TAMPA — He needn’t wait around for the intense quarterback derby looming in Ann Arbor this coming spring. Michigan redshirt freshman Brandon Peters’ quest for the No. 1 job in 2018 starts Monday.
Peters, who started two games and appeared in three others in the regular season, has been named the Wolverines’ starter for the Outback Bowl. A solid effort against South Carolina — third in the SEC with 12 interceptions —could conceivably earn him the first snap of spring drills.
Also expected to take snaps at that point: Mississippi transfer Shea Patterson and promising 6-foot-5 sophomore-to-be Dylan McCaffrey, among others.
"From the first time that he went in, he’s just grown up so much," said senior and fellow QB John O’Korn, who started the Wolverines’ regular-season finale, a 31-20 loss to Ohio State, when Peters was sidelined with a concussion. "He’s really taking control of the offense, taking control of the locker room, and it’s been really cool to see."
Ranked the nation’s No. 5 QB for the Class of 2016 by ESPN, Peters has completed nearly 68 percent of his passes (36-of-53) for 482 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He won both his starts, against Minnesota and Maryland, before sustaining a concussion in a Nov. 18 loss at Wisconsin.
"He was pretty quiet, really soft-spoken, when he got here," O’Korn said. "And those issues are gone. He’s done a great job."
Reaching for Skai
The South Carolina defense is expecting Michigan to stick to what it knows best: a power-run offense that has proven to be tough to stop all season long.
Just in case, LB T.J. Brunson said, the Gamecocks will be ready to put their hands up, because all it might take is a little tip to help LB Skai Moore make history.
Moore, a senior from Cooper City, has 14 career interceptions, tying a program record set by DB Bo Davies in 1971. Monday’s game will be the last time Moore, who leads the team in tackles (88), suits up for the Gamecocks. Helping him go out on top, Brunson said, is the least they can do to send him off.
"I hope he gets that last pick. I want him to get that pick. Everyone does. That’s a big deal for a linebacker to have that many interceptions," he said. "Just in case, everyone’s trying to get to the ball, tip it up or something."
At 6 feet 2, 218 pounds and a three-star recruit, Moore didn’t get much attention from the traditional SEC powerhouses. He originally committed to Rutgers, before changing his mind after a weekend on the New Jersey campus: "I took a visit up there, and it was snowing. It was too cold for me. I couldn’t do it."
Since then, things haven’t always been smooth for Moore. He missed the 2016 season because of an injury that required surgery on a herniated disc in his neck.
This season, however, the 2015 second-team All-SEC selection has picked up right where he left off. "(I want to be known as) a player who showed up on Saturdays, did what he had to do to help his team win," Moore said. "A good leader, a good person. And, you know, a guy who just always made plays."
Trouble in the alley
Michigan and South Carolina players nearly came to blows Wednesday night during an outing at Splitsville bowling center in the Channelside district. Video shows the players separated before a punch or shove could be exchanged. At least one law-enforcement officer can be seen in the middle of the fray.
Odds and ends
Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin and dad Monte, who had a nifty run as Bucs defensive coordinator, were spotted at Michigan’s practice at Berkeley Prep. … The game will be Michigan’s sixth Outback Bowl appearance, which leads all Big Ten teams. … Both teams will visit Busch Gardens this afternoon.
Times correspondent Kelly Parsons contributed to this report.