2016 Season Countdown: #9 Wilton Speight

2016 Season Countdown: #9 Wilton Speight

August 29, 2016
Wilton Speight 312x

Wilton Speight (image via Michigan Daily)

Name: Wilton Speight
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 243 lbs.
High school: Richmond (VA) Collegiate
Position: Quarterback
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #14
Last year: I ranked Speight #86 and said he would be a backup quarterback (LINK). He completed 9/25 passes for 73 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception; he also ran 2 times for 2 yards.

Michigan’s quarterback situation was rather confounding, especially in the spring of 2015. Let us consider the following:

  • Jake Rudock was at Iowa. He ended up transferring to Michigan and starting every game.
  • Freshman Alex Malzone was the first QB picked in the spring game draft. He was at the bottom of the depth chart and redshirted.
  • Junior Shane Morris was the second QB picked in the spring game draft. The only experienced, eligible QB on the spring roster, he ended up redshirting and was third on the depth chart.
  • Redshirt freshman Wilton Speight was not picked to play in the spring game. Other than Rudock, he was the only QB to take a single regular season snap in 2015.
  • Redshirt sophomore John O’Korn sat out the year while transferring.

The in-season depth chart (Rudock-Speight-Morris-Malzone) looked totally different than the spring one (Malzone-Morris-Speight), and it might not be a good sign for a couple of those guys that they had a head start and still got passed by Speight. Even his 2015 season was mostly uninspiring, with just one decent drive to his credit. That drive ended in a game-winning touchdown throw to Jehu Chesson against Minnesota, but Jake Rudock – who was injured – returned the next week, and Speight went back to standing on the sideline until he mopped up against Ohio State in dreadful fashion (6/14, 44 yards, 1 INT).

Hit the jump for more on Speight.

Then the off-season came, and naturally, the hype was in favor of the hotshot transfer from Houston, John O’Korn. He was reportedly “the best quarterback on the roster” last year, and that included Rudock. He’s still the most experienced QB on the team, with roughly 1.5 years of starts under his belt. In the spring he looked more mobile and had a stronger arm.

But now reports and vibes are trickling out that Speight will be the starting quarterback. In the spring I was behind O’Korn, but more recently, my feelings were made pretty clear about how things were shaking out when I ranked O’Korn #22 in the countdown over a week ago. I think Speight is going to be the guy to start the year.

Speight played pretty well in the spring game. He checked the ball down and found the open guy, used All-American tight end Jake Butt, and showed more mobility than most would expect out of a 6’6″, 243 lb. quarterback. What I have yet to see him do is hit a deep ball in practice or in a game, so that concerns me. Michigan has at least one deep threat in Jehu Chesson, and more could be waiting in the wings with the likes of Eddie McDoom, Kekoa Crawford, Drake Harris, Nate Johnson, etc. Whoever trots out onto the field for the opener against Hawaii is the guy Jim Harbaugh is trying to hitch his wagon to through at least 2017. Speight performed well against half of a starting defense in front of a smattering of fans in the spring, but can he do it against a full defense of starters in front of 110,000?

Ultimately, I trust Jim Harbaugh when it comes to quarterbacks. He turned Josh Johnson into a draft pick at San Diego, he developed Andrew Luck at Stanford, he resurrected the career of Alex Smith in San Francisco, and he turned Colin Kaepernick into at least a temporary star once Smith left. And oh yeah, last year Harbaugh took an Iowa (Iowa!) castoff, had him completing 64% of his passes, turned him into one of the top couple quarterbacks in the league, and got him drafted in the 6th round. I don’t love Speight’s abilities, but the smart bet is in favor of whomever Harbaugh puts out there.

Prediction: Starting quarterback;


  1. DonAZ
    Comments: 523
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Aug 29, 2016 at 8:22 AM

    When I think of Speight, O’Korn, and the Michigan quarterback situation, I am reminded of something from my education lo these many years ago — “Expected Value,” which is the anticipated long-run results factoring in variability.

    I wonder if Speight represents a quarterback who operates within a narrow band of performance (for lack of anything better, let’s us a number scale 1 to 10, 10 being best) … Speight operates between 6 and 8 with an expected value of 7. O’Korn, on the other hand, operates within a wider band of performance — he can run hot (9+) but he can swing badly to the downside and perform at around 3 or 4. O’Korn’s expected value is 5 or 6 based on what Harbaugh is seeing from him in fall camp … some great plays, but still too much variability to the downside.

    I don’t have any idea what’s really going on within the mind of Harbaugh. But I suspect some element of “expected value” calculation is going on. Speight may not be the dream QB for Harbaugh, but he’s “good enough” for what Harbaugh is trying to do this season.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3849
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 29, 2016 at 11:58 AM

      I agree with that “expected value” analogy. O’Korn does tend to run hot and cold, and Speight is kind of a Steady Eddie.

    • Painter Smurf
      Comments: 263
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      Painter Smurf
      Aug 29, 2016 at 12:58 PM

      Speight was actually ahead of O’Korn in the spring. So if Speight is still ahead, that is not a new development this fall.
      O’Korn started out pretty hot at Houston, but he did not look very good towards the tail end of his freshman year and looked quite bad as a soph. Yes, he apparently does very well in a shorts and t-shirt camp setting, but it should have been recognized that the guy had some serious improvements to make coming into UM.
      O’Korn may turn out to be good, but this seems to me another case of media/fans hyping a QB who has good tools bad sub-par film (see Morris).
      One thing I remember from Speight’s HS film was that he was able to deliver under lots of pressure (he had crappy blocking). To me, that is a big thing that O’Korn needs to prove – that he can hang in there and deliver a pass without bailing too early or spazzing out. We will see.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 2
      Joined: 6/25/2016
      bada bing
      Aug 31, 2016 at 10:55 PM

      You are going to talk about expected value, and not mention variance? Even after you described it? Come on, man!

  2. Lanknows
    Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Aug 29, 2016 at 3:22 PM

    When Speight was a recruit I was impressed by the touch he put on the ball. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do. Based on the insider info from the last couple years, Morris, Malzone and the Borges/Nussmeir debacles, I admit that I wrote Speight off. Luckily he didn’t write himself off.

    Go get it big fella.

    • DonAZ
      Comments: 523
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      Aug 29, 2016 at 6:28 PM

      >> “Luckily he didn’t write himself off.”

      The data points are starting to form a picture — (a) HS film showed poise under pressure; (b) Harbaugh dressing him down on the practice field did not make him fold, but apparently made him compete harder; (c) performance in Minnesota game showed more poise under pressure.

      Add to that some Harbaugh / Fisch coaching and … viola! … maybe we have a QB that possesses mental toughness as well as enough finesse to run this show.

      Plus, 6’6″ and 240 is Tebow-esque in stature. He’ll be a load to take down if and when he scrambles.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 30, 2016 at 10:00 AM

        I hope so Don. The preseason QB projections have been so wrong for many years now though.

        I am going to withhold judgement until we get to see what OKorn and Speight do over the next few games.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Aug 30, 2016 at 10:02 AM

        Jon Navarre was 6’6 240.

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