ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Wilton Speight didn’t need to have a day full of obscene statistics and highlights to prove he was starter-worthy. No, the redshirt sophomore simply had to guide Michigan to a steady win over Hawaii in his debut as the driver of the Wolverines’ offense.
Do the job, that’s all.
Speight more than answered the call during Michigan’s 63-3 trouncing of the Rainbow Warriors.
“I knew the game plan, front and back,” said Speight, who completed 10 of 13 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. “And once I saw my first completion to Jehu (Chesson) on that slant, I felt completely settled in and kind of like a weight was lifted off my shoulders — and I was able to get comfortable and fire some shots in the pocket.”
Rolling out of the pocket, though, was an issue on his first pass attempt — which was picked off just seconds into the first quarter by Hawaii’s Damien Packer. Other than that one miscue, Speight was beyond efficient while spreading the wealth to his receivers.
Yeah, he put some of those together: 21 yards to Chesson, 31 yards to Amara Darboh, and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jake Butt highlighted the former three-star recruit’s romp through the Rainbow Warriors’ defense.
Prior to and during the game, teammates expressed their belief in their new quarterback — something that helped ease the mood.
“They were all really supportive,” Speight said. “Jake Butt was in my ear a lot; (running back) De’Veon (Smith was) last night and this morning. Everyone was real cool.”
Harbaugh was also supportive throughout camp — more specifically, just seconds after Speight threw the interception.
“It obviously wasn’t the start I was imagining,” Speight said of the prompt turnover. “But yeah, I was kind of running, rolling to our sideline anyway, so my momentum just kind of carried me right into coach — and he just grabbed me and hugged me, and kind of laughed and was like, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get it next drive.'”
The battle for No. 1 was even throughout camp, according to Harbaugh, who approved of what each of his four QBs did on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore John O’Korn completed each of his three attempts. Shane Morris, a fourth-year junior, made good on each of his four tries. Even Alex Malzone, a redshirt freshman, took the field.
But make no mistake: Speight is certainly the only guy at the top of the depth chart. There isn’t a 1A and 1B. It’s Speight who was “convincing,” per Harbaugh. Since the spring, Speight has felt more than comfortable with his position in Harbaugh’s most important race.
“I finished spring ball last year on top, and I was told going into camp that I would start there and it was my job to lose — so I made sure to stay there,” said Speight, noting that he didn’t remember the exact moment he was told he’d start the season for the Wolverines.
What’s a trademark of a Harbaugh-approved gamer? The ability to make the best out of bad situations. After throwing the pick, Speight then turned around and engineered a 98-yard scoring drive.
Talk about a rebound.
“The really good ones can do that,” said Harbaugh, explaining how a short memory works wonders for quarterbacks. “I was just excited for that opportunity, to see what he was going to do on the next drive — then to see him start the drive on the 2-yard line, that’s as much adversity you can have for a quarterback (when starting a drive).”
Harbaugh doesn’t pick starters out of thin air. He carefully monitors candidates, searching for more than just pure athletic ability. Speight’s an athlete, yeah — but he also has the framework upstairs necessary to succeed.
He won the job for a reason.
He showed why on Saturday.
Check out Fan Rag Sports’ video playlist from Michigan’s 63-3 in over Hawaii (all video shot by Jared Janssen).