Grading on the curve: Wilton Speight

Submitted by reshp1 on October 3rd, 2016 at 6:05 PM

With another less than stellar performance, there have been numerous hot takes and much hand wringing on whether Wilton Speight is any good. Personally, I've contended that his performance has been good, if a little sporadic. But, I also have my reservations about his ability to win games for us if/when we come up against a team that can score a lot of points (Ohio). 

So, I decided to take a look at how he stacks up against other power 5 QBs. Using ESPN's stats I created a spreadsheet where I could rank QBs based on several factors. To qualify, the a player must attempt, on average, 14 passes per number of games the team has played (to weed out backups, garbage time, etc). The factors I chose were:

  • Completion percentage
  • Yards per attempt
  • TD per attempt
  • INT per attempt
  • INT/TD ratio

I graded based on percentiles, according to the following scale:

100% > A > 85% > B > 65% > C > 35% > D > 15% > F

Before we rank Speight against his peers, here is his stat line:

63%, 7.5 YPA (1094 yards on 146 attempts), 6.8% TD/ATT (10TDs), 1.4% INT/ATT (2 INTs), 20% INT/TD

Completion Percentage

Speight was 26th of 66th and in the 61% percentile, earning him a C+

This generally is in line with my gut feel. He is just above middling in his accuracy, offsetting good throws with the occasional air mailing or bad read.

The top QB in this category was Mitch Trubisky, UNC (76%).

Yards Per Attempt

At 7.5 yards per attempt, Speight was 37th of 66th, just below average at 46% percentile. He gets a C here.

This was a bit of a surprise. He's hit quite a few shots downfield including a shredding of UCF. The last few games must have really brought him down to earth.

The winner of this category was Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech (10.7yds/attempt).

TD per attempt

Speight placed 23rd in this category with 10TDs on 146 attempts, placing him in the 66% percentile and earning him a B-.

Again, no real surprise here. He runs the offense, he isn't the offense. 

Bolstered by a recent torching of Stanford, Jake Browning, Washington, has 17TDs on just 116 attempts(!), taking this category for the Huskies.

INT per attempt

Speight's INT rate was 19th with 2 INTs on 146 attempts. This puts him at the 72% percentile and gives him a B-. 

I know people will point to passes he's thrown that should have been picked, but every QB has those. Also his second actual pick needed a pretty (un)lucky bounce to end up in the defense's hands.

Winner here is Mitch Trubisky, UNC, who hasn't throw a pick on 175 attempts. Other QBs with no INTs are Sefo Liufau (Colorado) and Ryan Finley (NC State).

INT/TD ratio

Speight comes in again at 15th in this category, but percentile wise improves to 83%. There are some awful ratios towards to bottom, helping out with this. He gets a B+

Interestingly, Speight's INT/TD is quite good despite being pretty middling in the individual TD and INT categories. It suggests a steady game manager profile where he doesn't light up defenses, but limits mistakes as well. In the end he's made the plays to win and taken care of the football, which is in line with this stat.

Mitch Trubisky, UNC, again comes out on top with 0 INTs and 13 TDs.

Conclusions, etc

  Comp % YPA TD/Att INT/Att INT/TD
Stat 63% 7.5 6.80% 1.40% 20%
Rank (out of 66) 26th  37th 23rd 19th 15th
Grade C+ C B- B- B+

The profile here is definitely in the dreaded game manager mold. Speight ends up slightly above average overall (B-, C+ borderline), doing well in the protect the ball categories and not as well in the generating offense categories. Paired with our defense, that's probably just fine for all our remaining games save one. Depending on how optimistic you are about Don Brown and his ability to stop elite spread teams, I still think he, and the entire offense, need to improve quite a bit to get over that last hump and beat Ohio. 

EDIT: Hat tip to WhoopinStick, who pointed out Wilton should get some credit for being solid in all categories. despite not excelling at any. Instead of averaging his grades, I gave everyone points based on ranking in each category (1 for first, 2 for second, etc) and then totaled points in all categories. The QBs were then re-ranked on this total, lowest point total first. Speight comes out at 17th of 66, sharply better than with the other methodology. In this scheme, he gets a solid B.

Other notes: 

Mitch Trubisky is quietly having a statistically impressive season at UNC. With Pitt, Georgia, and FSU on the schedule, this wasn't completely a pushover schedule either. He's 133 of 175 (76%) for 1711 yards, 13 TDs and 0 INTs. 

Sefo Liufau did quite well for himself before getting hurt as well: 54 of 76 (71.1%) for 768 yards, 6 TDs and 0 INTs in just 2.75 games played. I know the back up has been lighting it up as well, but if they get Liufau back soon, Colorado will make a run at the PAC 12 (they might anyway). 

Among BIG10 QBs, Speight is 2nd (behind Barrett, Ohio) in completion percentage, 2nd in INTs per attempt (behind Wes Lunt, Illinois), and 3rd (Barrett, Lunt) in INT/TD. He's middling plus in the other two departments relative to his BIG10 peers.  



October 3rd, 2016 at 7:19 PM ^

That's a fair point. He should get credit for being steady in all categories. I'll take a look when I get home at a composite score.


EDIT: Fixed. As you suspected, his steady performance puts him in better position when you consider a composite score vs just averaging his individual grades. He comes in at 17th out of 66 overall, good for a solid B. OP has been updated.


October 3rd, 2016 at 6:14 PM ^

I was expecting this to be another personal snowflake thread, but thanks for compiling the data. Pretty much confirms what most of us thought, but it's nice to have hard numbers.

Monkey House

October 3rd, 2016 at 6:14 PM ^

i think most people are aware that he is an average qb at this point. good enough to win a lot of games, not quite to the point where you trust him to beat osu. time may change that. we shall see


October 3rd, 2016 at 6:14 PM ^

I like Speight. I am also frustrated by him. He seems to have all of the parts and pieces of a really good QB, but is only half assembled.

My contention has always been that with our defense (i.e. elite), we don't need a game manager. I'd rather have more explosive passing plays, even if it comes with slightly higher risk. Our defense can cover a lot of mistakes by an offense.


October 3rd, 2016 at 8:14 PM ^

his ceiling. As the OP pointed out he's a game manager; he doesn't have to win the game for us, just don't lose it. With the weapons we have at our disposal, this offense could get pretty good. We already know about the 'D'. We keep improving we'll have a chance to pull the upset in 'The Game'.

That said, the Buckeyes are going to be tough to beat. Barrett is doing great running their offense and being a part of the offense. Their defense is just a hair less effective then ours.

I'll keep the keys to victory over the Bucs simple: Keep those guy scoring less than 30 and us scoring more then them.


October 4th, 2016 at 8:35 AM ^

On the topic of a hair less impressive - that's only half true. Yes, OSU's defense is quite good, but Michigan, in terms of advanced statistics is quite a bit better than everyone. Not just a little bit better than everyone else, either. A lot better than everyone else. Barry major regression or injury, this is going to be the best defense in college football by a wide margin. I think there was a thread here which pointed out that in S&P+, there's more of a gap between #1 UM and #2 Florida than there is between #2 Florida and #10. And, if I'm recalling correctly, OSU isn't in that top ten group.


October 4th, 2016 at 11:05 AM ^

OSU is #6 in S&P+ defense. They're #1 in S&P+ offense.


S&P+ generates "scoring margins".


There is more of a gap between Michigan and Florida (5.2pts, 6.8 vs. 12) than Florida and #10 (3.9pts, 15.9 vs. 12).


Per S&P+ -

Defense should give up 7.3 points less than OSU in an average game. (6.8 vs. 14.1)

Offense should score 8.2 points less than OSU in an average game. (41.8 vs. 33.6)

Special teams should score 3 points less than OSU in an average game. (1.7 vs. -1.3)


So current S&P+ would predict a score of 29.4 to 25.5 in an OSU win.




October 3rd, 2016 at 7:09 PM ^

by the commentators and is not something Jim tries to hide. He is fully aware of his current limitations and realizes he needs to improve in a lot of areas that would full under the "mental" aspect as well as physical, such as lower body strength. Minus the whip that both John and Shane seem to possess, it's a safe bet that Harbaugh is going with the "safer" qb until the pieces around him not only land on campus but become seasoned as well. 

The greatest thing you can do in building a program is to win. That gets the recruits attention. When they visit, they realize, no matter the position, a balanced offense gives the best chance to excel. Receivers will excell here as too will superior RBs. 

O'korn and Shane both could probably give you more highlights on laser like throse, but qbs with "gun slinger" attitudes almost always lose a game or two on their own during the course of a season. I am not saying either of those are, but there is a reason, based on the simply fact we see quicker releases and stronger arms from the other two that Wilton is starting. He's the best we have right now. Fact that Jim said, "It was very close," referring to qb competition suggests that the others in contention were close to what he wanted but that Wilton possessed the best overall measureables. 

Great thing, except for the defensive side of the ball, future recruits will exceed the level of play that we're seeing now. it does take a few years. 


October 3rd, 2016 at 6:17 PM ^

I rewatched the game today. He held onto the ball too long a few times, and made a few very ill-advised throws. He also scrambled well a few times, and his pass to Darboh was a thing of beauty. I don't think your objective analysis is unfair at all, and he sort of "feels like" a B or B- QB right now. 

All that being said, the dude just started his 5th game ever. He was a pubic hair away from transferring less than 6 months ago. If he makes even slight improvements over the rest of the season (which he will, because Harbaugh), and can go from a B- to an A- or even just a B+, he becomes a top two or three B1G QB, and that is more than enough to do what we want with this defense. And remember, then he has a couple more years to start after that, too! 


October 3rd, 2016 at 6:17 PM ^

Without looking at any numbers, I think he's been mediocre. Nothing more, nothing less. That's not good enough for a playoff caliber team, so he's going to need to step it up to the next level before Ohio state. Not saying it won't happen, I'm just saying something has to.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


October 4th, 2016 at 11:25 AM ^

2015: Jake Coker - #32 QBR, 70.2 rating

2014: Blake Sims - #4 QBR, 84.4 rating

2013: AJ McCarron - #14 QBR, 82.5 rating

2012: AJ McCarron- #3 QBR, 84.9 rating

2011: AJ McCarron -  #8 QBR, 77.9 rating

2010: Greg McElroy - #12 QBR, 77.8 rating

2009: Greg McElroy - #17 QBR, 72.1 rating

2008: John Parker Wilson - #37 QBR, 61.5 rating

2007:  John Parker Wilson - #69 QBR, 51.3 rating

2006:  John Parker Wilson - #69 QBR, 58.1 rating


Speight 2016 - #25 QBR, 72.9 rating


McCarron, Sims, McElroy - all look better than Speight.

Coker looks about equal.

John Parker Wilson is the only Alabama QB over that time that looks worse.


Of course - over those three years Alabama went 25-15 and their only bowl win was the Independence bowl.


October 3rd, 2016 at 6:55 PM ^

Since you say that, what sort of numbers would you need to say he needs to put up in a typical game in your estimation, out of curiosity? You see, I am always suspicious of people who rely solely on the "eye test" because I firmly believe that people who do that make some horrible misjudgments in football sometimes, so I am curious as to what your acceptable stat line would be. 


Football Heaven

October 3rd, 2016 at 6:17 PM ^

He is what I expected him to be...the guy with probably the lowest ceiling, but by far the highest floor.  With the defense we have, and the running game coming along, he is what is needed.  Hopefully he takes a leap forward much like Rudock did at this point last year.


October 3rd, 2016 at 6:27 PM ^

I just worry that he doesn't have the firepower to beat OSU. If you're not a mobile QB, you have to be a hell of a passer and decision maker to beat the best teams -- or you have to play for Alabama. I'm trying to think of recent non-mobile, non-Alabama QBs that have really thrived. Even guys like Luck, Cardale, and Jameis could move the chains with their legs if needed.


October 3rd, 2016 at 8:04 PM ^

IMO, Speight's ability to stay focused on his progressions under pressure when a more mobile QB would start scrambling (O'Korn for sure, we've already seen how fast he flushes out of the pocket and tucks and runs) is the result of him knowing that scrambling is not an option given his Navarre-like running abilities.  So he is willing to hang in the pocket a little longer than a mobile QB and even take a hit, if he thinks he can get the pass off.  My point is, Speight's passing numbers may be better than if O'Korn or Morris had been the starter because Speight is willing to hang in there an extra second or two, thereby allowing the routes to develop for him; and we've seen it with Speight having some success hitting non-primary receivers in the face of pressure.


October 3rd, 2016 at 7:38 PM ^

I generally agree with this sentiment, but Speight does appear to have a somewhat special ability to shed sacks with his size, something that very few QBs can do. I've seen quite a few plays where he simply sidesteps or sheds a potential sack, stays in the pocket as a result and delivers a clean throw. Someone who is dependent on their legs there might scramble around resulting in an even worse sack or errant throw. Of course, they could scramble for yards or if they are good throwing on the run, make a great pass, but the latter is a lot to ask of even the top mobile QBs in NCAA.

tl;dr version: I think his size and ability to shed sacks is overlooked and likely compensates at least some for his inability to scramble.


October 3rd, 2016 at 6:35 PM ^

I'd like to add a few things though

  • I think his grades would be better if accounting for competition, e.g., compare O'Connor's day to his vs. Wisconsin
  • Completion % can favor spread teams that throw a lot of quick slants and screens
  • He did appear to be banged up vs. Colorado where he had his worst completion %
  • If there's any stat that ultimately matters for a team with this defense, it's INTs or TD/INT ratio
  • We have the 11th best passing offense in S&P+


October 3rd, 2016 at 6:35 PM ^

Lingering shoulder pain from a couple weeks ago is possible because Speight's deep ball does not look good. The bomb to Darboh was not thrown where only he could grab it nor was it a pretty pass. About a 60-40 ball, IMO. Luckily Amara located the ball first.

If Speight was mobile or even a little quicker with his release, I'd be ok with his arm strength. So unless he's 100%, works on a quicker read of the defense, and quicker release of the ball, it'll get ugly quick against the Nuts. Scrambling won't do much but get him banged up.


October 3rd, 2016 at 6:35 PM ^

He isn't turning the ball over. People forget about all the TO's last year at the start from Rudock. He couldn't hit the out route and was turning the ball over a ton. 

So far I'm mildly disapointed in QB play. But I think some of that goes on the WRs. These guys are supposed to be elite (or I thought they'd be). So far, I would not call their play elite.


October 3rd, 2016 at 6:50 PM ^

Chesson looks a little rusty and like he lost half a step. Probably still mildly rehabbing and getting his full stride back. Whether he gets it or not remains to be seen.

Perry's open all day long but he's a smaller target and needs the ball placed much closer to his bread basket.


October 3rd, 2016 at 8:03 PM ^

And Chesson, for whatever reason, has been getting dinged up on bruising tackles early in the game the last several weeks.  I think he needs to do a better job of protecting his body at the last split second before he gets hit.  I realize there is a tradeoff between concentrating on making the catch and being aware of where the tackle is coming from, but Darboh, for example, hasn't been getting hit like Chesson has.  I agree that Chesson is still getting back up to speed and isn't yet back to the elite level he was playing at the end of last year.   

And I agree, Perry is clearly not a guy you want to be throwing to more than fifteen yards downfield, he's just too small of a target for Speight to hit accurately.