ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Through five games, Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight has an undefeated record as a starter. During that time, he has held consistent and confident control of the Wolverines’ offense. He’s made several big plays. He’s only thrown two interceptions in 146 attempts. He’s completed 92 passes — at a rate of 63 percent completion — and thrown 10 touchdowns.
Remember when Colorado held a 21-7 lead in the first quarter? Remember who helped turn that into a 45-28 victory?
He’s always available to the media. After almost every game, and during just about every Monday presser and/or Tuesday night post-practice session.
Constantly at the forefront.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has continually praised the 6-foot-6, 234-pounder at every turn. Harbaugh has covered the entire gamut, sharing detailed thoughts on Speight’s poise, play-making ability, confidence and decision-making skills.
Harbaugh likes his QB, and it’s clear that Michigan — as a whole — wants the world to see Speight, who has become one of several faces of the program.
Go ahead and throw the former 3-star recruit onto the list of Jabrill Peppers, Ryan Glasgow, Chris Wormley, Jake Butt and Jourdan Lewis — he’s quickly evolved into a high-profile athlete and apparent leader.
But Speight won’t say all of that himself. He’s just doing his job.
“I feel like I really understand kind of what’s going on,” said Speight, who connected with Amara Darboh for a fourth-quarter, game-winning 46-yard touchdown during No. 4-ranked Michigan’s 14-7 win over No. 8-ranked Wisconsin. “I’m able to learn from mistakes, and the positives each week, and build on them. I feel good going into our first road game.”
Pressure game? Does he feel the need to cross some personal threshold during the night affair at Rutgers?
“No — it’s just the next step in the journey,” Speight said. “You know, we’ve got an end-goal, and this is the next step to get to that goal. It’s not, ‘Oh, gosh — this is my first road game,’ or ‘I’ve got to do this or that to win’ — it’s just move the ball down the field, move the chains, and get the ball in the endzone.
“It’s just football.”
At this point, Speight has rapidly climbed the ladder at Michigan. Highly respected by his coaching staff and peers, he appears to be on the path to the NCAA-equivalent of the NFL tag of “Franchise Quarterback.” He’s already helped the Wolverines put up 45 or more points four times through five games.
He’s already knocked off a top-10 opponent during his first handful of appearances, too — and it was the first top-10 win for the Wolverines since they scraped by the No. 9-ranked Badgers, 27-25, in 2008 at Michigan Stadium.
However, back then, Michigan wasn’t ranked; the program lacked direction.
Today, the Wolverines are hunting for a College Football Playoff-bid and Big Ten title — all while following orders from one of the top coaches in football, one who has an all-star, NFL-caliber staff at his disposal.
Speight hasn’t been the only to contribute to the quick success. But he has stepped into leading-man territory. Michigan hasn’t had such a confident, ideal pro-style quarterback since Chad Henne, who started from 2004 to 2007 for the Wolverines.
Listen to Speight’s tone. Pay attention to his subtle movements. He knows. But he’s the type of guy who doesn’t have to say it — others do that for him.
A close friend of Speight’s for the past three years, Butt has enjoyed watching his “brother” progress each throughout the seasons, especially during the past five weeks. If nothing else, this Saturday versus the Scarlet Knights — who were just slammed 58-0 by No. 2-ranked Ohio State — should serve as another opportunity for Speight to grow against a Big Ten opponent.
“I think it’s a big game — every game is a big game for him,” Butt said. “Every game, he’s continuing to prove, you know, something to himself. You know, you look back at where he was in Week 1 (vs. Hawaii) — he just continued to steadily improve… and against tougher and tougher defenses each week.
“We’re excited — not just for him, for this whole team to get on the road. A road test is always a good test for a team. We’ll see what happens on Saturday. We’re excited about it.”