Not naming Michigan’s starting QB is more than a game for Jim Harbaugh

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jim Harbaugh is giving away nothing about his quarterbacks, as is his tradition.

This has become a rite of passage in Harbaugh’s two-year, eight-month tenure as Michigan’s football coach: He doesn’t divulge who will be the starting quarterback in Michigan’s season opener.

Say something for posterity. Entertain the public. But, ultimately, don’t say anything.

As No. 11 Michigan prepares for its season opener at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday against No. 17 Florida, Michigan still hasn’t announced its roster. It hasn’t announced its uniform numbers.

And it hasn’t announced its starting quarterback.

Wilton Speight … or John O’Korn?

For those who are guessing, it’s a 50/50 shot for any of us not named Harbaugh.

But this is tactical move by Harbaugh. This is the third season he’ll take Michigan’s QB announcement down to the wire. We probably won’t find out who will start until right before Michigan’s first series.

Furthermore, Harbaugh and Florida coach Jim McElwain have turned this into a push-pull game, using the media as their arena.

McElwain said Monday in Gainesville, Fla., that he’s decided who will be his quarterback — either Malik Zaire, Feleipe Franks or Luke Del Rio — but he’s not saying.

Neither is Harbaugh.

“I have not heard Florida announce who their starting quarterback would be,” Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. “We’d love to have that information.”

Was that a “no”?

“We’re not announcing our starting quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “As I said before, people make a lot of a big deal about our roster or not announcing a starting quarterback. I have not seen a starting quarterback come out of Florida. Never any mention of that. Very interesting.

“So, yes, we’d like to have that information from them. I’m sure they’d like to have that information from us. So right now, neither is giving that information.”

An annual occurrence

Get used to this, if you haven’t already. The jousting between Harbaugh and McElwain is fun to witness, but focus instead on what has become a precedent in Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan: He won’t announce his starting quarterback until he has no choice.

Consider recent history.

Last September, Michigan announced Speight as its starter just before his first series against Hawaii.

Two years ago, Jake Rudock took the field just before his first snap in Michigan’s opener at Utah. That’s how the world found out he was Michigan’s starting quarterback. Not through a depth chart, or a roster, or a leak in the press.

We’ll have to keep guessing.

Loose lips?

If Michigan’s players know which quarterback will start Saturday against the Gators, they’re not saying.

Fullback Henry Poggi pled ignorance.

“I couldn’t tell you,” Poggi said. “I just focus on blocking, so …”

When asked point-blank if he knew who Michigan’s starter would be against Florida, offensive lineman Mason Cole gave a point-blank answer: “No.”

Defensive lineman Maurice Hurst Jr. added some context.

“People will try to understand him, and they never really will,” Hurst said, adding that in 2 1/2 years of playing for Harbaugh, he still doesn’t fully understand him.

But here’s a definite: When Harbaugh picks a quarterback, he sticks with that quarterback. Harbaugh, after all, is a quarterback — a play-caller, a decision-maker, a leader and, to a certain extent, a control freak.

He acknowledged as much Monday, as Michigan firms up final details in preparation to face Florida. Even that detail about the starting quarterback.

“It’s my job to worry about every little thing right now,” Harbaugh said, almost sheepishly. “I always found it better to worry before the game than during the game.”

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