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Michigan QB Wilton Speight struts, sparks next-level conversation

All Photos: Andy Shippy

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Crossing the goal line in Jumpman-fashion wasn’t the intention — it just happened that way during Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight’s first collegiate rushing touchdown.

Well, really, it happened like this: The 6-foot-6, 240-pound redshirt sophomore spotted a 10-yard opening, used his feet, scored six points and put together a record-setting first half during the No. 3-ranked Wolverines’ 59-3 shelling of Maryland in Ann Arbor.

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Air Wilton: Speight has demonstrated the ability to do everything this season. On Saturday, he notched his first collegiate rushing TD. Photo: Andy Shippy

The jump was out of excitement, not a way to emulate Michael Jordan dunking a basketball, said Speight, who threw for a program-record 292 yards prior to halftime. Efficiently, Speight — a first-year starter who leads the Big Ten with a 158 passer rating — completed 19 of 24 attempts for 362 yards and two touchdowns, extending his team’s record to 9-0 and 6-0 in the Big Ten.

Coach Jim Harbaugh said Speight’s first half was the best he had ever witnessed from a Wolverines quarterback. In fact, Speight has played so well, that Harbaugh couldn’t help but mention him while fielding a question about Jabrill Peppers’ Heisman push.

“You might also want to look at the quarterback, too,” Harbaugh said.”You know, considering the way he’s been playing all season. It’s time to throw his hat into the ring.”

This year? Probably not. Speight said he appreciated the comment but then quickly said that Peppers was the Wolverines’ one and only Heisman candidate in 2016. And for good reason.

And really, Harbaugh didn’t come off as saying Speight should be in the race right now. His comment was more of a way to describe a player who has Heisman potential… down the road. Dropping Speight’s name one year early could have been a simple way to plant the idea.

Who knows?

Either way, Speight, who is certainly among the best QBs in the Big Ten, was incredible Saturday — ballet feet and all.

He offered another masterful performance of ducking and dodging; it was another showcase of his on-the-fly abilities.

Speight is getting good.

He’s clearly an ascending player.

Speight Show

6:18: With less than one minute remaining in the first half, Speight again showed off his arm and feet with a 33-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jehu Chesson, who caught five of five intended passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Take a moment to notice Speight’s seven-step drop, the way he adjusts to move up in the pocket, and the way he set himself for the throw — such plays are the types of plays made by championship-level quarterbacks.

3:40: With roughly 12 minutes to play in the second quarter, Speight found tight end Jake Butt on an over-route. Three-step drop, play-action and throw. Pretty simple stuff, which appears even easier when it’s done by someone as smooth as Speight.

There were several other plays, but the two aforementioned were certainly highlight-worthy efforts. Mechanically, fundamentally, mentally and physically, Speight has all the traits of a winning QB.

Speight doesn’t have blow-you-away statistics, at least not in terms of shear volume. But look deeper into his 2,053 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He’s a first-year starter who’s won his first nine starts. He’s already set a passing record at Michigan. Time and time again, he makes plays when the Wolverines need plays.

He’s won on the road versus Michigan State.

He rarely gets touched.

Saturday was the Wilton Speight Show. Everyone else just watched it happen.

“Perfect game as a quarterback, and that’s really tough to do,” said Harbaugh, also noting: “I don’t know how you play better.”

Follow Adam Biggers of Today’s U on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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