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Michigan’s quarterback and left tackle battles spark massive interest

Photo: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — There’s just one week remaining before Michigan opens its season at home versus Hawaii. However, major questions still linger as the No. 7 Wolverines await the Warriors’ arrival: Who’s the Wolverines’ quarterback? Who’s their left tackle?

They know, of course … but they’re not telling anyone.

Right now, redshirt sophomore Wilton Speight is locking horns with redshirt junior John O’Korn for the right to be the No. 1 quarterback. Sophomore Grant Newsome and true freshman Ben Bredeson continue fighting for the top spot at left tackle.

When it comes to position battles, the scrums for quarterback and left tackle have been among the most competitive during Camp Harbaugh — if not the most competitive.

Four options, four capable candidates. Two jobs.

On Friday, Speight said this year’s rush for QB was the most heated of his career.

“In high school, it was always just kind of like a no-brainer — that’s for everybody — and you know, last year, and the year before that — my redshirt year, I had no idea what was going on,” Speight said. “Last year, I did my best, but I knew I was probably going to come up short. But yeah, this year, everyone thinks they’ve got a shot and everyone’s playing really good football.”

Speight feels comfortable about where he stands in the pecking order, a mindset he’s maintained since he landed at Michigan. The 6-foot-6, 234-pound former Virginia prep standout has always had one foot in the door — including the time when former coach Brady Hoke nearly elected to burn Speight’s redshirt in 2014.

“I feel good — I feel really good about the work I’ve put in what I’ve shown on the field,” said Speight, who outperformed his competition during an open practice at Ford Field and during the 2016 spring game. “You know, if I am chosen, I’ll feel very confident with going out and being able to lead the team.

“But you know, John’s a confident guy; Shane’s a very confident guy. I’m sure they feel the same way (feeling good about position in race).”

Left tackles and quarterbacks — Michigan’s had some of those.

Thus far, both Newsome — a 6-foot-7, 318-pounder — and Bredeson — 6-foot-5 and 310-pounder — have done enough to comfort their quarterbacks. That said, neither one — according to Speight — has emerged as the true front-runner to replace Mason Cole, a junior who has moved to center.

Newsome. Bredeson.

Flip a coin. They’re both good.

“Huge dudes,” Speight said. “Fat, big, huge guys that are just working their ass off.”

When it comes to left tackles, O’Korn feels the same way about the Newsome-Bredeson battle. There is little, if anything, separating the two. Newsome has four appearances and more time within the program — that’s really the only major difference.

“I’d say they’re pretty even,” O’Korn said. “I think they’re both great players. Grant has a little bit of experience from last year — great kid, great player … leader … for how young he is, he’s a great leader. And the same with Ben Bredeson.

“You know, you see a guy like him coming in here; he knows his stuff (and) and wants it bad. He’s been working really hard at it. He’s a freshman, you know, so he’s going to make some mistakes — but he’s playing really well. They both are.”

The dynamic on the blindside mirrors, in some ways, the crossroads at quarterback.

Prior to transferring to Michigan, O’Korn — a 6-foot-4, 218-pounder out of Florida — played two years at Houston, dazzling with 3,117 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. He also won American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year honors before giving way to Greg Ward, Jr. in 2014.

He’s equipped, just as much as Speight, to run the show.

“Same as the quarterback position: Whoever’s in that spot, we’re going to be perfectly fine,” O’Korn said.

Follow Adam Biggers of Today’s U on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Michigan’s quarterback and left tackle battles spark massive interest

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