ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan football team completed its third week of preseason camp, and while practices remain closed, we’ll fill you in on what we’ve learned.
This rundown this week includes Michigan quarterback John O’Korn explaining how his working relationship with Wilton Speight is in a better place, how Speight slimmed down in the offseason and why wide receiver Eddie McDoom and his teammates have high expectations despite the drastic turnover from Michigan’s 2016 roster.
Michigan opens its season at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 2 against Florida in Arlington, Texas.
John O’Korn vs. Wilton Speight, 2.0
In the competition for Michigan’s starting quarterback job, nobody is saying much.
In fact, when a reporter asked Wednesday if Harbaugh had informed his quarterbacks who will start against Florida, John O’Korn answered almost inaudibly, with one word:
Speight is the incumbent at starter, having earned the 2016 starting job over O’Korn. That may have caused a rift between the two, at least from O’Korn’s point of view.
“Last year was the first time for us together and there were times where we maybe weren’t completely honest with each other,” O’Korn said of his relationship with Speight. “We say we were the best of friends, but there were times last year where maybe that wasn’t the case. But this year I can honestly say going through that last year, for me personally, having to swallow my pride and really support him and get behind him throughout the year really brought us a lot closer.”
Wilton Speight watches his weight
Speight said Wednesday that he lost 23 pounds during the offseason, and explained what he’s consumed.
“I just got really strict with my diet, only really ate animals and things from the ground,” Speight said. “I stayed away from the processed foods, stuff like that. And became really strict with it and upped the cardio a little bit.”
Has it paid off for Speight?
“I feel a lot quicker coming from under center being able to finesse around the pocket, and maybe get more than two or three yards like I did last year,” the redshirt junior said.
National title hopes?
Michigan maintains high expectations for its program, despite what outsiders say about losing 18 starters from last season to graduation or to the NFL.
Let wide receiver Eddie McDoom explain.
“We don’t even think that way,” McDoom said. “We think we’re going to win it this year. That’s the mindset. You come in every season, and you want to win. There’s no next year. It’s this year. We’re going to come in and grind, and we’re going to come in fighting. Our goal right now is to win the national championship, the Big Ten and to be the greatest team we can be.
“Everyone has [come together]. Everyone has bought in. We’re not looking for next year. We’re looking for now.”
Michigan hasn’t won a Big Ten division title in the six seasons the league has broken itself into divisions. It hasn’t won or split a Big Ten title since 2004. And it hasn’t won a national title since 1997.
How Zach Gentry’s move came about
Zach Gentry signed with Michigan in February 2015, when he was ranked by several recruiting services as one of the nation’s top-10 pro-style squarterbacks. However, Michigan’s coaches didn’t project him as the next Brian Griese, or even the next Wilton Speight.
Gentry, a redshirt sophomore, found out when he arrived on campus in the summer of 2015 that the coaching staff planned to move him to tight end, to better utilize his size and athleticism.
“I think it was one of those things, I wasn’t expecting it, but at the same time, I just rolled with it,” Gentry said. “Coach Harbaugh, I trusted him. I knew it was best. We sat down and he explained to me what was going on and said they needed some athleticism in other spots. I trusted him. I think it’s paid off a lot for me.”
The 6-foot-7, 245-pound junior from Albuquerque, N.M., played in seven games in 2016 at tight end, receiver and on special teams.
Mason Cole’s first offer — an offer he refused
Mason Cole’s first college scholarship offer wasn’t from Michigan. It was likely from Michigan assistant Greg Frey, who at the time was an assistant at Indiana, and hailed from Clearwater, Fla., about 15 miles from Tarpon Springs, Fla., Cole’s hometown.
“You’ve got to confirm this, I might have been his first offer,” said Frey, Michigan’s first-year tackles and tight ends coach/run game coordinator. “Where he went to high school, East Lake High School, is very close to where I grew up. I’ve had the privilege of watching him develop as a young man and just as a person, and he told me no. It sort of [ticked] me off so I joined him. That’s what I told him.”
Michigan hired Frey in January, while Cole is a senior offensive lineman for the Wolverines. Frey said he and Cole occasionally discuss the rejection — and how ultimately, they ended up in the same program.
“I’m a big fan of anybody from my hometown and I want him to succeed,” Frey said.
“I’m a big fan of just guys taking [the] opportunity to chase their dreams, and Mason was doing that, whether I was here or not. He’s been doing a great job of it. Just being able to be a part of it now makes it special.”
It’s been a difficult stretch for the country, in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Va., during a white nationalist protest Aug. 12 that resulted in the death of counter-protestor Heather Heyer and Virginia State troopers H. Jay Cullen and Berke M. M. Bates. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, like so many others, took to Twitter on Monday night to voice his displeasure.
Anyone who demonstrates through violence, terror or intimidation are embarrassments to our country & are truly disrespectful to our flag.
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) August 15, 2017