Hawaii-Michigan Preview

BY foxsports • August 30, 2016

No. 7 Michigan wants to win with defense and to date the Wolverines are not even sharing the identity of the most important offensive player, their quarterback.

Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh is guarding the identity of the starter like it's a national secret, and it's likely the world will find out together at noon ET Saturday when the season begins.

Harbaugh revealed on Monday that he has chosen the starter -- either sophomore Wilton Speight or junior transfer John O'Korn -- but he just isn't interested in sharing the information publicly yet.

"Yeah, we know who our starting quarterback is. Yes," Harbaugh said at a press conference. "I'll say who our starting quarterback is before Saturday."

Harbaugh said the battle for the job has been fierce but he carefully measured his words so he wouldn't tip off the identity of the starter.

"The competition at the quarterback position has been very good," Harbaugh said. "It's been improving, as well, daily and weekly. All the quarterbacks are playing at a very high level."

O'Korn, a former starter at Houston, has the edge in game experience. Speight holds the edge when it comes to production in a Michigan uniform.

Speight hasn't started a game but did guide the Wolverines to a winning touchdown against Minnesota last season when he replaced injured starter Jake Rudock.

He thinks he has an inkling which way the decision will shake out but wasn't willing to share his opinion.

"I think I've got a feel now and everyone has a feel," Speight said recently. "But it's Coach's decision and not many people know what goes on in Coach Harbaugh's mind. He's one of a kind, so just kind of wait and see what he does."

O'Korn isn't stressing over the timing of a public declaration. He said whether he is the starter or the backup will have no bearing on his preparation.

"I don't think it should change, honestly, if you're the first guy or the second guy," O'Korn said recently. "If you're the second guy you're only a snap away, so you should be preparing just as hard as the starter."

Hawaii traveled from Australia, where the Rainbow Warriors lost the opener of the college football season to Cal in Sydney.

The Rainbow Warriors expect to see a power football clinic from Harbaugh, no matter who is under center for Michigan. But unlike many Wolverines' teams, there is no clear-cut leader in the backfield.

Senior De'Veon Smith had a team-best 753 rushing yards last season but is prone to bouts of inconsistency. He maintained his starting job, partly because of other players failing to meet expectations -- like Ty Isaac -- and injury issues at the position. Isaac, now a junior, has responded differently this summer and is pushing for more time. Senior Drake Johnson is thriving despite two major knee surgeries and having his torso run over by a forklift this offseason.

Michigan and Hawaii are meeting for the third time. The Wolverines won both previous meetings -- 27-10 in 1986 when Harbaugh was the quarterback and 48-17 in 1998 when Tom Brady was at the helm.