Jim Harbaugh takes hands-off approach to QB race

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh spent his weekend presiding over a few hundred young quarterbacks in Ann Arbor, but he’s taking a more laissez-faire approach this summer to tutoring the guys currently on his Wolverines’ roster.

Harbaugh said he hasn’t done much to keep up with the race for Michigan’s starting quarterback spot since embarking on his month-long satellite camp tour in early June. He said he’ll see all he needs to see when the team opens fall camp seven weeks from now.

“I really don’t keep tabs on the quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said on Saturday during a break at the team’s second annual Aerial Assault camp. “I know how much they want to be the starting quarterback. I know that they’re doing anything they can to make themselves better. It’ll show up when we roll the balls out in August.”

Wilton Speight, John O'Korn and Shane Morris all entered the summer with the attitude that they could work their way into the starting position by September. Speight, a redshirt sophomore who played sparingly in a backup role last season, left the spring with an apparent leg up on his competitors.

Speight said he has been talking regularly with passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch on the phone while the coaches have been on the road. He also made a trip to Southern California to workout with Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and UCLA’s Josh Rosen among others. He plans to head west again before July begins.

O’Korn told reporters on Saturday that the biggest step he needed take this summer was simply getting more reps under his belt. The redshirt junior was relegated to scout-team duty last season while sitting out a year after transferring from Houston. He said he knows the offense well, but there is a difference between reciting the playbook and being able to execute it at full speed.

“We've all been here together, but you'll find out Aug. 8 [Michigan’s first day of practice] who put in the extra work and who was here at 6 a.m. and who was here the latest,” O’Korn said. “Who grabbed a guy in the middle of the afternoon when they had a few hours to get some extra work in. I think that'll all be very evident."

All four of Michigan’s scholarship quarterbacks – including true freshman Brandon Peters – helped out at the weekend’s camp. They had a chance to reunite with their coaches while rubbing shoulders with fellow instructors such as Jay Cutler, Zach Mettenberger and a cadre of NFL coaches and quarterback gurus.

Harbaugh said the camps in Ann Arbor were a good opportunity for his current quarterbacks to learn by teaching.

“It’s great,” he said. “Something happens when you’re a player and you coach and you teach. I see it in our players that they’re excited about it. They like football. They want to pass on some of their knowledge.”

That foursome took part in some of the day’s competitions, which ranged from throwing footballs through goal posts to fielding ground balls and a pickup soccer match. Saturday’s events were lighthearted, but Harbaugh said he has no doubt that all of his quarterbacks understand what’s at stake this summer and are taking it seriously.

“I know the urgency they have and the race that they’re in and that they feel like they’re in a race,” Harbaugh said. “I’m very confident that they’re doing everything humanly possible to put themselves in the most advantageous position to win the job. No need to keep any tabs on them whatsoever.”