Jim Harbaugh may have just received his biggest commitment since becoming the head coach of Michigan, and it comes one day after National Signing Day.
Former Houston Cougars quarterback John O’Korn tweeted on Thursday afternoon that he will be transferring to join the Wolverine faithful, noting his excitement to play for Harbaugh and quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch in The Big House.
— John O’Korn (@JohnOKorn) February 5, 2015
This is a potential home-run get for Harbaugh, who is expected to have immediate success in turning around a Michigan program that has a mediocre 46-42 record since Lloyd Carr retired following the 2007 season. O’Korn was a three-star quarterback coming out of high school and had offers from major programs like Louisville, Mississippi State, and Wisconsin, but decided to take a chance on a school like Houston that was known for prolific passing attacks.
O’Korn thrived as a true freshman in 2013, completing 58.1 percent of his passes for 3,117 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in Tony Levine’s pass-happy system, leading Houston to an 8-5 record in its first season as a member of the American Athletic Conference, earning AAC Rookie of the Year honors along the way. His 28 touchdowns led all freshmen at the FBS level, and his 3,117 passing yards were second-most by a frosh in school history.
However, O’Korn seemed to have taken a monumental step back in what could be considered the epitome of a sophomore slump, throwing just six touchdowns to eight interceptions in five games before being benched for wide receiver converted dual-threat quarterback Greg Ward, Jr. Still, it should be noted that many (including the arm chair coaches of fan threads) believed Levine wasn’t using O’Korn’s pro-style skill set properly, which one of the reasons he was canned following the regular season.
Due to NCAA transfer rules, O’Korn will have to sit out the 2015 season before having two years of eligibly as a redshirt junior. If he’s capable of winning the starting job in 2016 is obviously a “who the heck knows?” form of speculation for the time being, but his presence on the depth chart certainly won’t hurt – and it could prove to be a defining moment for Michigan’s future.
With Devin Gardner’s graduation, Michigan will have an open competition among eligible quarterbacks this spring and summer; rising junior Shane Morris might be the current favorite to kick off the Harbaugh era due to his experience (albeit minimal), but last-second Texas flip (yes, Urban Meyer isn’t the only one capable of doing that) and incoming freshman Zach Gentry might be the route that the coaching staff want to take heading into the season, with four-star Alex Malzone being another name to watch.
Either way, that’s it – there’s nobody else. If Morris is a repeat of the dazed and confused player (no concussion pun intended, right Brady Hoke?) he has been in the early stages of his career and the duo of Gentry/Malzone don’t pan out as the quarterback(s) of the future, Harbaugh has a slew of other options with zero playing experience – none listed in last year’s or the current two-deep.
And then he’ll have his security blanket: John O’Korn.
There’s plenty of reason that despite his recent struggles, Harbaugh sought out O’Korn. It couldn’t have been easy, either, because earlier reports indicated that power programs such as Texas and Florida were competing for his talents, both also in dire need of a quarterback.
No matter how this plays out, it’s a good deal for both parties. Harbaugh could end up squeezing every ounce of potential out of the Fort Lauderdale (FL) product, resulting in stellar offensive play – something the Wolverines have not been used to as of late. And even if O’Korn doesn’t start, he’s learning from one of the best coaches in today’s game at any level, which could prepare him for a shot at the NFL when the time comes.
Michigan’s passing offense ranked No. 112 in the NCAA last season, finishing with the No. 51- and 97-ranked units in 2013 and 2012.
Keep your eye on this one as the Michigan quarterback narrative continues to unravel.