2017 Season Countdown: #1 Wilton Speight

2017 Season Countdown: #1 Wilton Speight


August 31, 2017

Wilton Speight (image via SI)

Name: Wilton Speight
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 243 lbs.
High school: Richmond (VA) Collegiate
Position: Quarterback
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #3
Last year: I ranked Speight #9 and said he would be the starting quarterback. He completed 204/331 passes (61.6%) for 2,538 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions.
TTB Rating: 77

Speight probably wasn’t the fan favorite to win the job going into 2016. That honor probably went to John O’Korn, who had starting experience at Houston and supposedly looked even better than Jake Rudock during his 2015 redshirt season. But Speight did indeed win the gig. He started off great. From Hawaii through Maryland, he threw 15 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions, leading the team to a 9-0 record. In the final three games of the season, he threw 3 touchdowns and 4 picks while falling to 0-3 down the stretch. (He missed the Indiana game, a narrow win for O’Korn.) Speight’s ability to evade and shake off pass rushers led people to call him a Baby Roethlisberger, but that comparison didn’t stop fans from calling for the most popular guy on the team: the backup quarterback.

That continued into this off-season. The spring game pitted Speight against rising redshirt freshman Brandon Peters, and Peters looked better by far. It probably helped that Peters had a better supporting cast, but still, Speight threw some ugly passes and made some dumb decisions. He didn’t perform under pressure and dump off the ball like one would hope for a veteran quarterback, and that’s what he has to be. He’s going to face pressure behind an unproven offensive line, and he wont’ have a crew of veteran receivers to throw the ball to this fall. Hopefully, Michigan can find some offensive playmakers and carry on with their superior defensive effort from last fall, because they’re going to be playing some tigher games. Speight has reportedly improved his deep ball from last year, when he struggled to consistently hit guys deep. Now Michigan has more speed and playmaking ability at receiver, even though many of them are young. This is going to be a trying season for Speight.

I have Speight up here at #1 because Michigan needs his experience, calm, and leadership. O’Korn is 1-0 as a starter, but that was an ugly win against Indiana. He has reportedly improved, but that one starting performance left more doubt in my mind than I had before I ever saw him play in crunch time. Meanwhile, Peters has supposedly fallen off during fall practices, perhaps because he realized he wouldn’t surpass Speight. I believe Michigan has a backup or two whom Harbaugh can game plan to use well enough to prevent the season from totally tanking if Speight gets hurt, but it will be difficult to win games down the stretch if QB1 isn’t available.

Prediction: Starting quarterback; 2,800 yards, 20 touchdowns, 9 interceptions

29 comments

  1. Comments: 113
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    INTJohn
    Aug 31, 2017 at 8:13 AM

    Ok……….
    Where are the 9 interceptions coming from?
    Harbaugh’s QB’s have always shown great improvement from year 1 to year 2. And last year Sp8 only threw 7 – 1 of which was on the first play of the year and 4 of the other 6 in the 3 losses at the end of the season.

    Unless they are attributable to a very young receiving corps – if thats where you’re going I can see that, maybe, otherwise where do they occur?
    Thanx……….INTJohon

    • Comments: 2083
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 31, 2017 at 9:51 AM

      Michigan has a tougher schedule and lost a bunch of starters on the OL and at WR. There aren’t going to be a bunch of blowouts where he’s out of the game in the 3rd and 4th quarter, and he’s going to have to attempt to do more to win those games.

      • Comments: 113
        Joined: 12/24/2016
        INTJohn
        Aug 31, 2017 at 11:38 PM

        I see 7 games on Michigan’s schedule that potentially could be blow outs. I don’t know if that fits your definition for the word ‘bunch’ as its a subjective word but the number ‘7’ is objectively definitve.
        Florida, Cincy, Purdue, MSU, Rutgers, Minn & Maryland in my view are all potential blowouts.

        I wouldn’t have included Fla several days ago but after what has transpired with that team of late they appear to be a psychological trainwreck and I wouldn’t be surprised if Michigan puts a gooseegg on em. (and i’m looking forward to finishing the seaon watching FlaSt destroy them as well)

        Cincy & Purdue? yes blow outs; MSU in AA with Mich coming off a bye week; after what happened 2 years ago? this game WILL be a blowout. Premeditated murder with a personal rage inflicted that can only be described as overkill…………

        Rutgers? Minn – who tonight struggled at home against Buffalo; in AA; yes, blowouts. Maryland, I think too.

        Anyway, I hope Sp8 doesn’t have 9 effing int’s and don’t think he will; or else Mich ends up with 4 losses. I’ll pencil in 5. At the beginning of the week Harbaugh said; “we’re going to be awfully tough to beat”. I’ve NEVER heard Jimmy talk like that about a team he’s coached……

        As I See it…………INTJohn

        • Comments: 3178
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 01, 2017 at 12:32 AM

          This is going to be a different team. Not going to have the smothering dominant D they had to start the last 2 years. Gonna give up some plays, make some too though…

          Offense will have to score more. Take more chances. Make more big plays. Speights attempts should skyrocket from last year (331) to over 400.

          Luck went from 8 INTs to 10 from his 3rd to 4th year. I expect Speight to go from 7 INTs to 11,12…maybe more. 9 would be a huge success IMO.

          • Comments: 113
            Joined: 12/24/2016
            INTJohn
            Sep 01, 2017 at 8:41 AM

            Mkay…….
            Except Jimmy didn’t coach Luck in his 4th year at Stanford so that increase is not on Harbaugh…….

            jez sayin…………intjohn

  2. Comments: 566
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Aug 31, 2017 at 9:09 AM

    I believe Harbaugh can work miracles with QBs, and speight16 serves as proof. But everyone has a ceiling, and the quote below is a recurring theme of last year, that was on display in the one look we got in spring

    I’m hopeful, but admittedly skeptical

    GO BLUE

    “Speight threw some ugly passes and made some dumb decisions”

  3. JC
    Comments: 121
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    JC
    Aug 31, 2017 at 9:24 AM

    Thank you for doing this countdown. The past 95 (+… 4 A/B combos?) posts have been a pleasure to read through. The season starts in 2 days, and I couldn’t be more excited.

    I think Je93 summed up my feelings about Speight pretty well, but to echo something you said in your post that’s nice: Speight does have tremendous pocket presence.

    Go blue!

    • DonAZ
      Comments: 319
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      DonAZ
      Aug 31, 2017 at 9:39 AM

      I echo the appreciation for the countdown. Very well done!

      Speight’s pocket presence must be the “X factor” that tips the scale for Harbaugh. “Run if you must, but not until you must” is the guideline. Perhaps O’Korn still has too much happy feet for Harbaugh’s liking. And perhaps Brandon, with all his natural talent, has not yet developed the same pocket presence that Speight has.

      Speight it is, and thus the #1 rating is justified.

      But I will ding you for the lack of drama here. 🙂

      • JC
        Comments: 121
        Joined: 8/17/2015
        JC
        Aug 31, 2017 at 10:58 AM

        Very well.

        I think Alex Malzone should get his chance to wow us, which will happen when Harbaugh leaves for the NFL after Peters leads us to a national championship. Don’t worry, Tom Brady comes back and becomes our head coach for 2018, after winning his 6th superbowl.

        Speight has a very successful all-American career here, but not at QB, as an offensive guard. Jess Speight. Day 1 starter, day 1 all American.

        The other Speight, Wilton, surprises us with 4.43 speed at his NFL combine on his way to a first round draft pick after this season. 6’6″, 240 pounds, tight end. Harbaugh moves him to TE the day before the Florida game and tells him to run fast. Speight listens and dominates, leaving everyone asking, “Jake who?”.

    • Comments: 2083
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 31, 2017 at 9:52 AM

      I’m glad it’s enjoyed. That’s the reason I kept it going. If it didn’t get such a positive response, then I would have let it drop by the wayside over the past couple months. It’s been a wild year.

      • Comments: 566
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Aug 31, 2017 at 3:52 PM

        MUCH appreciated sir. Best offseason content on the net!

  4. Comments: 3178
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Aug 31, 2017 at 1:00 PM

    Can someone explain the ceiling argument to me? I mean, I know it happens with some but why are we applying it to Speight when the vast majority of QBs, when given the opportunity, keep getting better into their early 30s. As a lock to be an NFL draft pick it seems clear Speight will be given that opportunity.

    Maybe you can argue Harbaugh/Drevno taught him everything they can and that’s just that, but with Pep Hamilton arriving that’s harder to buy.

    Brian Cook did a nice job outlining the up and down nature of Speight’s first season on mgoblog. We already KNOW that Speight has a higher ceiling than the final result of last season. We saw it – generally against weaker teams, granted. We saw very good Speight and we saw very bad Speight. The ceiling was very high.

    Speight was a first year starter who already showed us a massive improvement from one year to the next. Harbaugh makes people better. The talent at WR is probably going to be better (if less consistent). The offense is being rejiggered (to some degree) to emphasize passing.

    So – why are some of us so dang confident that Speight can’t get better?

    I think that not only can Speight be better, but he can be much better – All Conference 1st team, the Heisman, 1st round draft pick — it’s all on the table for a guy with 2 more years of eligibility.

    • Comments: 3178
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 31, 2017 at 1:02 PM

      The main issue to me is the OL. If Speight gets protection we know he can be excellent. Like most other QBs. The OL’s ability to protect could decide if Speight is the same as last year (pretty good) or great.

      • DonAZ
        Comments: 319
        Joined: 8/12/2015
        DonAZ
        Aug 31, 2017 at 2:06 PM

        The offensive line is *the* key variable. Imagine Speight behind an All-American line, with all kinds of time to let plays develop and set his feet. Heisman is a bit of a stretch, but All-American QB is not.

        I would love to think Michigan’s O-Line will be great in both run blocking and pass protection, but I’m not counting on that. I’m hoping the pass protection is “good enough” that the he can set feet and get play off before he has to face too much pressure.

        • Comments: 3178
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Aug 31, 2017 at 2:15 PM

          We’ve seen some mediocre QBs on winning teams win Heisman’s before. Speight isn’t going to put up a 4,000 yard season but he can be the face of a top 5 offense….if the OL is a Stanford-level or Bo/Moeller/early Carr level.

          I think we’re all hoping that playcalling and scheme can mitigate the sure-to-be diminished pass protection.

        • Comments: 3178
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Aug 31, 2017 at 2:17 PM

          I think there’s a good chance run blocking will improve. This is a case of ‘nowhere to go but up’ that’s actually backed by system continuity backed by Frey. Pass blocking looks to be a serious concern though, unless RT magically resolves itself and Cole is a lot better than 2 years ago.

    • Comments: 566
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Aug 31, 2017 at 4:00 PM

      No one say’s he’s reached his ceiling. Speight is 22, been with JH for three springs & falls, and has had a ton of personal training. The assumption is, he’s CLOSER to his ceiling

      I hope I’m wrong. GO BLUE

      • Comments: 3178
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Aug 31, 2017 at 10:20 PM

        closer than what?

        All that matters is that he improves. Doesn’t matter if he’s at 20% or 60% of his ceiling. The only reason his ceiling matters to Michigan is if his growth is capped. If you’re implying that’s the case – that he’s at 90% or 99% or whatever because he’s 22, then go back to my last post.

        Speights has had 2 years of Harbaugh coaching and 0 years of Hamilton coaching. Hopefully 2 more of each to come.

        • Comments: 566
          Joined: 1/19/2016
          je93
          Aug 31, 2017 at 11:11 PM

          His struggles are with some seemingly easy passes. Turfing in the flat, and not being able to complete screens regularly are fair reasons for concern

          *since you brought up OL earlier, I’ll say that pass-pro doesn’t look especially promising for him either

        • Comments: 3178
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Sep 01, 2017 at 12:26 AM

          I’m talking about expecting improvement. If dude completed 75% of his passes and threw 40 TDs I wouldn’t be expecting much improvement because it’s not possible to do much better.

          The opportunity is there. I expect plenty of improvement, in part because of the ‘concerns’ (i.e., bad performances) we saw last year, mixed with the good performances we saw. It’s about consistency and doing it under duress. Saw it at times (FSU, OSU post-TOs). Want to see it every game.

          • Comments: 566
            Joined: 1/19/2016
            je93
            Sep 01, 2017 at 12:30 AM

            One thing I feel confident about; there will be plenty of duress

            • Comments: 3178
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Sep 01, 2017 at 12:34 AM

              Unfortunately I agree. I think Speights just about the best QB in college to handle it – maybe save for somebody like Jackson who can run away from it all.

  5. Comments: 287
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    michymich
    Sep 02, 2017 at 4:51 PM

    As I was saying, Speight is a good college qb (not so far after 2nd pick) but no NFL team is going to want a guy who isn’t a great thrower. Just look at his two very wild throws on the int’s. High and not accurate.

    He needs to improve as a passer.

    • Comments: 566
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Sep 02, 2017 at 6:26 PM

      He single handedly made this closer than it should be

      *Entered at the start of the 4Q

  6. Comments: 287
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    michymich
    Sep 02, 2017 at 8:03 PM

    Speight in my mind is a better John Navarre. He has some very good traits but he throws the ball with bad mechanics and doesn’t have a great touch. I can’t imagine an NFL team drafting a guy who isn’t a pure pocket thrower. He has a low release point.

    I want Speight as the qb. He had a bad game. That throw to Crawford was the worst throw of his career. It was embarrassing. I don’t want JOK although he did o.k. Speight will be better but he has to realize his ball will sail on him with that low release point.

    • Comments: 566
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Sep 02, 2017 at 8:34 PM

      I thought it was the worst game of his career. Crawford could have caught that picky, but the rest was speight being as bad as he could, without anyone else to blame like Iowa (whole team was flat), ohio (OL & refs), and FlSt (OL)
      This was just him being bad

      • Comments: 566
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Sep 02, 2017 at 8:34 PM

        *pick6

      • Comments: 287
        Joined: 9/13/2015
        michymich
        Sep 02, 2017 at 8:44 PM

        The team clearly has room to improve but the game was close because of Speight. He was the player of the game for Florida. I think Crawford might have some hand issues. I hope this isn’t going to be a problem.

        I don’t think Florida is particulary strong offensively and not having a number of guys didn’t help. I thought UM showed me some high level potential on the defensive side of the ball.

  7. Comments: 113
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    INTJohn
    Sep 03, 2017 at 10:56 AM

    @ thunder & lanknows:
    Now I know where the 9 to 15 interceptions for Sp8 this season will come from. Sp8 has convinved me of both your estimates.

    Color me really annoyed & discusted…………….INTJohn

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