Best and Worst: Purdue

Submitted by bronxblue on September 25th, 2017 at 2:35 AM

Best: Assimilation is Awesome

Last year's defense was one of the best in Michigan's history; it was both remarkably efficient at getting teams off the field and deadly at ending drives that did get into scoring position without giving up points. It was one of the national leaders in sacks, tackles for loss, and red zone defense. And it featured two first-rounders as well as a slew of 3rd- and 4th-rounders. In fact, Michigan lost so much talent on the defense that even the most optimistic fans assumed Michigan would take a step back this year. I mean, they had to. Even with a number of playmakers coming back, expecting that dominance to continue simply wasn't reasonable.

And yet, 4 games into 2017...Michigan is again one of the national leaders in sacks, TFLs, and red zone defense. They lead the nation in yards allowed with 203 per game. Both Chase Winovich and Devin Bush are top-10 players nationally in sacks, and Winovich is also #4 in TFLs. Hurst and Gary, despite not collecting a bunch of sexy stats, have been dominant; Purdue's running game finished with 30 yards on 20 carries. For almost the entire second half of the game, Michigan's defense held Purdue to 1 yard of total offense. More generally, Purdue came into the game averaging 6 yards per play and 25 first downs a game; Michigan held them to 3.8 and 9 first downs, only 1 in the second half.

And while I'm supposed to be surprised, I'm really not. This is what Don Brown's defenses do in their second years. In his second year at UConn, the Huskies went from 51st in total defense to 9th. Boston College went from 93rd to 11th to #1. Every game, you see his defenses look at what you do, assimilate it into their scheme, and then smother you from that point on. It has to be demoralizing to watch. Purdue's first play from scrimmage was a nice 24-yard throwback screen that Michigan sorta-sniffed out beforehand. But that was basically it for Purdue in terms of misdirection or confusion; the rest of the game was just a grind despite a couple of attempts to get Michigan defenders on skates. As usual, Devin Bush was flying all around the field and causing havoc, which Winovich demolished whomever was sent to block him on the way to 4 sacks. Purdue is going to be annoying as long as Brohm is there, but it's still Purdue talent and good lord, Don Brown with top-5 talent is going to continue to eat offenses up regardless of their wrinkles. As someone who lived through the Drew Brees Boilermakers while in college, seeing a Michigan defense so effortlessly crush the will of a team trying to confuse them is mesmerizing.

Best: Everything Zen

I'm going to wear a hole into my copy of Sixteen Stone, but I'm going to have to keep coming back to it as long as Devin Bush continues to have games like he did yesterday. For yet another week, Bush just wrecked Purdue's offense both in the backfield and when they (rarely) got past the front line. He combined with Winovich to destroy David Blough on a dropback. He screamed around the corner to crunch Blough again later in the first quarter. He also sprinted to the sideline to break up a pretty good throw to a Purdue TE. He finished the day tied with Winovich for the team lead in tackles, while also picking up a PBU and, while not documented on the official box score, close to a billion hits on the QB. I know there was some consternation about Michigan going so hard after Bush while, perhaps, ignoring higher-rated targets, but right now Bush is probably the defensive play of the year in the conference, or at the very least should be in the top 3. This defense would be very good without him, but he brings and edge, an aggressiveness to it that Don Brown can deploy with abandon. I know coming into the year the question was who would replace Peppers as that do-it-all player that drove the defense, and everyone sort of assumed it would be a safety hybrid in his mold. But it's pretty clear that Devin Bush has taken over the role of disruptor on defense, and he should only get better as the season progresses.

Best: No Fly Zone

Purdue looked like the first opportunity for the defensive backfield to be "exposed" by a competent passing game. Hill and Long have looked solid for most of the season at corner, and Metellus and Kinnel have largely kept the mistakes tamped down (save for one bust against Air Force), but Purdue came into the game averaging around 300 yards in the air with a 65% completion rate and 7.5 ypa. Michigan held them to 159 yards on 43% completion percentage and 5.3 ypa. Terry Wright was a tough matchup on Purdue's one long-ish scoring drive, but beyond that Michigan's defensive backs just sat on the Purdue receivers and didn't give them a chance to get open or, on the rate occasion they caught the ball, additional yards.

I guess we'll see how they handle their next big test against PSU in a couple of weeks, but (a) I don't think the Nittany Lions' receivers are all that scary, and (b) it's hard to see them suddenly regressing all that much even against improved competition.

Best: Freak off a Leash

I am going to get into what will likely be a much-ridiculed discussion about the future of the QB position in the next section, but for now I want to point out that John O'Korn had himself a fantastic game. The top-line stats were great: 18/26, 270 yards, 10.4 ypa, 1 TD and 1 pick that was a bit behind Perry but also probably should have been caught/bounced up and harmlessly onto the turf. It was his best game since his freshman year at Houston, and he displayed the mix of athleticism, quick decision-making, and solid mechanics that made him so appealing as a transfer a couple years ago. To me, his scramble to escape an unblocked Purdue defender (a not-unfamiliar sight in this game, sadly) and find Perry on a broken play was probably the best one of the day, and one that doesn't happen with Speight under center. If John O'Korn can play like he did against Purdue going forward, he should 100% be the starting QB and, more than likely, will lead this team to a conference championship and a spot in the playoffs.

And beyond the stat line, O'Korn played with a decisiveness and aggression that we haven't seen consistently out of Speight. Sometimes you hear people pejoratively describe a QB who makes only one or two reads as playing with a "simplified" playbook, as if the mettle of a QB is measured in the number of seconds a ball stays in his hand. To me, the offense changed when O'Korn took over because the ball came out quickly and (usually) to a player on the move. One of the consistent complaints you've heard about Speight (and one I've agreed with to an extent) is that his throws tend to be a little behind or ahead of his receivers, that he forces them to break their stride or compensate, and that severely limits yards after the catch and the type of open-field explosiveness that is the hallmark of good offenses. With few exceptions (an overthrow to Perry on an easy third-down conversion jumps out probably because of its infrequency), O'Korn's passes were on-point and let guys like McKeon and Schoenle build on the separation they had on the Purdue defenders. And it shouldn't be a surprise that for the most part, O'Korn's throws were to his tight ends and slot receivers; their routes tend to be the shortest/closest to the line and sprung guys quickly, oftentimes because of the "rub routes" and the usual advantages Michigan's hyper-athletic blocky-catchy guys enjoy over middling linebackers in space. The 4 leading receivers were McKeon, Gentry, Perry, and Schoenle, and you rarely saw O'Korn even look deep once it was clear that Purdue wasn't going to put up much resistance on the shorter routes.

This is the type of offense Michigan should be running, in all honesty. The receivers are very young and/or inconsistent; if they can't consistently get usable separation from defensive backs (e.g. Moe Ways was very open but was also 30+ yards downfield and was effectively out the play), building an offense around them is a recipe for scuttled drives. But Michigan has a plethora of tall, large men who can out-run your linebackers and run over your corners; they also have two pretty sure-handed slot types with enough speed to stretch the field with the ball in their hands. That's a perfectly viable offense, and it's one few teams are prepared to really contend against without somewhat-dramatically altering their front 7. And to boot, they made some tough grabs and bailed out O'Korn when he needed it. So regardless of the QB under center, letting McKeon, Gentry, and Perry lead the charge is probably the way to go, especially given the demonstrated relationship and comfort O'Korn seems to have with them.

Meh: Maybe Make the Whole Offense Out of The O'Korn Plays?

This is still something I'm struggling with, and I will happily admit if I'm way off-base, but it felt like the offensive playcalling shifted when O'Korn came in. You didn't see him look much downfield; it was short passes on quick reads. When he held the ball longer, he was under pressure and scrambled either for yardage or to throw downfield. But for the first couple of games this year, it felt like Speight was trying to throw more downfield and somewhat eschewed the shorter stuff until later in the game, if at all. Part of me thinks this was on Speight not looking for the shorter dump-off, but you'd figure the coaches would have corrected this over the past couple of weeks. Instead, it seemed like with Speight in there the focus was on stretching the field a bit and trying to get balls to the outside, while when O'Korn took over the passing offense moved closer to the line. I'm really interested to see how it shakes out in the UFR, because this is the type of offense they should have been running once it became clear that either the WRs couldn't consistently get open downfield or Speight wasn't able to get it to them.

Worst: Not Quite Here to Stay

I saw this a number of places over the weekend, and AJDrain put forth his cogent analysis and argument for John O'Korn being the starting QB going forward over Wilton Speight. And as I said above, if this is the John O'Korn we get going forward, then by all means he should be the starter; this version of O'Korn is probably the best QB in the conference (depending on how much you deduct for McSorley's, um, "displays of confidence"). You'll hear no argument from me, and my guess is Speight wouldn't disagree either if he was given a legitimate chance to win it back when he is healthy.

But we have a mountain of evidence that, when healthy, Wilton Speight is the QB the coaching staff prefers to be the starter. He won an open competition with O'Korn last year seemingly rather convincingly. O'Korn came in against Indiana and, um, played a bit worse than Tyler O'Connor did against OSU on that same day, but it was a win. Then, with evidence that Speight still had some lingering shoulder issues and O'Korn having a game under his belt, Speight was still immediately inserted back into the starting QB role against OSU and FSU, and played pretty well. Then, another offseason competition happens (even though Speight clearly had the incumbent advantage), and O'Korn acquits himself well enough but the general consensus was Speight was the starter and it was going to be Peters and O'Korn battling for the backup minutes. Speight then struggles to varying degrees for 3 games to start the year and other than a planned couple of series against Florida, O'Korn doesn't see the field during meaningful play. And even after this game, when asked if this performance opened up the QB competition again, Harbaugh laughed it off and praised O'Korn, but still seemed (at least to me) non-committal on this day truly swaying his opinion on the pecking order at QB.

Now, I'm an engineer and a lawyer; I 100% understand that as new evidence becomes available, the situation and your preconceptions around it should and will change. That's how you learn and grow as a person and achieve the most successful outcome. This was a great game by O'Korn, and should absolutely be considered by the coaching staff when determining who gets the starting slot against MSU and the rest of the teams coming up. But there is this pervasive notion by a subset of the fanbase that O'Korn was always better than Speight and that Jim Harbaugh, a man so competitive he trained his children to maximize halloween candy collection by changing costumes and hunted down kids in laser tag and apparently fired or demoted 8 Stanford coaches after their first winning season, somehow denied him of an opportunity because of some loyalty to a QB he didn't recruit and who isn't some superstar.

And let it be noted that Purdue had, by far, the worst defense Michigan has played this year. Coming into the game, they had a defensive efficiency of 60th; Florida was 42nd, Cincy 29th, and Air Force at 21, and in the case of Florida, that number is a bit depressed because they had only played 2 teams (Michigan and Tennessee). Last year, Purdue's defense was ranked well into the 100's in both fancy stats and raw defensive numbers. It is not a good defense, even if they are more aggressive and (I'm assuming) getting coached up by whatever screaming ball of blood vessels and sunburn that was tromping along that sideline. But Purdue's defense looked semi-competent because they had great turnover luck (they lead the nation in fumble recoveries), and while no defense should apologize for good luck, it can paper over a lot of deficiencies that a competent team can exploit.

This is a long-winded way of saying that some of Michigan's improvements offensively are opponent-dependent. After O'Korn took the reins, he marched the team down the field and scored a TD efficiently. But on the next 5 drives you had an interception, a 3-and-out, a 3-and-out, a 6-and-punt, and a fumble. The fumble isn't on the QB (it was a janky-looking RB screen but the ball got to Higdon and he just coughed it up), but that's still basically a quarter of play where the offense totaled a shade over 50 yards. Yes, Michigan ultimately started to break through and the offense played well with O'Korn at the helm, but to assume Speight wouldn't have been able to take similar advantage of a tiring, struggling defense as the game proceeded feels needlessly myopic.

O'Korn still made some ill-advised decisions; off my notes, he threw a ball between 3 defenders to McKeon that could have blown up, he threw ball as he was dragged down well over the head of Gentry that was immensely dangerous, and he had a little flick to Evans late in the 4th that Evans clearly wasn't expecting and could have been picked off by the two Purdue defenders directly behind him. Yes, Speight makes terrible decisions as well at times, but the line between a "gunslinger" and "reckless" is fine and unforgiving. The fact it worked out today makes no promises of similar results in the future; Speight looked like a world-beater at times last year and is now, to a vocal minority, a candidate to get a firm handshake at the end of the year or shot behind the barn, depending on your level of vitriol. And I get a strong sense that the coaches prefer Speight because he doesn't necessarily take as many risks as O'Korn; they likely recognize that this team's best chance to win is to lean on the defense and take your shots offensively when they pop up.

I know people are going to assume I'm a Speight stan, and so be it. But to me, barring additional information, this performance is exactly what you hope for out of your backup, but expecting it week-in/week-out, especially as teams have a chance to gameplan for a change at QB, seems optimistic. I want to see O'Korn get a chance against MSU in 2 weeks, even if he doesn't start; forcing the Spartans to prepare for 2 QBs with different styles is only going to be a net positive, even if Harbaugh sticks to one for the majority of the game. But Speight isn't and shouldn't be considered out as starting QB, and anyone expecting Harbaugh to yo-yo between the two as starters is going to be disappointed. The degree of his injury could absolutely change this outlook, but that's my position right now.

Better: At Least We're Average!

So as noted last week, I've been maintaining a running average of Michigan's 3rd-down distance in every game this year. Going into this week's game, it stood at a deflating 7.4 yard to go. In this game, Michigan was able to shave that down to 6.2 yards per 3rd, which is about the national average. A good amount of that can be credited to O'Korn and the offense limiting negative plays on first and second (Michigan saw only 15 3rd downs in this game, which is the same number as they did last week, but ran 10 more plays and were content to run the ball halfway through the 4th qaurter to bleed time off the clock). For the game, Michigan was 6-of-15 on third downs, 6-of-13 if you ignore the last couple of run-the-clock drives, well above the 30-ish percentage rate they were coming into the game. This is probably never going to be an explosive offense, but Michigan's ability to grind teams down requires them to stay on the field, and minimizing 3rd-and-longs is a great step in that direction. Michigan State is one of the national leaders in booting teams off the field on 3rd down, but color me skeptical about that number considering ND converted 57% against them.

Worst: Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

I have been railing for weeks now that outside of Isaac, Michigan really struggled to get anything going with the running game. Well, after Isaac left last game late with an apparent foot injury and was limited to 20 yards on 10 carries...Michigan finished with 139 yards on 44 carries, a ghastly 3.2 ypc. And it could have been worse; I got yelled at least week for this, but if you ignore Evans's 49-yard TD run late in the 4th, Michigan barely cracked 100 yards if you factor out sacks on about 40 carries. Yes, this Purdue defense is better against the run than in years past (they gave up 146 to Louisville and 173 to Ohio while holding Missouri to 70), this is still a pretty terrible performance. Purdue was able to get penetration consistently all day, and when the backs bounced outside they rarely could find daylight. I hear the refrain that "Purdue was selling out against the run", and maybe they were a bit at times, but I honestly didn't see anything all that crazy. This wasn't Air Force throwing 8 or 9 guys into the box; this was your typical front 7 defense being aggressive, sure, but winning one-on-one matchups consistently.

And because you can't have poor run blocking without poor pass blocking, Michigan gave up 4(!) sacks to a team that came into the game with 1(!!) on the season. Speight's injury was the result of multiple linemen missing their blocks, and even when O'Korn came in he was running for his life against a number of unblocked linebackers and linemen. Twists continue to befuddle large swaths of the line, and too often you saw guys either not communicate hand-offs or just plan miss them, leading to unblocked guys barreling into the backfield. On the day, Purdue finished with 8 TFLs and I have to assume a dozen or more QB hits and hurries. In a game in which Michigan held Purdue to about 1 yard of total offense for most of the 2nd half, it was the Boilermakers who had more TFLs, more yardage lost to sacks, and probably as many opportunities to disrupt the Michigan offense as the Wolverines had against Purdue.

This should not be happening at this stage in the team's existence. Michigan has solid enough recruits at offensive line; Brady Hoke did no one any favors toward the end, but Michigan is 121st in the national in TFLs allowed. They give up 8 a game! Teams around them are your UMass's, your Washington State's, your Akron's and Kent State's. If you can't piece together 5 large human beings who can block other large human beings better than Texas State, then you are bad and you should feel bad. That's what got me about all the optimism surrounding the offensive line coming into the year; last year's line wasn't particularly good at limiting negative plays and was then replaced by players switching positions and guys who couldn't dislodge said mediocre players from last year. I will say this now - if the offensive line doesn't show dramatic improvement in the coming weeks, Michigan is going to lose 2-3 games before the end of the year, and it will be in excruciating fashion.

One mitigating factor may well be the insertion of O'Korn into the starting lineup, if the coaches decide that's the best option. He isn't an elite athlete by any means, but O'Korn has displayed an ability to run away from pressure and escape a collapsing pocket better than Speight, and if they gameplan around that I can see the offense being a bit more dynamic against all but your Wisconsins and Ohio States. That's not the news you want to hear in the 3rd year of a Harbaugh regime, but it's reality.

Quick Hits

  • The game featured 2 targeting penalties, both of which were pretty clear violations of the rule even though I could see how Thieneman hit was (somewhat) incidental. On the day, Purdue got dinged for 10 penalties, and a number of them were of the "aggressive" variety. It felt like a really chippy game all around, but it was good to see that Michigan largely kept away from situations where they could have lost players for upcoming games.
  • I didn't realize Purdue didn't have A/C in the visitor's locker room during this game. I understand they are due to renovate the facilities in the near future, but how a school that gets north of $30M a year in TV and licensing revenue couldn't spend a bit of that to outfit a room with cool air is a bit amazing. Their former AD is apparently quite cheap, so if you hear about people complaining about how there isn't money to go around for student-athletes, remember that some guy in Indiana thought air conditioning in only half of the locker rooms of a D1 football program was reasonable.
  • Winovich got the big numbers in this game, but the Michigan defensive line controlled this whole game. Hurst remains on most people's first-round boards, and my guess is you'll see a couple more defenders pop up there as the year goes on. Teams are running away from Gary, and the linebackers are making them pay by being able to flow free to the ball carriers because offenses can't get any real movement against the starters. In a weekend of hyperbole, mine is that I think this front 6/7 is better overall than last year's, simply because they seem like perfect complements to each other.

Hate Two Weeks!

So MSU is in 2 weeks, which means (a) MSU has a chance to come into the game riding a 2-game "Defeated with Dignity" streak after playing the Hawkeyes, and (b) Michigan won't be looking past them even with road games against IU and PSU looming. MSU's offense is, I guess, better than last year's at QB, though Lewerke still looks grossly overwhelmed while under pressure. You'll hear MSU fans say they significantly outgained ND in their last game, which is factually true though you could counter that basically that whole margin came on 2 drives at the end of the game when Michigan State was down 28 points. They were also able to somehow have a 19(!) play, 81 yard drive end on downs(!!), which really is the most MSU drive you could imagine post-2015. On defense, they play aggressive and have some talent on the defensive line, so expect them to get pressure on Michigan's QB and for there to be some grinding drives where the running backs get 3 yards repeatedly. But that secondary is still terrible and if Michigan plays to its strengths in the moderate distance downfield, they should have a field day. It's a team that isn't as bad as you thought it would be but isn't anywhere close to the program that went to the CFP less than 2 years ago. We all remember what happened the last time MSU came to Michigan Stadium; I expect there to be consistent and painful retribution. Go Blue.

Comments

J.

September 25th, 2017 at 3:01 AM ^

Great work as always -- thanks!

I, too, was worried about the line performance in this game.  However, I wouldn't say that Purdue was running 7 or fewer in the box on a regular basis; in fact, it seemed to me like they kept one of their safeties lined up about 7 yards deep pretty constantly.  I definitely noticed a couple of snaps where 10 of 11 guys were within 5 yards of the line, and the 11th was lined up no more than 9 yards deep.

To me, it looked like Purdue was attempting to force Michigan to win the game through the air, which they eventually did.  Now, to be fair, the short runs did have a point; Purdue looked physically beaten by the fourth quarter, especially once their players started going off for targeting.  It wasn't nearly as hot after halftime -- the shadows reached the Michigan sideline around the half -- but Michigan's utter suffocation of Purdue's offense kept their defense on the field the entire second half.  Their guys must have been spent, and it showed.  But, overall, Michigan won because they took what Purdue's defense offered.

Michigan's continuing protection problems, and lack of a threatening downfield passing game, are going to entice other teams to continue to play aggressive, high-risk football.  They're going to know that they have to do so, becuase Michigan's defense is too good to be able to beat with repeated long drives.  Barring significant injuries to the Michigan defense, nobody is going to try to win a shootout against Michigan; opponents are going to need takeaways, and they're going to sell out to get them.

The Staee game is going to be very interesting.  As always, it's their Super Bowl, so they're going to play the best game of their season.  And, while they don't have the raw defensive talent they've had in the past, they do love their A-gap blitzes.  Their weakness in the secondary won't matter much if the offensive line can't give O'Korn or Speight at least a moment to throw.  Perhaps the best news, though, is that reporters will be hounding Sparty players trying to get quotes, and you just know somebody will oblige with something stupid.  Michigan shouldn't need bulletin-board material to get amped up for this game, but it certainly can't hurt. :D

Go Blue!

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 9:12 AM ^

Absolutely, Purdue sent the house sometimes.  They went cover-0, I think, on Gentry's TD, and it absolutely blew up in their face.  My larger point was they played aggressive football but weren't the Air Force rabid squirrel guys; they played zone and found some success bringing a reasonable number of defenders against the run and pass.

Also, UM wore down the Purdue defenders; you could tell those last couple of TD drives they just wanted to get off the field and they didn't care how.  But what bothred me was that Michigan really couldn't get any offensive line pressure going until very late, and I'd like to think that a Michigan offensive line could get a push before relying on the other team to tire themselves out.  I'm fine with the success in the end, but against some of the better teams on the schedule that won't be an option, and so my ongoing concerns about the line remain.

My guess is MSU is going to have a couple of choice quotes in the coming weeks, and I expect to see a bunch of replays of that punt block between now and the game.

Eye of the Tiger

September 25th, 2017 at 3:21 AM ^

Think of it this way: when Drew Bledsoe went down, nobody expected Tom Brady to permanently win the job. Based on what was said at the time, I do not believe Belichik understood what he had in Brady. And that's just one example. To cite one that's closer to home, Dantonio started Andrew Maxwell over Connor Cook against WMU in 2013, then benched Cook for Maxwell toward the end of the Notre Dame game. In 2015, Meyer started Cardale Jones over JT Barrett until they played Rutgers in late October. 

Lesson: even the best coaches make the wrong decisions about who to start at quarterback. They do so because, in practice, things look one way; then in a game, things look another way.  

When I watched O'Korn play, I saw 4 things that make him the presumptive starter over a healthy Speight:

1. His throws were much more accurate.

And, no, not just because the throws were short or simple. I watched him make accurate intermediate and longer throws on the move. We've gone on and on about Speight's footwork problems when he takes a single step forward. Try gunning it on the run. 

2. He managed the poor pass protection much more effectively.

He can scramble! More than once, I saw him approach the LOS and make a snap decision on whether to run or throw--based on what the man in coverage did. This is essentially an improvized RPO. We haven't had a guy with that skill and those instincts since Tate Forcier, and unlike Forcier, O'Korn watches film and isn't a knucklehead. 

3. He makes the offense much less predictable.

Purdue, like AF and Cincinnati, was basically stacking the box and daring Speight (then O'Korn) to go over-the-top. There are two ways to deal with that: either you *do* go over-the-top, like Rudock started to do midway through the 2015 season, or you force them to backoff by testing the edges. O'Korn can do zone reads and other designed runs--again, more on a Forcier level than Denard. But run those 5-10 times a game (with O'Korn carrying half the time) and you help keep the defense honest. The screen game opens up, and you can run waggles a lot more effectively when the QB is a threat to keep and not just throw.

4. He played with confidence, and confidence is infectuous

Yes, I agree--it's just one game. MSU and PSU will be stiffer tests. But through 3.25 games, Speight ate sacks, threw ducks and inspired little confidence. He may be the better QB at practice, and I'm pretty sure he progresses through his reads better than any of the other QBs on the roster. But come gametime, he's just a guy in the pocket who sometimes makes the throw. And he's been like that since Iowa last year. 

With a young team, especially, you need the QB to lead and make things happen. So for my money, O'Korn has earned the right to start. 

 

 

 

taistreetsmyhero

September 25th, 2017 at 4:25 AM ^

Any assertion that Harbaugh is not omnipotent gets met with a reflexive "Oh, so you think you know more than Harbaugh?" or "STFU, Trust in Harbaugh." The man is an amazing coach but the blind faith and worship can be grating. And it often comes from the same fans that mock the likes of James Franklin as "Field goal Frank" or Kirk Ferentz--both great coaches who know more about football than we could ever dream.

Squash34

September 25th, 2017 at 2:32 PM ^

I think when it comes to QBs, or -- say, TEs -- yeah, you should probably trust Harbaugh. That was by far the first time O'korn has looked like he did his freshman year since at Michigan. Over the summer, he, himself,  noted that he lost alot of the confidence he had after being benched. There is no doubt that O'korn is more physically gifted that Speight, but unless he has the confidence back, it does not matter.

Now, I don't know if it was playing against his ex coach that bench him, or what. But the guy was playing very confident and showed leardership by moving guys into the right position. It could be a situation where he just relaxed and let the game come to him and he was not showing this as much in practice.

One thing is for sure, if he can continue to play like that he will play of Speight. I mean, harbaugh kept Kap in over Smith because he gave the offense alot of the same thing that O korn is bringing.

It is also apples to oranges to compare questioning a guy known for QB coaching for playing the wrong qb and questioning a coach who kicks a field goal at the 3 on fourth and goal down 28-0 in the second. We don't have all the information about how the two are playing in practice (and every single player interviewed had zero question about falling in behind Speight, this shows he had to be at least a good bit better in practice than O'korn); the latter was a horribly cowaerdly decision that goes against the math of what you need to do if you want to get back in the game. He chose the way that ensures he would not be shut out, but also says "Ok, we can't win, but I want to save some face." 

 

Communist Football

September 25th, 2017 at 10:15 PM ^

Harbaugh was too biased in favor of Speight because he had been the starter. So many examples of this in college and NFL, where the coach only puts the backup in because he was forced to (I’d add Sam Darnold last year at USC, where the coach in fact made the ballsy move to bench the starter after two losses and go with the freshman).

At the same time, Speight had much more game experience as the starter, and while JOK was more athletic, he was also more of a risk-taker, which no coach likes. So Harbaugh’s reasoning was justified, even if one is skeptical of his knowledge of the two from practices.

But the JOK who played against Purdue is clearly a better player than 2017 Speight and deserves to start against MSU. Everybody who watched the game knows this. If JOK plays well vs MSU, many questions are answered.

I was struck, too, by JH’s measured praise of JOK at the press conferences. He wasn’t effusive about JOK the way he is about other players; he simply says that JOK played well. Maybe that’s sensitivity to Speight after the injury, or maybe that’s a lot of ingrained skepticism of JOK.

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 9:23 AM ^

Those are all fine examples, but you remember a lot of them because they are the outliers.  Usually, the guy who is the starter stays the starter gets his job back because he is demonstrably better, even if in a small instance that isn't true.  With Cardale Jones, for example, I'd counter that he had one really great game (against Wisconsin) and then a couple of okay games, but he got a lot of undue credit for playing well for 2 of the last 3 games of their title-winning year, even though in totality Barrett was always better and gave the team the highest ceiling for success.  We've seen O'Korn have a great game; we also saw a terrible one out of him last year.  My point is to argue that making broad proclamations based on a single game against a bad defense is a recipe for disappointment.

Speight is actually fine throwing the ball on the run, with the caveat of small sample size.  What tended to get him was pressure in the pocket making him forget his footwork and throw poorly.  Again, O'Korn is more mobile and looked great here on the run, but would it shock you if against MSU he throws a couple of ducks (like he has done in the past) or has poor form?  And I think O'Korn is better running the ball as a scrambler, not necessarily as a designed runner.  Sure, maybe 2-3 times a game works, but he's not all that bad and not all that big, and I worry about him getting hurt and/or fumbling if he's trying to do too much.  

He played with confidence, but again, this Purdue.  There was a decent stretch in this game when the offense looked as garbage as it did with Speight at the helm.  And honestly, I have no idea if the team had more or less confidence in him over Speight.  I don't know if anyone does.  Michigan won, so we assume they felt better with him at QB.  Michigan also won last year against IU and I doubt anyone on the offense loved what happened under center.  

My larger point is we are talking about a sample size of 1 game.  I would love for there to be this version of O'Korn going forward.  But he's had years to prove to the staff he can do this, and at every turn they've picked Speight.  I don't think Harbaugh is infallible, but I also find it hard to believe he'd put an inferior player out there for a year and a half.

sharklover

September 25th, 2017 at 12:26 PM ^

Let him forever be known as OK. John O'Korn is, and will always be OK. He hss some decent upside, in that he can scramble and keep cool under pressure. But he also has significant downside, in that he consistently targets receivers that are covered and attempts to squeeze balls into maddeningly small windows that would be difficult for Aaron Rogers to hit. The sum total of his output is OK, and may be good enough to win on a regular basis if he is at the helm of a talent laden team. But he is still just OK.

Speight, on the other hand, is anything but OK. He is sometimes really good, such as when he was lofting perfectly weighted deep balls to NFL caliber upper classmen early last season. And he is sometimes really bad, like when he was getting steamrolled by free blitzers and was saddled by a nagging shoulder injury.

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 2:31 PM ^

Sure.  But IU was able to throw for nearly 4 times as many yards (with, admittedly, a similar completion percentage) for nearly double the yards per attempt.  

And yeah, I'm sure he matured a bit and has a good grasp on the offense.  And who knows, maybe he just clicks with Hamilton more than Fisch.  

Of course, the counter to that is he just had a good game against a bad defense and he could look as bad as he did against IU if the weather changes or the opponent improves.  

But I see how this argument is going toward a circular one, and I'm not going to convince you otherwise and you won't me.  Which is totally fine.  But I feel like I've watched enough football to not read too much into a single game, even one as good as O'Korn's.  YMMV.

taistreetsmyhero

September 25th, 2017 at 2:07 PM ^

First time: after fall camp last season. From there, Speight did enough to keep the job. For better or worse, we will never know if this was the right decision, because O'Korn never got a shot.

Second time: after the Indiana game. It was not as if the decision was based off of their talent in a vacuum. You had a guy who was a very serviceable starter for the whole season vs. a guy who, based on the sample size of 1, didn't look like a viable starter. Now, given last week's game, the idea that the weather was a significant factor in his bad play gains a lot of credence. We will never know if it was the right decision to switch back to a less-than-100% Speight for the OSU game.

Third time: after fall camp this season. If the seasons are reversed, and Speight started off his career playing like he is now, he probably doesn't keep his job. As is, the decision to go away with him is incredibly risky because the coaches have already invested a year of playing experience into him. Again, we will never know what O'Korn would look like if he had been the guy last year.

But the idea that Harbaugh has put the inferior player out for a year and a half implies that it is a daily or weekly meritocracy, where O'Korn has a chance to win the starting job every day. That just makes no sense, and another example of where the fan-base adulation of Harbaugh is grating. No coaching staff would have switched their decision to go away from Speight at any point last season, regardless of what O'Korn was or wasn't doing in the practices. Some coaching staffs would move away based on Speight's performancs in 3.25 games this season. The reality is that the coaches made a decision over a year ago, and that is the biggest hurdle O'Korn has faced in proving he is worthy of the starting job.

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 2:38 PM ^

See, I see people keep saying they only had 1 data point on O'Korn.  The coaches saw him for years since he's been here, at practice, in the film room, etc.  They gave him his shot.  Hell, they probably gave him multiple shots.  And each time, Speight beat him out.  Speight struggled early last year too, and yet the coaches never even tried to replace him.  They had a totally reasonably excuse to switch him out after the Iowa game, and they still brought him back.  They had a chance in the offseason to replace Speight with O'Korn or Peters and nobody would have lost their mind (most people assumed this team would be rebuilding anyway), and yet they stuck with Speight.

O'Korn's biggest hurdle wasn't the coaches picking Speight a year ago; it was O'Korn apparently not convincing this staff he was the better option for a year+ before that decision, then mutliple times since then.  So I get you want O'Korn to be the starting QB, and you can make that argument.  But good lord, John O'Korn is not some downtrodden orphan who was robbed at every turn by fate and chance.  He was a guy who flamed out at Houston, transferred to Michigan, played worse than the starter seemingly for a year+, then has (I hope) improved to the point he can lead this team in the event Speight can't play.  That isn't adulatiion for Harbaugh; that's just the reality of every public data point we have.  If that doesn't jive with your narrative, I'm sorry.

Eye of the Tiger

September 25th, 2017 at 6:10 PM ^

It isn't that there are always these wonderful backups ready to outdo the starter. It's that coaches are making decisions based on available information, and sometimes--even with the best coaches--those decisions are wrong. So we can't just say "Speight's better because Harbaugh." If Belichick, Meyer and Dantonio can pick the wrong guy, so can Harbaugh. 

But did he? That's more of an open question, and subject to further review. Yes, O'Korn might struggle down the line. This was Purdue, and we have MSU and PSU coming up. 

But let's look at available game information now:

Here's Speight's game-by-game performances in 2017: LINK. Using ESPN's adjusted QBR metric, his best game was against Florida, where his adjusted QBR was 48.7. That's an okay score--not great but not a disaster either. However, since then his adjusted QBR has steadily declined, to 35.6 against Cincinnati and 30.5 against Air Force.

To contrast with last year, his total QBR was 75.1. This is a player in decline. 

Now, O'Korn's QBR for Purdue was 86.4. (LINK). I wish that ESPN allowed you to see game-by-game QBR stats for previous years, but I'm guessing that's up there with Speight's best performances of 2016. 

My takeaways:

1. Speight is not the same QB he was last year. This happens, especially when your OL can't protect and you can't move. See: Hackenberg. 

2. It is possible that, with time, he would become that same QB--like Rudock came into his own in 2015. Or he could become Hackenberg...never able to regain his lost promise.

3. Though our information is limited, what we do know is that O'Korn provided the one and only good QB performance of 2017. This is undeniable. Speight was somewhere between bad and barely serviceable in his 3 starts; O'Korn was good in his 1 start. This is the information we have, and this is the information the coaches have now as well.

4. Saying "this is just Purdue" also applies to Cincinnati and Air Force. 

  • Cincinnati is #64 in defensive S&P
  • Air Force is #103 in defensive S&P
  • Purdue is #73 in defensive S&P

If O'Korn's performance is mitigated by the fact that it was just Purdue, then Speight's bad performances are compounded by the fact that it was just Cincinnati and Air Force. He was terrible against terrible competition. Full stop. 

4. There are very good reasons why O'Korn played better, as I outlined above. Our OL isn't good in pass protection, defenses are stacking the box, Speight throws ducks when he steps up in the pocket, our WRs don't run crisp routes, etc.

O'Korn, by contrast, looks much better suited to our personnel. He can run for yards, and keep plays alive. He throws better on the move--this is undeniable at this point. Whatever Speight did last year, he cannot throw accurately on the move in 2017. And he creates RPOs on the fly. 

If we are going to win big games with an OL that can't create a stable pocket, we need someone who can leave the pocket and make things happen. Based on all available information from 2017, that is O'Korn. 

 

 

EGD

September 25th, 2017 at 6:37 PM ^

I don't understand this fascination with going back and saying, "oh, Harbaugh got it wrong--should have started O'Korn." I mean, you have the two guys compete, and you start the one who performs better. If player A consistently outperforms player B over, say, 20 practices, does that necessarily mean player A will still do better in practice 21? Or the upcoming game? Of course not--but you have no reason to think otherwise. It's great that O'Korn made the most of his opportunity on Saturday and hopefully he will keep it going, but his play up until that point had not suggested that level of performance was likely.

Eye of the Tiger

September 26th, 2017 at 12:08 AM ^

I think it's obvious that Speight was better in practice--otherwise, why start him? He was the worst of the top 3 QBs in the Spring Game, so naming him the starter has to be because he was better in practices. 

That was the available information until last Saturday. Now there is new information. I find that information compelling. 

EGD

September 26th, 2017 at 10:36 AM ^

Yeah, this is how I look at it too.  I guess there is no point in arguing over the semantics of whether it was the "right" or "wrong" decision for Harbaugh to start WS earlier in the year when the available information pointed to WS being the better QB, even if subsequent information (i.e., O'Korn's performance in the Purdue game) now calls that into question.

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 9:11 PM ^

With any advanced rankings, you are dealing with small sample sizes.  At Football Study Hall, I try to look at the five factors for Cincinnati, Air Force, and Purdue instead of the raw rankings, since Connelly has noted before that you need 5-6 games before those rankings mean much because of the vagaries of OOC scheduling.  Looking at the five factors, which drill down a bit on a per-drive basis, you see that AF is 11th in efficiency, 34th in field position, 38th in finishing drives, and 126th in explosiveness, which is always a weird outlier for them because they work really well until they bust badly.  That's sort of their defense's design, and as we saw in that game Michigan got them a couple of times but it was largely effective.  Cincinnati is 81, 25, 68, and 69th, and those numbers were lower before they ran into Navy (as their 12% defensive performance showed).  Purdue is 60's across the board (61, 61, 59, 67), and that's helped a lot by Missouri playing like garbage (see their defensive percentile performance was between 20 and 52%, but a big fat 97% against Missouri).  And Purdue has enjoyed one of the best turnover margins in the country, leading the nation in fumble recoveries; Cincy and AF are basically even.

I went back and looked Speight's QBR from 2016.  Going off adjusted QBR, Speight put up the same or better numbers against Hawaii, UCF, Penn State, Illinois, MSU, and Maryland.  Is this Purdue team demonstrably better than last year's UCF or Maryland teams?  I don't know, but it's probably pretty close.  

O'Korn did really well in this game.  But it wasn't a start; I doubt Purdue spent any time gameplanning for him defensively.  And he played great when called upon, but he also got a mixture of luck and being able to play against a defense that was undisciplined and imploded down the stretch.  I noted it above, but for 5 straight drives the offense sputtered along just as it did under Speight's hand.  O'Korn got them to be more dynamic and I think he threw a great ball.  If this is the O'Korn we get going forward, great.  But everyone is taking this one game as confirmation that O'Korn should be the starter, and it feels way less that people believe in O'Korn as they don't believe in Speight.  And that's fair, but based on all available evidence I still think he's the best QB they have on the roster, and if/when O'Korn struggles I expect people to be clamoring for Speight to take over.

Eye of the Tiger

September 26th, 2017 at 12:22 AM ^

Fair enough, though I don't really see much difference among the 3 bad defenses we've played this year. All stacked the box, all got pressure and all stymied our offense until the QB started leaving the pocket. 

I also agree that O'Korn should be treated as a guy who just had a great game, and not Deshaun Watson: Northern Edition. And you are right, it is still possible that Speight will end up truly being the better QB. 

That said, I'm very skeptical of whether his good performances last year can carry over to this year. After all, those were made under very different circumstances:

  • Our OL was not great last year, but they were very experienced and did not feature the gaping hole of death that is our right side on passing downs. 
  • Our WRs were great blockers and route runners last year, while we also had the best pass-catching TE in the country.
  • Our starting RB was very good at pass protection. 

Our team protected him better and the guys he was throwing to were more likely to be in position and with separation from defenders than our guys this year. That means that our offense was well-suited to a QB who can progress through his reads and throw to a guy who you can expect to be where he's supposed to be, and open. Speight had more time in the pocket, against meh-to-bad defenses, than he does this year. And he had more reliable dudes to throw to. 

Now, I'm not sure if Speight can recreate those performances under present conditions. He's getting sacked constantly, he's throwing ducks every time he steps up in the pocket, and he's not hitting his receivers in stride when he does hit them. To be frank, I wonder if he ever recovered, physically, from his injury--or mentally from the way the season ended. 

I think, in deciding who the QB should be, Harbaugh and our staff need to make that decision on who can run this offense--as it is constructed in 2017--the most effectively. This is where I've become deeply skeptical of Speight. I don't see evidence that the flaws we've seen are being corrected, or that he can equal his performance in 2016 with the 2017 personnel.  

taistreetsmyhero

September 25th, 2017 at 4:17 AM ^

It's not at all an issue of thinking that Harbaugh has some loyalty to Speight. That is a massive straw man.

To me, the analogy of moving away from Speight is basically deciding whether or not to punt on 4th and short at the opponent 45.

As you said, with Speight, you have a known entity who makes the safe play. (Although, this season his ball security has been much worse.) You trust the defense to shut the opposing team down and pick your shots, again, as you said.

The problem here is two-fold:

1) Speight hasn't shown an ability to pick his shots even when there is an opportunity. The OL has done him absolutely no favors and nearly got him decapitated in this game. But when he has had chances to make plays, he has failed more often than not to convert them.

2) Last year proved that the offense will need to make plays to win games. I realize this is a very John Madden point, but in every game we lost, we just needed a little more help from the offense. Having a QB that can make those plays in big moments could be a major factor in the 2-3 games that make or break our season.

That is why this decision is like choosing whether or not to punt on fourth and short. You punt, you keep Speight and trust the defense to stay strong and hope we can game manage the offense into the bare minimum needed to win a big game. Or, you roll the dice and go for it, with a new QB who has the potential to carry the team, but may doom it instead.

It's a very subjective question of which is worth the risk. That is why the "Trust in Harbaugh" posts rile me up. Harbaugh obviously has infinitely more (PRACTICE, not GAME) information to make his decision than any of us fans. But, at the end of the day, it is a subjective decision, and if he chooses the risk-averse path, I will be disappointed. Just like I would be disappointed if he punted.

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 9:30 AM ^

Sure, Speight has looked poor this year at times, but I'd argue he has made enough plays to move the chains against better defenses than Purdue.  And as for #2, Speight wasn't the issue against OSU and FSU; Michigan couldn't run the ball to save their lives in either game, and the receivers certainly didn't help by dropping balls or failing to win matchups downfield.  And while O'Korn looked great this game, he has a history of being very loose with the ball, and as I pointed out, he had a couple of scary throws in this game that could absolutely have ended badly.  Speight has thrown 2 picks this year to O'Korn's one; both of their first picks were as much bad luck as a bad throw.  Speight also fumbled twice against Cincy, though I still contend the one with Crawford was partially Crawford not running to the ball and failing to secure what was a little uneven (but certainly not terrible) handoff.  So he hasn't played well but also been bitten by some bad luck; give O'Korn those 3 games and who the heck knows if he suffers from the same misfortune.  

To me, it isn't an issue like punting or not.  Speight isn't a punt, and O'Korn isn't some ballsy 4th-down call.  They are football players who have competed for the starting QB spot.  Speight won it for basically 2 years; maybe O'Korn has gotten better and should be the starter going forward.  But saying that O'Korn is some higher-upside player seems reactionary to a single game; Speight was just as dynamic for swaths of last year.  Again, I'm fine if O'Korn stays at QB if he's the best out there, but I guess I'll be the one around here who taps the breaks based on 1 game.

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 10:45 AM ^

Fine.  He was also put in that position because Michigan couldn't run the ball to save it's life, and so you had a QB trying to throw his way out of the shadow of his endzone on first down.

Yes, Wilton Speight isn't and wasn't perfect.  But show me in those games against FSU and OSU anyone else doing anything offensively?  Chris Evans had one long run against FSU, and that is the sum total of "good" plays by the offense.  The team gave up 20 TFLs over those 2 games.  

I am fine if O'Korn beats out Speight and is the starting QB, but all of this revisionist BS where people try to paint Speight as the lead problem of the offense is astounding.

kehnonymous

September 25th, 2017 at 11:19 AM ^

It's true that Speight's 3 (oy vey!) turnovers were very very very relevant to the outcome of the OSU game.  It's also true that he was the main generator of what little offense we had.  And he was put into that position by 1) lighting downs on fire with the wrinkle-less Pepcat package 2) the O-Line's inability to contain Raekwon & Bosa 3) ineffective playcalling 4) lack of run game 5) I'm too PTSD'd to think of number five but I'm sure there's something.  And football being football the QB gets a disproportionate amount of the blame.

It's still a 'How did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?' kind of thing.  Speight was absolutely thrown under the bus by our other offensive shortcomings.  But his own mistakes not only failed to get us out from under the bus, they put us squarely in the path of its tires.

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 12:03 PM ^

I have always maintained that Speight's struggles this year are a symptom of a bad offensive line and weird playcalling, not necessarily the cause.  He absolutely hasn't helped in those regards with getting the ball out on target to his receivers, and I am fine if O'Korn provides those elements going forward.  But I see this release of emotions coming from the fanbase (and I heard it on the podcast as well) that finally Michigan has a QB that will save them based on one game, and I simply don't understand how people can look at Purdue and assume that (a) O'Korn can replicate that level of success against other people, and (b) believe that those same issues we saw in this game that got Speight hurt and the offense sputtering couldn't rear their ugly heads again, soon.

kehnonymous

September 25th, 2017 at 1:45 PM ^

At the same time, there's some room for cautious optimism here with O'Korn.  I was as much on the 'trust the coaches' and 'backups are backups for a reason' train as anyone else, but there wasn't any indication that things were going to get turned around with Speight at this time.  

It's certainly true that many of us put too much stock in results-based charting and recency bias, but... you are what your record says you are.  And even though it's only Purdue, I finally saw sustained coherent offense that didn't self-destruct in the red zone.  There are all kinds of caveats to apply but this is pretty much the only thing we have to build on all season in terms of an offensive identity so at this point I think we gotta run with it.

Squash34

September 25th, 2017 at 2:57 PM ^

I see it differantly. It feels like Speight is a little off from last year. He says the criticism has not got to him. But, this year he sure seems to be playing not to make mistakes. I did not get this feeling last year, pre or post injury.

This seems to have flip flopped with O'korn, and I know it was only one game. However, when he played last year he seem to play not to make a mistake. This game he just played, much like Speight last year.

Eye of the Tiger

September 25th, 2017 at 11:57 PM ^

...maybe that means we need a QB with a different skill set this year. That's my feeling. I mean, it's always possible that Speight was the better choice for who we had last year, and not the best choice for who we have this year. 

I also think, like a lot of people, that he hasn't been the same since Iowa. Maybe since his injury. I mean, that happens. OSU fans have asked the same about JT Barrett, wondering whether his throwing mechanics ever recovered from the injury and subsequent benching. It's plausible too. 

Whatever it is, we need to go with the guy who puts us in the best position to win. Based on everything I've seen, that isn't Speight right now. 

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 12:05 PM ^

I was simply basing that on the advanced stats I've seen as well as the fact that Brohm's teams are offense-first, middling defensive units while Fickell is a defensive coach and outside of playing Navy, they've looked pretty good against the team they've played.

I will say with 100% certainty that Purdue's inability to not get booted from games because of targeting is not something you'd see out of AF.

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 2:46 PM ^

I don't trust them implicitly, but considering last year's Purdue defense was 107th in the country and they didn't get an immense infusion of talent, there's a safe bet they aren't immensely better.  Plus, they've had pretty good TO luck this year, and historically that can paper over some deficiencies.  You could kind of tell that Purdue really didn't do much defensively beyond that fumble, and so by midway into the 4th quarter they were beaten down because they couldn't get off the field.

 

Squash34

September 25th, 2017 at 3:04 PM ^

I agree with everything you said. Advance Stats are not the end all, but they do give to a good gauge to how teams are playing. I would say that with the new defensive coaching, which seems like an upgrade, I expect them to move into the 60-75 range. If that happens determaining if they are immensely better would depend on what you qualify as being immensely better in this context.

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 9:13 PM ^

I provided my counter-argument above.  Looking at rankings alone doesn't give you the whole picture for a defense.  And having watched all these games, I see how Air Force and Cincy can really mess with a team defensively; Purdue looked a step slower and less disciplined than either team.  

Eye of the Tiger

September 25th, 2017 at 11:49 PM ^

I just want to know what it's based on. You said it was based on advanced stats, but the one I've seen--S&P+--does not support your argument. Granted, it's not a good idea to read too much into S&P+ this early in the season, as there's too many preseason assumptions left in the model and too few data points for really robust conclusions. 

I'm just bringing it up to show that your opinion that Purdue's defense is the worst we've played isn't supported by advanced stats. You may be right, in the end, but at present the only statistical evidence we have tells us it's the second worst. My personal opinion is that their defense is comparable to Cincy and AF's. S&P+ suggests it's somewhere in-between those two. 

I think it's clear, though, that the only good defense we've played so far is Florida, and outside a few RPS wins on Isaac runs, our offense was downright awful in that one. And then it was awful against Cincy, AF and for the first half against Purdue. 

Really we've only had one half out of eight that was good, offensively speaking. I think we kinda sorta have to go with the guy who made that happen.

Speight, as I see it, has only had two good half games since Iowa last year: first half against OSU and second half against FSU. His best performance so far this year has been "adequate against inferior competition." 

I dunno...maybe he's still hurt from last year and needs more time to rehab. Maybe he's working through some psychological issues related to how the season ended last year. Maybe O'Korn just had a good day and will be terrible against MSU, like Sheridan was terrible after having that one good game against Minnesota.

Or maybe, as I suspect, O'Korn's skillset is just better suited to papering over the undeniable  flaws on our roster--poor pass protection, especially from the right side of the line, poor route running by our young WRs, and now--quite possibly--losing our other starting WR to injury.  

Gameboy

September 25th, 2017 at 11:48 AM ^

Speight has a completion rate of around 60%, which is by definition, more success than failure.

We get it, you hate Speight. And I am sure you will be calling for O'Korn's head soon and Peters head soon after that.

Harbaugh will do what is best for the team. Couldn't care less about what folks like you bit ch about.

taistreetsmyhero

September 25th, 2017 at 1:02 PM ^

Way over-simplified. Ignores bad reads where you leave yards and points on the field, ignores crucial turnovers. Ignores any semblance of context.

His biggest games, in sequence:

Colorado:

  C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT QBR
Wilton Speight 16/30 229 7.6 1 0 28.5

Completion % 53.33

Solid performance

Penn St:

  C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT QBR
Wilton Speight 21/34 189 5.6 1 0 79.7

Completion % 61.76

Good performance

Wisconsin:

  C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT QBR
Wilton Speight 20/32 219 6.8 1 1 23.4

Completion % 62.5

Bare minimum needed to win performance

Iowa:

  C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT QBR
Wilton Speight 11/26 103 4.0 0 1 10.5

Completion % 42.3

Bad performance

Ohio St:

  C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT QBR
Wilton Speight 23/36 219 6.1 2 2 18.1

Completion % 63.88

Mixed performance

Florida St:

  C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT QBR
Wilton Speight 21/38 163 4.3 1 1 42.6

Completion % 55.26

Solid performance

Florida:

C/ATT YDS AVG TD INT QBR
Wilton Speight 11/25 181 7.2 1 2 28.8

Completion % 44

Bad performance

----------

The worst completion percentages correlated with a bad performances, but the higher completion percentages accompanied performances of varying success.

---------

Harbaugh will make a decision based on all the information he has, and that decision will hopefully be the right one, but it is very possible it isn't, because the man isn't infallible.

bronxblue

September 25th, 2017 at 2:52 PM ^

So I see 1 legit bad performance against Iowa, one sorta-bad performance against Florida, and then "the bare minimum needed to win", which is sort of the definition of a win against a top-10 defense.  

I get your point.  I just disagree with it.  But really, that Florida game wasn't nearly as bad as people are making it out to be.  It was a sloppy first game of the season for both teams; look across the college landscape that weekend and you'll see a lot of performances like that that the players recovered from.  Speight wasn't playing great to start the year, but "ignoring context" and then arguing O'Korn was ignored by the coaches for years because of bad decisions made in the past and "just look at what he did this weekend" is a bit ironic.