Preview 2017: Quarterback

Submitted by Brian on August 28th, 2017 at 2:01 PM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story.

DOES THIS THING HAVE A DIFFICULTY LEVEL HARDER THAN "INSANE"

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The Law of Harbaugh: it doesn't matter who your QB is

Jim Harbaugh is a kid sitting in a basement frustrated because Dark Souls is too easy. Sure, he crafted the first draft pick of any variety in San Diego history. He beat USC with a pottery major. He got Alex Smith a 70-million dollar contract. He nearly won a Super Bowl with a guy the league is currently passing over in favor of Stoney Case. (For bad reasons, admittedly.) And he turned an Iowa castoff into an NFL draft pick and in-demand trade bait:

Quarterbacks? Quarterbacks are easy. He has all the Quarterbacka Universalis IV achievements. Except one: take a quarterback recruited by Al Borges and have him finish his career as the starter. It's never happened. Never! Never ever ever. And no wonder. This Speight quote from last year only gets more boggling 12 months later:

"In their eyes, myself, David Cornwell, and this kid from IMG Academy Michael O'Connor are the best quarterbacks in the nation in this class."

Cornwell and O'Connor were both nowhere near the two deep before they transferred, Cornwell to Nevada and O'Connor to UBC. As in British Columbia.

The Borges achievement wasn't going to happen this time either, because John O'Korn was going to swoop in and gun-sling his way into our hearts. Then it did happen. Wilton Speight, a redshirt sophomore who played a chunk of the season with something deeply wrong with his collarbone, was the second-most efficient QB in the Big Ten, averaged nearly eight yards an attempt, and had a 18-7 TD-INT ratio. He's already the best Borges-recruited QB ever, easily outstripping Cam Coffman's 6.7 YPA (and subsequent move to TE) in 2012.

At this point I'm willing to see what the Harbaugh version of Denard Robinson looks like under center. Just in case.

[After THE JUMP: references marginally less dorky than EUIV!]

THE BEAR AND THE FRESHMAN FAIR

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who got lucky on a 'speight peters okorn' flickr search: this guy [Upchurch]

...ALSO THE DISREGARDED SENIOR SO I GUESS AEMON TARGARYEN?

QUARTERBACK Yr
Wilton Speight Jr.*
John O'Korn Sr.*
Brandon Peters Fr.*

RATING: 4.5.

The coaches swore up and down that Michigan is having a bonafide quarterback competition this fall, but rather gave away the game when they named Wilton Speight and John O'Korn as the top two. Freshman Brandon Peters might have sped past the assembled masses; when Michigan fans saw Speight and O'Korn last year they knew there was only one way that competition was going to resolve itself.

Your correspondent admits he is considerably skeptical about O'Korn's ability to go from the guy we saw against Indiana to... not that. But it doesn't really matter. With all due respect to open quarterback competitions and Peters's talent and O'Korn's spring game heroics, sophomores with Speight's numbers almost never lose their job without a meteor falling on them.

Yes, Speight is older than a typical rising junior after a collarbone injury in high school caused him to take an extra year, and yes he had a QB guru. He's closer to his ceiling than Peters, a guru-free QB who is young for his class and somehow already polished. But this is quarterback, not running back. Any QB younger than 30 is a work in progress. Peters should improve faster; it probably won't matter.

THE BEAR

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you talkin' to me about salmon? [Bryan Fuller]

So. WILTON SPEIGHT it is, then. Speight's high-level stats above are the very picture of good, solid quarterbacking. They are neither depressing nor amazing. They don't suggest either an early NFL entry or a pending collapse. They are lies. Speight was a rollercoaster in a helmet, from his first attempt of the season—an interception—to the last. The twist ending is where he ended up.

He started well. Speight looked terrific for the 1.99 games after that interception

Speight's accuracy was excellent, with vanishingly few throws where the receiver had to do anything even mildly difficult. … There haven't been any passes to dig out or guys taken off their feet or throws on which the receiver has to reach behind his body. Everything short has been almost 100% on point. … Speight gives off an aura of confidence.

…and then fell apart after getting earholed by Chidobe Awuzie in the Colorado game. He put up a 50% downfield success rate in a performance this site characterized as "Early Rudock Except Crazy" because of events like this:

The saving grace of other Speight throws against the Buffaloes was that they were too inaccurate to intercept. Speight had a couple of trundling performances after that game. "There were a lot—a lot a lot—of inaccurate and marginal throws" said this space after Penn State; "far too many close calls" after Wisconsin. Also: "there's nothing for it except to hope that he can improve a great deal." Then Michigan had their bye week.

Speight returned on fire. After the Maryland game Michigan's offense was coming off a four-game stretch where they scored 12 touchdowns in 16 first-half drives and got field goals on three others; two field goals were forced by the end of the half, not the defense. This space at Speight's apex:

None of these teams are good, but that's insane. Speight going from meh to legit good has turned this offense into a juggernaut not far off their defense. Metrics that attempt to adjust for SOS are inching into the bonkers zone. Michigan's offense is #8 in S&P+, #4 in FPI, and #1(!) in FEI.

And... I don't know if I disagree? Especially given the trajectory here. Those metrics include a big chunk of the season in which Speight was not playing anywhere near this level. "Ain't played nobody" is a charge with some merit, but I mean dang man, 'Bama had 17 points at halftime against Kentucky.

The implosion was forthcoming, because of course it was. It came as swiftly and made as little sense as The Day After Tomorrow's weather. The post-Iowa UFR surveyed the carnage:

WHAT HAPPENED TO SPEIGHT AHHH

I dunno, man. The weird thing is that Speight started out looking much like he had in the previous three games. He missed a bomb to Darboh early, but other than that he was rolling out and finding guys downfield impressively, or actually hitting a downfield shot, or hitting open short stuff with ease. By the time Michigan scored to go up 10-0, he had one inaccurate pass and one marginal one against 9 DO/CA throws.

That did not last. … Speight's DSR over the final ~40 minutes was 40%.

Things went haywire after the RON COLUZZI IS A GOLDEN GOD punt. He overthrew Jake Butt badly on a three-yard route, setting up the ensuing safety, and over the next four drives these were his non-screen attempts:

You can't move the ball like that.

There was no apparent reason for any of this. There was no wind. The two throws prior to this long period in the desert were the 29-yarder to Chesson and an accurate quick out. Speight didn't get hit on either throw, and the only contact he took until the end of this period was a sack on which his legs were grabbed and he went down without taking much of a hit. Speight's performance dropped off a cliff without any ready explanation.

Speight recovered slightly but was still disappointing for the duration; since his receivers were equally disappointing Michigan missed a bunch of opportunities to escape Iowa City with a win. This, Speight's fourth touchdown-spurning miss of a wide open Darboh, has been seared into the minds of the judgmental faction of the fanbase and will never leave:

It'll never leave mine, either, but let's try to get over it.

Unadulterated data from Speight's season ends there. He was not given a chance to recover because at the very end of the Iowa game he was tackled and something very bad happened to his collarbone. That knocked him out of the Indiana game and prevented him from throwing deep at all against Ohio State. His offensive line prevented him from doing so in the bowl.

And yet...

[Hennechart orientation: mouse over column headers for explanations of the categories. + is handed out for a good throw under duress. * is handed out for a very bad version of a bad thing. Numbers in parens are screens. DSR is an attempt to compress the numbers into one overall number. PFF is PFF's grade.]

  Good   Neutral   Bad   Ovr
Game DO CA SCR   PR MA   BA TA IN BR   DSR PFF
Hawaii 1 8(1)+       1(1)       1* 2*   73% -1.0
UCF 3 21(1)     5 2     2 2(1) 2   82% 1.0
Colorado - 14(2)++++ 1   4 3   2 - 5 6**   50% -3.5
Penn State 1+ 17(2)++ 1   1 4   1(1) 2+ 8(1) -   68% 1.0
Wisconsin 3 16(3)+     5+     1 2+ 4 5*   57% -0.5
Rutgers 1+ 10(1)++       1       5     67% 0.5
Illinois 5+ 10+ 1 2 3     1* 3     79% 4.5
MSU 4++ 11(1)   2 6       4 2*   70% 2.5
Maryland 4 16(1)+++ 2   3(1)     1 2     88% 6.5
Iowa 2+ 14(2)+ 1 1 2     1* 7* 2*   60% -1.5
OSU 4+ 19(2)+   3 2   1 1 3 2*   77% -0.5
FSU 3 18(2)++++ 1 8 5+   1   5* 2   73% -2.5

That is Speight's full season in UFR. I went back and did a passing chart for OSU and FSU, and now there are numbers with which I can describe the weird disconnect between Speight's sophomore performance and the Michigan fanbase's lust for Brandon Peters. I frankly do not get the PFF numbers, which had Speight's final three games at about the same level; I saw a horrendous game against Iowa and performances between good and great—especially considering the circumstances—in his final two outings. Except for, you know, the two turnovers that cost Michigan 14 points and the game against OSU. (The third was not his fault.) Aside from those, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the quarterbacking?

Speight won and lost the OSU game. Despite the fact he was still clearly affected by his shoulder injury—he attempted zero downfield throws—he was back in creepy accuracy mode. Michigan went to a ton of short west coast passes and completed nearly all of them. For the vast majority of the game Speight looked like a veteran in total command:

He did start wobbling late with a few balls that were borderline MA/IN in my charting system. "MA" is marginal, an iffy throw that still gives your WR a shot but forces him into a tough catch or robs him of the ability to pick up YAC. "IN" is plain inaccurate. Here that poisonous Speight-Darboh thing where a moderately inaccurate throw resulted in Darboh failing to bring in a moderately tough catch reared its head:

This late fade became hugely magnified in importance when Speight threw a third-down slant a little behind Darboh and Darboh dropped it, preventing Michigan from executing a four-minute drill. The rest is terrible, terrible history.

Then there were the two plays on which he more or less handed OSU 14 points. One was a fumble from under center, his first and only of the year. (IIRC.) The second was a crippling interception flung at a linebacker Speight did not expect. For sanity's sake please don't look at Grant Perry on this:

Sorry, now you're insane. Welcome!

The unresolvable question is whether these plays were symptoms of a deeper problem or just some random-ass shit that turned out to be maximally harmful. I vote the latter, and wrote a whole column about it. Something good happened almost 80% of the time Speight threw, and the big errors were not characteristic of his season. He did this on the road in Columbus at considerably less than full strength. I will fight people who want to dump on his OSU game.

Then, the bowl game. Speight's performance against FSU is difficult to parse because he was under siege. The interior OL had an abominable outing, led by Kyle Kalis. Kalis was an astounding –5.2 in pass protection per PFF and picked up 10 pass pro minuses in my charting of the game. Cole and Bredeson were half as bad, but also bad. The end result was 13 Speight throws I either gave up on because of pressure or offered a plus in the chart because he managed to cope. PFF deemed him pressured on 56% of his dropbacks. The OL barely scraped above 50% in my charting. This was his night:

In that context Speight's performance was okay. He got sped up and missed some throws he should have made, but he also bailed Michigan out time and again:

It was a bit worse than OSU, still solidly within the realm of acceptable, and achieved despite Damarcus Walker turning Michigan's interior OL into a rug and wearing them.

The twist: Speight's late-season slide was not a slide. It was a horrible blip during the latter two thirds of the Iowa game. We can all feel excellent about his performance next year, because horrible blips were permanently extinguished, as the spring game amply...

Aw, hamburgers.

TRAITS, AND A THEORY

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jump mans [Fuller]

How does this fit together? Our operative theory of Speight: there's a Harbaugh version and a... well, let's call it a pre-Harbaugh version. When things are going well they go very well because Harbaugh has coached him up like he's coached up the rest of his charges. When Speight gets rattled because he gets blown up or doesn't trust his protection or gets spooked by corn(?) he reverts to bad old habits, sending his accuracy off a cliff.

I tried to figure out what was going on with Speight's erratic touch after PSU, which was not great the week after that earholing:

My theory is that Speight's footwork went to hell when he was still in the pocket and getting pressure. Once he's outside the pocket and throwing on the move he's basically fine. He modifies his approach since he knows he's on the run and throws a lot of wobbly floaters that are on point to open guys. When he's totally clean and his mechanics are consistent he's very accurate.

When he's getting rushers in on him and still throwing from the pocket maybe his footwork gets messed up and balls go anywhere? Compare the two fullback flat throws. On the early one to Hill PSU sends a blitzer and Speight appears to anticipate the contact as the pickup guy gets hit back into him. Thus a throw Hill has to pluck off his shoelaces:

The fourth quarter throw to Poggi is clean and he throws a strike to Poggi's chest:

I zaprudered these plays and Speight doesn't step up with his left foot on the Hill throw, probably because he's anticipating contact. If he does step and throw as normal this ball still gets out without having the impact affect the ball's accuracy.

…a gentleman who hears about practice reported back to me that this week's practice shorted the backups snaps: "They were trying to correct some mechanics [for Speight]. Short arming passes, footwork and timing. Cadence and rhythm were a focal point." He's seeing the field well, and just struggling to execute periodically.

He refined during the bye week and came out on fire. I got that same report, or something close to it, after the Iowa game. Speight had the week off to refine and came out slinging against OSU. If he can just keep the Harbaugh stuff switched on for the duration he's going to be excellent.

This is because he's got some dominant traits.

One thing Speight is indisputably excellent at is buying time in the pocket. Rushers bounce off him or grab at his feet in the futile hope he falls over; he senses pressure and spins away from it; he keeps his eyes downfield; he finds guys in desperate situations. His pocket presence is that of a 35-year old NFL quarterback who stays alive with occult playbook knowledge and borrowed horse tendons:

After the PSU game this space said "that Rothlisberger thing where he's slippery enough in the pocket and also huge so it's surprisingly hard to sack him." When Mike Spath interviewed folks at Big Ten media day anonymously this attribute was the first thing out of multiple opponents' mouths:

"Our coaches raved about his football IQ and his feel for the rush. The biggest thing was execution. He missed on some throws that were there. If he hits some of the big plays, they're probably undefeated. But the intangibles are there, the smarts are there, the arm is there." …

"The hardest part about playing him is you can't bring him down. I watch guys in the NFL try to tackle Cam Newton or Ben Roethlisberger and they seem to just bounce off him, and Speight is the same way."

I mean, this is a thing:

And this is even more of a thing:

I am actually disappointed that Speight shed some 20 pounds this offseason, because it would have been way more fun to see him double down on being large and impossible to tackle, like Groot in a facemask. Ah well.

Speight's also demonstrated his toughness. The aftermath of his ugly Colorado game:

Later in the season he played two weeks after doing something nasty to his collarbone. He took a series of big hits this season and after Colorado he did not seem unduly affected by them. His ability to stay sane in the bowl game was impressive, and a harbinger of a new and improved leader sort of guy Michigan hopes to deploy this fall.

Also, yes, he can throw deep. A lot of people bash Speight's deep accuracy because of lingering frustration with the Iowa game, but this is recency bias. Speight was more than capable of hitting deep targets for much of the year. Then Iowa happened, and the rest of the season afterwards has to be seen through an injury prism.

Earlier in the season Speight was more than capable of hitting blitheringly wide open receivers downfield, and not so blitheringly wide open folks.

He didn't really benefit from guys pulling his ass out of the fire with Braylon stuff, and even suffered the occasional blithering drop or dude falling butt-first out of bounds.

Michigan message boards slathered skepticism on this PFF stat, but it's not wrong:

It is generous. It's generous to Speight because he eschewed deep shots against two of the toughest defenses in the country and benefited from 20+ yard throws in the #buttzone, but it's not totally bonkers. Iowa was the outlier here, as painful as it was.

If you are still concerned, 24/7 reports that Speight "worked relentlessly on his deep ball this off-season" and that he'd been hitting "more consistently" at those lengths. So there you go.

SPEIGHT EXPECTATIONS

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i keeck a touchdown [Fuller]

The #1 question: can Speight keep Harbaugh mode going when he's under siege? Because, uh, he's going to be under siege some. Colorado and Iowa say no. OSU and FSU say yes, as does an extra year of development, as does Harbaugh's unerring track record. His age is a bit of a drag on the incremental improvement most players make year-to-year, but see above about quarterbacks before 30.

Refining Speight's mechanics and keeping him on the straight and narrow should see him perform better. Whether that'll show up in the numbers depends on opposing defenses, his offensive line, and his targets. I don't know about the defenses—ask Ace.

This preview says that the OL will at least remain static since two of the three players they lost were outright bad and they're one year further removed from the Hokestink, and the wide receivers will be about the same, with early freshman nonsense overwhelmed by midseason—the secret thing about Michigan's WRs last year is that only Darboh made any impact, and I remain deeply conflicted about his failure to help his man out in virtually all critical situations a year ago.

That should set the stage for Speight to meaningfully improve on his numbers and emerge into the Big Ten's best passing quarterback. This is faint praise since his main competitors are Clayton "2017 Mitch Leidner" Thorson and Trace McSorley. If the horseshoe falls out of McSorley's butt he's the man, man. (JT Barrett will of course be a very valuable dual threat.)

It says here that Speight hits 8.5 YPA and gets more attempts, allowing him to challenge for first team All Big Ten and mount an assault on various bits of the Michigan passing record book. He will have a decision to make about the NFL draft.

THE FRESHMAN FAIR

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ooh dreamy [Upchurch]

Yes, this is not the way the depth chart appears to be shaking out but I have this conceit and I'm sticking to it. Also: I kind of don't believe anyone who maligns my precious. While Speight was struggling in the spring game, BRANDON PETERS [recruiting profile] was poised and impressive:

One pick six marred an otherwise confident and accurate performance. The two best throws in there are probably the ones to Nate Schoenle, about whom more in a second. The first was a third and long conversion at 4:30 that looks a lot like the guy we saw on Peters's high school tape—unusually, I mean that as a compliment. He's got his guy, he knows it, and he tosses an accurate, catchable ball. Peters's ability to vary speeds is uncanny for a young quarterback, and it's good to see some of that is translating to college.

The second is the Schoenle wheel route to open the winning drive, which is just... dang, man. That's a hell of a throw, and Peters was making it most of the day despite a strong and swirling wind. (The earlier fade down the sideline that Jordan Glasgow got over the top on felt like it had been pushed by that wind.)

Peters moved decisively to get out of the pocket when necessary, scrambled for a touchdown, did not throw into coverage much, and was accurate on all but a couple throws. He looked very plausible at the same time Speight struggled.

You can review his performance herein:

This is obviously the only on-field data we have so far. It is encouraging.

The off-field stuff was equally encouraging up until Harbaugh slammed on the brakes a couple weeks back. After Rome, Webb described the QB situation thusly:

If you're asking me if what I've seen is further confirmation that Brandon is the most talented quarterback on the roster, my answer would be yes. No one is disputing that.  I don't think the quarterbacks themselves would dispute that.

Nick Baumgardner broke down the spring game throw by throw and came out with this take:

Peters didn't create unwarranted pressure on himself by making quick, decisive throws. And when he had time, he was downright surgical. Michigan loves to throw crossing concepts when teams sit in man, and Peters had no problem with any of those throws. The balls were on time, allowing receivers to make plays.

His deep shot at the end of the game was one of the best throws I've seen in a live situation in some time. Can't do it any better.

Then came fall, with the coaches and various insiders swearing up and down about that bonafide competition, with the unstated subtext that it was between Peters and Speight. Harbaugh:

What is your stance on Wilton Speight as you enter the season? You said earlier in the year that he is your guy but there is a meritocracy.

“Yes, so Wilton’s in a good spot. He comes in really tied for first with John O’Korn and Brandon Peters. Legitimately through competition, throughout all the spring we went through 15 practices and it was a dead heat. But the good news is they all did some things. Brandon really shot up. John O’Korn really played consistently good and Wilton really had some impressive moments as well.

Peters chatter slowed, and then stopped, and then bang.

What to make of that? I don't know. Coaches are not above making statements to the media that are mostly cattle prods to their team, and Peters did do well when put on the field. It could be nothing. It could be an understandable difficulty picking everything up. We got this during spring:

Peters is flashing talent but is still behind the veterans with his command of the offense.

It could be a first warning sign that the hype is going to... well... peter out. Ask again later.

...ALSO THE OTHER GUY

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this bit was good at least [Upchurch]

All together now: I know that Jim Harbaugh told the assembled media that JOHN O'KORN and Speight had separated themselves in the QB battle and was all like "whaaaaaaa" about that. O'Korn got his shot when Speight was unable to play against Indiana. Michigan won thanks in large part to an explosive scramble O'Korn managed deep into the third quarter; they almost lost because he couldn't complete a pass to save his life.

His performance was, in a word, catastrophic. Passing table from his game against Indiana:

JOHN O'KORN

  Good   Neutral   Bad   Ovr
Game DO CA SCR   PR MA   BA TA IN BR   DSR PFF
Indiana   6(1) 1   2 3   1 1 3* 2   46% -2.5

He was also –3 as a runner, which was the good bit of his day.

Michigan has seen quarterbacks rescue themselves from the depths before, especially under Harbaugh. Jake Rudock was brutal for half of his season as a starter and Speight's cameo against Minnesota last year was extremely shaky. But O'Korn's performance was closer to Russell Bellomy's outing against Nebraska than either of those performances.

O'Korn didn't just look bad, he looked completely out of his depth. He looked like a novice Madden player on more than one dropback:

That pass protection is fine if he just steps up. Instead he looks like early Devin Gardner. Even when Michigan was giving him simple half-field reads right in front of his face he was not executing:

(Michigan got bailed out by a horrendous late hit call.)

That's deep into his redshirt junior year, and his second under Harbaugh. Rudock walked into fall camp trying to pick up a new system; Speight was a redshirt freshman. O'Korn also has a season and a half of play at Houston that's not particularly encouraging. At the bust it was uncertain whether Michigan would bring him back this year. It would be a comeback of truly mind-bending proportions if O'Korn was able to overcome all that.

But Harbaugh sitting in the basement trying to find the "Stygian" difficulty level is a thing. Maybe!

OTHER OTHER GUYS

Freshman DYLAN MCCAFFREY [recruiting profile] comes in with accolades similar to those Peters garnered and one hell of a last name. He is guaranteed to redshirt as he packs pounds onto his 6'5" frame and learns the offense. Everyone who's paying even a little attention expects Peters to be the man sooner or later, including this space, but one doubts the combination of a McCaffrey QB with Jim Harbaugh at one's peril.

Early returns are what you'd expect:

...incredibly high IQ and an awareness of the game you can't teach. As you'd expect, it's the physical development McCaffrey will have to work on.

Check back in two years.

Redshirt sophomore ALEX MALZONE [recruiting profile] has probably seen his chance come and go. He's been definitively passed by Peters; McCaffrey figuratively and literally looms. He is all but unreferenced during press conferences. It would take a number of injuries and upsets for him to see the field for meaningful snaps. He enrolled early and is likely to get a degree in 3.5 years and search for a two-year gig elsewhere. There are worse things.

Comments

PapabearBlue

August 28th, 2017 at 2:28 PM ^

Speight was more than enough QB to win a NC with last year and had the line held up and the receivers showed up in their 2015 form this would be a different conversation.

This year will be a challenge with FR WR's but there have been some good ones around the country recently, if they can grow together through next year then speight is going to have been one of the schools best, imho.

lilpenny1316

August 28th, 2017 at 2:31 PM ^

Quinn will go down in the same book as all the other awful GMs over the years.  He'll be stuck between Chuck Schmidt and Martin Mayhew.

If Rudock is that good, sign Stafford first, then trade Rudock after the season for draft picks.  If they can't re-sign Stafford, then sink or swim with Rudock and lots of cap space in 2018.

SituationSoap

August 28th, 2017 at 3:46 PM ^

Matthew Stafford would be trivially franchise tagged in both 2018 and 2019 (the average deal they're looking at pays him in the neighborhood of the second-year franchise tag, anyway). The only way he doesn't play in Detroit the next two years are if he pulls a Calvin Johnson and flat out retires or pulls a Carson Palmer and half-retires so he can go somewhere else. Matt Stafford's contract in 2020 is a question mark, but so's the contract of everyone on the team (and in the front office) by that point.

JBLPSYCHED

August 28th, 2017 at 2:36 PM ^

I think Speight has all the makings of a gutsy, clutch, winning Michigan QB under Harbaugh. His performance last season was much better than it seemed although with several caveats and footnotes that make the main body of his work appear suspect in some ways. We should improve on the offensive line (!), be better at RB, and I think the young WRs will be better than the underperforming veteran group from last season. We'll miss Jake Butt for sure but overall the offense is in great shape for a breakout season. Bring on the Gators!

Indiana Blue

August 28th, 2017 at 2:46 PM ^

that we see Speight 2.0 and not Speight 1.2.  Whatever the reason - the 2nd half of of 2016 gives me a reason to be uncomfortable if he is the starter.  Peters (who has NOT seen live game action) is faster and has a better arm ... so time will tell.  

Go Blue!

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

August 28th, 2017 at 2:46 PM ^

Analysis analysis analysis.  Second year starter under Harbaugh = magic, that's all I care to know.

(Sorry.  It is an excellent piece with obvious care and effort and time put into it.)

(Also, the late hit call was fine.)

Maizen

August 28th, 2017 at 2:58 PM ^

This is real simple, Speight played well vs bad teams and below average against good teams. I don't want to hear about injuries when he was just as inconsistent early in the season when he wasn't hurt. He needs to be a lot better this year, but I'm not sure he has the talent to be. Let's hope for the #HarbaughEffect

MI Expat NY

August 28th, 2017 at 3:55 PM ^

I think what he is suggesting is that a good deal of the "Speight is good" narrative, even in this article, is from that time period between the bye and Iowa.  Well, the three teams in that stretch were a combined 12-25.  And Brian's review of Speight's performance vs. OSU and FSU, on a straight numbers basis diverges from PFF.  Throw in that Brian even says he played well and still lost the game with the killer turnovers.  It's perfectly reasonable to read this whole analysis and still draw the conclusion that he was good against bad teams and struggled against good teams.  

I hope Brian's positivity more closely reflects reality for Speight this year, but I don't think those concerned about Speight's performance (and where he may be relative to his ceiling) are being unreasonable.  

MFanWM

August 28th, 2017 at 5:06 PM ^

IIRC, didn't Speight play HS ball in more of a passing spread offense?  My hope is that they can get him into rythm early and that Pep and Drevo use a nice mix of the pro/Patriot spread types of offense to mix things up a bit.  

I think at times last year the offense was really not dynamic enough either and the playcalling was sub-optimal.  The Peppers wildcat also cost quite a few series late in the season when everyone knew it was coming and put a lot of pressure on Speight to produce.  The Iowa game had times when the CBs were already past the LOS looking to contain right off the snap and it put them into some really bad 3rd down situations which does not help anything...and that does not even cover the number of wide runs to Deveon that felt like they were developing on a sun-dial vs stopwatch.

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

August 28th, 2017 at 4:23 PM ^

The whole point of UFR is to take opponent quality out of it as much as possible and evaluate the actual throws and decisions the quarterback makes.  If he throws accurately to a receiver against a bad opponent, the receiver is open and lots of YAC are picked up.  If he does the same against a good opponent, the receiver is not so open and you don't get the YAC, but the catch is still made.  UFR stats, which Brian relies on, don't differentiate.  Accurate is accurate.

Prince_of_Nachos

August 28th, 2017 at 2:59 PM ^

In hindsight, Speight's recruiting profile is impressively spot on:

http://mgoblog.com/content/2014-recruiting-wilton-speight

Mentions his pocket presence, surprising ellusiveness, ability to make multiple reads, and accuracy (even noting the accuracy can be inconsistent).

At the time, it seemed the positives people were listing for Wilton were more just a way to say something nice about a QB prospect who didn't have a huge arm, any speed, or even a lot of high school production. Now it seems like people may have been on to something.

Air Speight all the way! 

Everyone Murders

August 28th, 2017 at 3:06 PM ^

I had a Dickens of a time not smiling as I read through the section captioned "Speight Expectations":

It says here that Speight hits 8.5 YPA and gets more attempts, allowing him to challenge for first team All Big Ten and mount an assault on various bits of the Michigan passing record book. He will have a decision to make about the NFL draft.

And while the top 4 quarterbacks all have undeniable talent, Speight seems like ... well ... a pip.

M_Born M_Believer

August 28th, 2017 at 3:07 PM ^

I can't seem to grasp why some people believe that progression and improvement seem to stop cold when someone turns 20 or 21.

 

Do I expet Speight to win the Hiesman......no.....

 

But would I take Speight over McSorley and Barrett......yes

 

To me this is the biggest X factor because QB play can have such an impact on a game.  Speight improves / builds on last year, gains more consistency, he then makes everyone around him better.  This team will be fun to watch.....

MadMatt

August 28th, 2017 at 3:21 PM ^

I'm going with optimism.  My review of the data, kinda like Brian, is that the issues we saw last year can be cleaned up.  This is not a case of a guy lacking the arm to make all the throws, or not mentally able to grasp the offense, or suffering from PTSD due to poor pass protection.  This was an inability to keep his head in big games when his mechanics got a little off.  This is the kind of thing an upperclassman returning starter cleans up.

If the running game could improve its consistency in big games, that would help substantially.  If the pass protection could simply avoid regressing too much (I think we are all going to realize this year that as questionable as run blocking was in 2016, the pass pro was superb), that would help substantially.

BTW, what kind of psychadelic drugs did someone drop in the coffee pot at MGoBlog this morning?  Between the Korn metaphors and the Freshman Fair, I dunno man.  I might need to do some Jager shots before I can fully grasp today's content.

CalifExile

August 28th, 2017 at 3:34 PM ^

His age may minimize the improvement that we expect in a second year because there will be less physical development, but the bigger factor is the mental development. Confidence is important. I expect significant improvement as he continues the good performance on aspects he has absorbed, and refines his skill, and works on new areas.

Hardware Sushi

August 28th, 2017 at 3:37 PM ^

The only real disagreement I have is with your description of the "horrendous" late hit on O'Korn in the Indiana game. That was absolutely a late hit and a stupid thing to do - QB has one foot out of bounds, running directly out of bounds, not attempting to turn up, DB puts his shoulder down and rocked him. Even #17 turned around and was like, "dude."

I don't know why you would think that's a bad call.

S.G. Rice

August 28th, 2017 at 3:53 PM ^

The biggest unanswered question I have after reading this word bomb is ...

 

Will Garrett Moores pass Alex Malzone on the depth chart for last-string mop up duty if there is a Rutgersing of one or more opponents?

TrueBlue2003

August 28th, 2017 at 4:12 PM ^

I was disappointed about that too.  It doesn't seem like he's ever going to be even remotely fast or that we'll design any runs for him so why not keep in the weight range of the full Roethlisberger and let guys bounce off you like they did last year?  He seemed to have the spin move and step ups working perfectly fine at that weight.

Maison Bleue

August 28th, 2017 at 4:38 PM ^

I give O'Korn a bit of a pass for the IU game. The weather was not great for throwing footballs during that game.

Look at the passing box scores for the OSU v. MSU game in East Lansing that same day:

 

OSU

 

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

 

Not great Bob.

Dayday

August 28th, 2017 at 4:40 PM ^

For real, it's content like this that separates you guys from other teams blogs and message boards. I take peeks, out of curiosity, at other boards and guys do a hell of a job by comparison. It's not even close, thanks guys.

Tuebor

August 28th, 2017 at 5:11 PM ^

The league is passing up Kaepernick for self inflicted reasons.  If he just kept his mouth shut and played football he could probably still take a knee during the anthem and teams would be eager to sign him.  But as we sit here today his talent level is not worth the PR pain in the ass to to have a guy who wears socks that have a pig in a cop uniform to practice. So he remains unsigned.  If he took the Brady Belichick approach and just talked football he would probably be fighting for a starting job right now.

 

stephenrjking

August 28th, 2017 at 7:37 PM ^

Speight last year had the same standing as John Navarre in 2001. If you want to gripe about his age, fine--John Navarre in 2002.

Navarre, with much worse pocket presence, worse accuracy, and worse coaching, improved significantly every year. An improvement similar to Navarre's from 02-03 is entirely reasonable to expect. And, in fact, I thought anything else than an improved Speight starting this season would be a shock, right up until the spring game. But it's still likely.

Deep balls, though: he hit some. He also missed a lot (remember the Colorado game?) It's encouraging to hear that he's working on them. And he also wasn't helped, at all, by his receivers. But improvement in this area is needed and would be a huge boost for the offense. At least, if the OL can keep him from getting killed.

BlueMan80

August 28th, 2017 at 5:25 PM ^

When you think about it, the past few season have been Devin Gardner, PTSD Devin Gardner, Jake Rudock, and Speight.  Hey, we get the same QB as a starter two seasons in a row and he doesn't have PTSD from getting pounded the previous season.  With Peters and McCaffrey being groomed, stability and quality at QB is finally here.  He'll do fine, because Harbaugh.

uminks

August 28th, 2017 at 5:52 PM ^

Is that the Hoke recruited players have this deep self doubt that pops up in big games. We may have to wait until all Harbaugh players are on the field before we make the playoffs.