Wilton Speight (image via SI)
Name: Wilton Speight
Weight: 243 lbs.
High school: Richmond (VA) Collegiate
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