The Wolverine

September 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 40 of 83

SEPTEMBER 2016 THE WOLVERINE 41 "It's how they lead the team, how they command the huddle, how they act in meeting rooms, do they have a moxie about them, and what's the end result?" In some ways, Michigan finds itself in a much better situation than it did 12 months ago entering fall camp. Rudock wasn't around in the spring, and although he'd been through the wars at Iowa, he'd yet to take a snap in a Michigan practice. "We were having these discus- sions, and I was just guessing," Fisch pointed out. "Now, we have film on Wilton, in the games he played for us last year. We had meetings with those guys all last year, all spring. Their preparation has been excellent. "Now it's exciting, because you can build off of last year without taking on the approach of too much new- ness. It really can be, how much bet- ter can we get, now that we can show them film of Michigan people doing it, rather than other people doing it." As fall camp opened, neither top contender conceded anything, as ex- pected. O'KORN PLANS TO DRAW FROM EXPERIENCE O'Korn isn't any stranger to the college game, although he's yet to stare down a defense the like of those presented by Michigan State or Ohio State. He gunned 34 touchdown passes and 4,068 yards through the air in 20 games for the Cougars. His 28 touchdown passes as a true freshmen led the nation among rook- ies. It also marked a Houston record and so did his 259 completions. All of that and a $5 bill will get him a cup of coffee at a local Starbucks, but it is significant that he's not tak- ing his first snaps as a college QB. He's well aware of, and comfortable about, that situation. "There is no substitute for experi- ence," O'Korn assured. "Not hav- ing to run out there and look at the crowd or worry about what a defense is doing. I've pretty much seen every defense I'm going to face in my time at Houston, on the field and in game situations. It definitely helps." That's a big plus on O'Korn's side, Fisch acknowledged. "John has played," Fisch pointed out. "When he breaks the huddle and runs the offense, he knows what he's doing. He's done it before. He's done it in games, he's done it in environ- ments, and he does everything right off the field. "He's somebody who wants to lead. He wants to be the guy. He wants to find a way to really take this team and run with it. You can see that every day that you're around him." It didn't hurt to be around Rudock a year ago, O'Korn said. Rooming with the Michigan starter, O'Korn got an up close and personal look at everything involved in preparing to start a football game at quarterback for a Jim Harbaugh-coached squad. "I lived with him, so I saw what he was like every single day in prepa- ration for the game," O'Korn com- mented. "That kind of stuff is what I learned from him. "He was a guy who came in every day and just kept his mouth shut and worked his butt off. That's something I want to try to do, too." O'Korn stressed that while some looked at Rudock as a wild card — a multi-year Iowa starter who ap- peared to be losing his job in Iowa City in a possible fifth-year senior season — the Wolverines could see where he was going. "The thing about Jake is, all of us knew he was going to be that good," O'Korn said. "It just took a few weeks to get everything in sync. Whoever plays is going to have the same success this year, if not more." That's a strong statement, consid- ering the year Rudock and Michigan enjoyed. But that's the type of con- fidence the Wolverines are carrying into the season. The quarterbacks, especially, feel like they harbor strong raw material in their room, under the direction of a tough-to-beat coaching crew. "We have the best coaches in the country, with Coach Fisch with us every day; Coach Harbaugh, who played 15 years in the NFL; and Coach [Tim] Drevno, with the run- ning game and the play calling," O'Korn said. "The combination of those three — it's a three-headed monster where you're going to be prepared every week." O'Korn's ultra-spotlighted true freshman season at Houston con- trasted sharply with his nearly anon- ymous initial campaign at Michigan. He did whatever he could, through running the demonstration team of- fense to absorbing information in meetings to carefully scrutinizing Rudock. Still, he knew he wasn't going to see the field on football Saturdays. You'd have never known it, accord- ing to Fisch. "He did everything," Fisch said. "He prepared. He took every test. He did everything like he was lining up and ready to play." "Honestly, I learned to appreciate the game a lot more," O'Korn said of his on-field hiatus. "I was in all of those workouts with the walk-ons and the guys that didn't even dress for games. I got to see a side of it that I never saw before, being a starter from the time I was a true freshman. I definitely appreciate the game a lot more." He also appreciates the present op- portunity, and feels confident in both his talent and preparation. That said, he's taking nothing for granted. "It's pretty close," O'Korn said. "The nature of our quarterback com- petition is that there are three of us [including redshirt junior Shane Mor- ris] that could probably be starters at 125 different other schools across the country. For some reason, it all lined up that all three of us are here. Some- body has got to play. "It's going to pull things out of guys. It's the fight-or-flight mecha- nism. Whoever is the toughest guy, the hardest-working guy, the best guy for the job is going to play." SPEIGHT LOOKING TO BUILD ON MINNESOTA MANEUVERS Life didn't look too promising for the 2015 Wolverines at TCF Bank Stadium, at least on the surface. In- jury ripped Rudock from the lineup, and U-M trailed, 26-21, well into the Quarterbacks and receivers coach/passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch "There's somebody that's going to step up and be our starting quarterback against Hawai'i, and we feel really good about that."

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