Rashan Gary and his mother have an emotional conversation about the absence of Gary’s father.
We also see Harbaugh at home, where he and his wife, Sarah, help their daughter, Katie, who has an outer ear infection due to ear piercings. Players also navigate through campus on the first day of school. People recognize defensive lineman Chase Winovich, but Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black have trouble finding their first classes.
Who starred: Jack Harbaugh, Jim Harbaugh’s second-youngest son, who questions whether his father is actually “the boss of this place.” Jim Harbaugh has to break it to him that no, he isn’t the boss.
Quotable: “We don’t walk off this [expletive] field without a ‘W,’ you guys hear that?” — defensive coordinator Don Brown
Takeaway: One takeaway: Brown is fiery from the start. The episode makes a point to highlight his animated personality, including a halftime speech at the start of the episode in which he uses some salty language to motivate the Wolverines at halftime against Florida.
Episode 3: One Play Away
What happened: Michigan’s struggles against Air Force are evident by the frustrations of the defensive line on the sideline, but that becomes the least of Michigan’s worries. Two season-ending injuries strike the Wolverines: wide receiver Tarik Black’s broken left foot against Air Force, and his ensuing hospital stay, and Wilton Speight’s back injury at Purdue. Enter John O’Korn, who has to lead Michigan to a win at Purdue.
Speight has to wear a back brace due to cracked vertebrae, and admits that immediately after he was hit he thought he was paralyzed.
Who starred: The Winovich family. Chase Winovich returns to Pittsburgh on Michigan’s bye weekend. His father, Peter, leads the family in a boisterous toast at the dinner table.
Quotable: “The circumstances were such, that John [O’Korn] had to go out and save our season.” — Pep Hamilton, passing game coordinator
Takeaway: The players say they ignore what is said on social media, but in a conversation with his girlfriend, Ani Sarkisian, Speight exhibits his anxieties over the response to his play on social media. In fact, he wishes his family would stop reading the comments on social media.
Episode 4: Be The Game Changer
What happened: The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry was a smaller storyline in Episode 3, but it becomes a focal point in Episode 4. Pep Hamilton exhibits confidence in John O’Korn in his first start of the season, but O’Korn says he can’t handle the ball in a driving rain in Ann Arbor.
Passing game coordinator Hamilton says the following week of O’Korn, “John has to play better.” Yet two days after a 14-10 loss to Michigan State, the players cross campus in an upbeat mood. Players’ families are also in the spotlight, including those of Devin Bush and Karan Higdon.
Who starred: Higdon, who visited with his family in the Detroit suburbs, including his 3-year-old daughter Kiyah, then scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime at Indiana.
Quotable: “After a loss with Jim, his sleep is very interrupted. I try not to sleep next to him after a loss because he will wake up and yell something, you know, that went wrong. He’ll yell a play. His thought process, you can tell, is just rewinding the whole thing.” — Sarah Harbaugh, Jim Harbaugh’s wife
Takeaway: The coaching staff, particularly Hamilton, had reservations about O’Korn’s level of play. Hamilton confides something to former offensive coordinator Tim Drevno prior to a 27-20 win at Indiana: He didn’t want to tell Harbaugh that O’Korn is, as Drevno said, “jittery.”
Episode 5: Nowhere to Surrender
What happened: Michigan prepares for its toughest test of the season, a primetime game at No. 2 Penn State. It’ll be a homecoming for fifth-year senior quarterback John O’Korn, who is confident the Wolverines can handle the situation. On the practice field, that confidence isn’t so evident.
The episode shows O’Korn with his struggles at practice while backup redshirt freshman Brandon Peters gets more snaps and does well with his opportunities. Wilton Speight must still watch from the sideline due to injury but he’s hopeful of a return before the season ends.
Things don’t go well for O’Korn against Penn State or the following week at home against Rutgers, but we meet Larry Prout Jr., a 16-year-old Michigan fan who has lived with chronic illnesses since birth. He has a unique bond with the team, and with O’Korn and tackle Grant Newsome in particular. There is perspective in their relationships, as Newsome illustrates with the hope beads Prout has earned for each of the 100 surgeries he has undergone.
Who starred: O’Korn
Quotable: “Michigan football means a lot to me because I have great friends, Grant and John. Those guys mean a lot to me because they come to visit me in the hospital and visit me at home.” — Larry Prout Jr. on his relationship with Grant Newsome and John O’Korn
Takeaway: You think you anguish during a game? You’ve got nothing on coaches when things aren’t going well. Or players when they’re struggling. Yet, there is always a different perspective.
Episode 6: Fifty-one Percent
What happened: Jim Harbaugh has a decision to make about his starting quarterback against Minnesota in the battle for the Little Brown Jug. Does he go with Brandon Peters, who relieved John O’Korn against Rutgers and led the Wolverines to victory with an efficient 10-of-14 passing line for 124 yards and 1 touchdown, or does he give O’Korn another chance?
This episode provides insight into running backs Chris Evans and Karan Higdon, who has a bigger responsibility than football or school in his life, as well as the relationship between offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Tim Drevno and the offensive line. Drevno has the linemen over to his house for dinner and a night together to build that bond.
The season is entering its final month, and it’s not just the grind on the field that wears on players. It’s easy to forget they have school work to do as well. They are aided by academic coach Brittany Papadopolous, who is every bit as important to them as their position coaches. Sophomore defensive end Rashan Gary is taking 15 credit hours during the season but he tackles them like opposing ball carriers.
The team gets a guest speaker for its meeting the night before the game at Maryland, and the trip provides Gary time to see his mother, Jennifer Coney-Shepherd.
Who starred: Rashan Gary
Quotable: “If another Saturday never happens again, I’m okay.” — David Peters, father of Brandon Peters
“I’m not.” — Brandon Peters
“I’m not either.” — Barb Peters, mother of Brandon Peters
Takeaway: A lot of people are curious as to how the Michigan play-calling system works. This episode provides good understanding in the collaborative nature Jim Harbaugh desires. It also reveals how intensity shows itself in various manners, from demonstrative defensive coordinator Don Brown to a pregame dancing Rashan Gary to a quiet Brandon Peters, who is growing in confidence.
Episode 7: Bury the Naysayers
What happened: The regular season comes to a close with games at Wisconsin and at home against Ohio State. This is a chance for Michigan to reassert itself into the national spotlight and potentially the Big Ten race.
The game at Wisconsin is going well, and the Wolverines have a lead in the third quarter before things unravel. The Badgers retake the lead and Brandon Peters gets knocked out of the game with a concussion. It’s an injury that will keep him from playing in The Game against Ohio State. That puts John O’Korn back into the starting lineup.
Thanksgiving gives coaches and players a chance to regroup ahead of the annual battle against the Buckeyes. It’s the last time the seniors will be able to run out and touch the banner at Michigan Stadium. Just as it did against Wisconsin, Michigan takes a lead on the favored opponent but can’t hold on in the second half. It’s another loss in the series, adding to the frustration of the season.
Who starred: Defensive coordinator Don Brown
Quotable: “He’s said, ‘I love the young men. I want to make a difference. This is where I can make a difference. I can’t make a difference there. This where I want to be.’ That’s just who he is. ” — Debbie Brown on why her husband, Don Brown, has turned down offers from the NFL to remain coaching in college
Takeaway: Don Brown could have his own show. The emotions that make up The Game are on full display. For all the ups and downs O’Korn has endured the season, his accountability and desire to succeed should not come into question.
Episode 8: Michigan Men
What happened: The episode follows Michigan as it attempts to regroup from the consecutive losses that marred the end of the regular season. The Wolverines learn they will play South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day in Tampa. Wilton Speight has a decision to make about his future. It’s not always as clear-cut as people may think.
The Chad Tough Foundation and its ties to Michigan are explored. There’s a lot of orange dye involved in the relationship.
The lead-up to the Outback Bowl includes a bowling event with South Carolina. Some simple trash talking escalates into heated words between the teams. It’s a battle that will carry over into the game, a game that follows an unwanted path. It’s another tough lesson for this team, a lesson it will have to carry into the offseason. There are some prophetic words from defensive end Chase Winovich after the game ends.
Who starred: Chase Winovich
Quotable: “For those guys that are moving on, I wish you the best of luck. You spilled your guts for Michigan. Guys that are staying, you’ve got to see far enough, guys. You’ve got to see far enough. We’re defeated today, we gave that one away, but there will be better days ahead. Bring it up.” — Jim Harbaugh in the locker room after Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina
Takeaway: We’ve seen the many sides of players and coaches in this series, the sides that go beyond the football field. These are players Michigan fans should be proud to cheer.
Rachel Lenzi contributed to this story.