Speight vs Rudock: a statistical comparison through 6 games

Submitted by Blue Indy on October 10th, 2016 at 1:50 PM

With the bye week coming up and us having reached the half-way point in the season, I thought this would be a good time to stop and reflect over our quarterback's progression so far. During the Rutgers game, Speight was referred to as a "game manager" a number of times, despite having some impressive games this season statistically. There's also been a lot of talk on this board regarding where he is at this point relative to where Rudock was at after the 1st half of last season. Below is a comparison of their stats, as well as our opponent's records and our strength of our schedule over 6 weeks:

  2015 Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rat
1 Utah 27 43 62.8 279 6.5 4.3 2 3 118.7
2 OR St 18 26 69.2 180 6.9 5.2 0 1 119.7
3 UNLV 14 22 63.6 123 5.6 4.5 1 1 116.5
4 BYU 14 25 56 194 7.8 8.6 1 0 134.4
5 Maryland 16 32 50 180 5.6 4.8 1 1 101.3
6 NW 17 23 73.9 179 7.8 7.8 0 0 139.3
    106 171 62.0 1135 6.6 5.6 5 6 120.4
  season 249 389 64.0 3017 7.8 7.7 20 9 141.5
  W-L thru 6 5 1              
  SOS thru 6 22nd                
  opp W-L 20 14              
  2016 Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rat
1 Hawaii 10 13 76.9 145 11.2 12.3 3 1 231.4
2 UCF 25 37 67.6 312 8.4 10.6 4 0 174.1
3 Colorado 16 30 53.3 229 7.6 8.3 1 0 128.5
4 Penn St 21 34 61.8 189 5.6 6.1 1 0 118.2
5 Wisconsin 20 32 62.5 219 6.8 6.1 1 1 124.1
6 Rutgers 6 13 46.2 100 7.7 9.2 1 0 136.2
    98 159 61.6 1194 7.5 8.3 11 2 145.0
  W-L thru 6 6 0              
  SOS thru 6 18th                
  opp W-L 20 14              

First off, I was surprised to see that our strength of schedule ranked 22nd in the nation after 6 weeks last season, and 18th this year after 6 weeks (I thought it would have been much higher last year). Our opponents' records at this point in the season are an identical 20-14. 

Rudock made impressive improvement over the course of the season, but it's interesting to note that Speight's stats are closer to Rudock's overall 2015 season stats than they are to his 6 week stats, which I think says a lot about where we're at and his command of the offense.



October 10th, 2016 at 2:26 PM ^

I think it's mainly because Wisconsin this year is better than any of those teams from last year. Colorado is around the same level, and we don't have any terrible UNLV/Maryland type teams dragging down the SOS so far. Even Rutgers is 2-4, which isn't god awful in terms of W-L yet.

yossarians tree

October 10th, 2016 at 3:22 PM ^

Speight is better than Jake was at this time last year, no question. Better deep ball and ball security, similar arm strength, pocket awareness, and accuracy. Jake was faster and looked to tuck and run, but Speight keeps his eyes downfield and looks for an open man. He tends to be wild throwing on the run, but that will get better as he settles down. By the end of last year the game had really slowed down for Jake, and I think the same will happen for Speight. He's no star but he can be a plus-plus game manager for a multi-weapon offense.


October 10th, 2016 at 4:03 PM ^

"Similar accuracy?"

Statistically they appear to be in the same place, but I'd like to dispute this analysis. Speight has a much better command of the offense than Rudock did last year at this time, and he has indeed thrown some deep balls better than Rudock did at this time last season (as in, he's thrown a few of them, where Rudock couldn't hit any. Speight has thrown some real dogs, too, of course) but overall I think accuracy is a biiiiiig difference, and not in Speight's favor.

I don't recall Rudock flat missing nearly as many throws as Speight does. Speight will regularly throw passes that are well short, or too high, or not catchable at all, even on short and midrange throws that should be achievable. Michigan regularly stalls on offense due to a missed pass.

At this point last year Rudock was not as comfortable with the offense, so he didn't always make the right play, but when throwing in the right place short or mid-distance the throws were good. 

When he gained confidence in the offense, he was able to make better decisions, and his accurate throws were more often thrown to the correct target. 

Speight, in contrast, appears to make good reads a fair amount of the time, but he can't always get the ball to where it needs to be. 

Maybe years of watching the Lions and guys like John Navarre have scarred me, but it seems like cleaning up basic throwing accuracy takes longer than getting Rudock a better understanding of the offense. I'm not sure that the issues for Speight are as fixable this year.

I would be delighted to be wrong.


October 10th, 2016 at 4:30 PM ^

If only there was a way to compare their accuracy. Hmm...



Through 5 games, Rudock posted DSR's of 71, 76, 50, 63, and 50%.

Speight's first 5 games DSR's are: 73, 82, 50, 68, and 57%.

Rudock's average DSR was 62%. Speight's average DSR is 66%.

Rudock had 11 DO's to Speight's 8. 2014 Rudock was much more accurate with 18 DO's for the 5 games Brian charted. 2015 Rudock had 16 throwaways to Speight's 6. Perhaps you are not attributing the TAs to Rudock because the line was still under development last year. I think Speight is getting more time and his extra height helps him see over the line so he doesn't have to just throw it away when the 1st or 2nd read is covered.

And finally, the 6 INTs Rudock threw maybe weren't "accuracy" issues (some were WR errors) but 3 of them led to the Utah loss and explain why last year's team was 5-1 at this point instead of 6-0.


October 10th, 2016 at 6:20 PM ^

Good numbers. Not having the luxury of diving into every UFR for both players, I have to trust my fallible memory and my lying eyes. Plus a hint of the numbers you've gleaned.


1. Rudock had a larger number of throwaways. That's the response of someone safely ending a play that isn't going to work. I suspect, but cannot verify, that a reason for this relates to his relatively low familiarity with the offense. He did not always make every read quickly, and when he did make those reads the thinking was more forced, not as quick.

My perception of Speight is that he makes the designed reads reasonably well, and usually throws to the right guy. His pocket elusiveness helps him dodge pressure and he tends to make a throw aimed at a receiver, so he has fewer throwaways.

But he also has a lot of badly, badly thrown balls. Balls thrown 15 feet too short, or waaaaay too high. Now, these have mostly been "safe" mistakes, out of the range of defenders, and that might be either mindfully deliberate or a reflex reacting to visible coverage, either of which keeps the ball from being turned over.

I don't remember Rudock making so many passes that were not only marginal but totally out of range. The numbers provided really don't shed any additional light on this.

2. When one hopes for a change in a player's performance, it is reasonable to expect progress in areas we have already seen progress or performance. For example, it was reasonable to believe that Braden could recover from his bad first outing because we had already seen him perform at a high level last season.

It was reasonable to think that Rudock could increase his accuracy because he had been accurate before. 

In the same way, it is less reasonable, though not impossible, to expect substantial improvement where no evidence suggests performances at that level have occurred or should occur. For example, hoping that Michigan would solve its offensive issues going into East Lansing in 2013 or 2014 and somehow overcome Michigan State would have been extremely unreasonable. Nothing seen suggested that such a miracle would occur.

I sense a lot of hopeful optimism that Speight will start hitting all of those passes he is missing. It is based on a combination of blind "we'll be ok" hope and the knowledge that Harbaugh is good at coaching QBs. Now, the Harbaugh factor is real: We've seen him improve QBs, so there is some sense for optimism there.

But it is not necessarily reasonable to expect Speight to make a similar leap to Rudock when Rudock in fact had a history of passing more accurately than he was passing in 2015, when Speight has yet to demonstrate that he can do that.

Wilton has done fine as a game manager. He has not yet demonstrated an ability to dissect competitive defenses. He struggled against Colorado (which for all the talent of those corners got sliced up by not only Oregon, which you could excuse, but also USC's new QB, who threw for over 300 yards on Saturday) and could not sustain drives against Wisconsin. He did have one great throw, which was enough in that game; is one great throw enough to beat OSU?

3. This is all kind of academic. We are talking about the difference between a national title contender and "just" a top five type team. But, of course, we want to beat OSU and contend for the national title, so these things are relevant. This is not to bag on Speight, who I root for and doesn't deserve to be treated poorly. 


October 11th, 2016 at 9:05 AM ^

I, for one, find your stance reasonable and your evidence apt.  Making predictions about 2016 Speight based on 2015 Rudock is not entirely guesswork, but it is so close to guesswork as to be indistinguishable.  As you note, the problems they face(d) are entirely different.


October 10th, 2016 at 1:56 PM ^

Speight has a long way to go, but he does protect the football and seems to throw a better deep ball at the same time in the season as Rudock.

True Blue Grit

October 10th, 2016 at 1:58 PM ^

far so good.  I particularly like Speight's TD to Int ratio and solid completion %.  If Speight continues to improve at about the same rate as Rudock for the 2nd half of the season, Michigan will have a good shot to run the table.  I think that even if Speight doesn't improve the rest of the way, we could still win every game, except probably the last one.   Thanks for posting this.

Wolverine 73

October 10th, 2016 at 3:14 PM ^

Rudock was an experienced QB who took off once he got the system down.  Speight is an inexperienced QB who has been in the system a year longer, so his familiarity with it should be greater.  It seems unreasonable to expect a big jump in performance under these circumstances, as opposed to more moderate continuing improvement with more reps.


October 10th, 2016 at 3:45 PM ^

But Harbaugh? /s


I agree with you completely. I made a post similar previously and some people just don't see that there should be a difference between one QB and the next regardless of differences in experiences and innate talent. I don't get it. I think Speight is what is. Reasonably accurate, most of the time, with reasonable vision. I don't believe he has the talent Rudock did and I really don't think he's going to develop during his first year as starter at Michigan as much as Rudock did.


October 10th, 2016 at 5:56 PM ^

is who he is this season or ever? Because I completely agree that Rudock's midseason "improvement" won't be replicated due to all the circumstances you mentioned. He was performing unusually bad relative to what he did at Iowa and then a flip switched and he was a different player (better than but closer to the guy he was at Iowa).  That's not going to happen with Speight...this year.  But he could easily improve over the next couple years as he learns defenses and the game slows down for him, right?

True Blue Grit

October 10th, 2016 at 5:35 PM ^

Rudock definitely had the advantage of going through many more reps as a starter in both road and home games - albeit for another Big Ten team.  Speight's improvement may very well be more gradual.  The next two games should give some indication.


October 10th, 2016 at 2:01 PM ^

Your YPA is off, Speight is currently at 7.5 ypa, which is good but not great. Ideally he would be at 8 or above. If he finishes at over 8 ypa and the same TD:INT ratio he will have had a very nice, if boring, year. 


October 10th, 2016 at 2:02 PM ^

He misses on too many easy throws. Against better defenses those poor throws will be drive killers. I get tense when I see him dropping back to pass. I hope I'm wrong, but my confidence in him is shaky.


October 10th, 2016 at 4:58 PM ^

One can't always successfully change a QB's throwing motion and release point. It's going against their natural way of throwing an object.

Example: I've been working with my wife for 6 years to throw a football overhand but it still gets released 3/4 sidearm...

Similarly, I don't think Randy Johnson would have been as effective throwing straight over the top vs. his funky motion and delivery, though it matters far less in baseball.


October 10th, 2016 at 3:06 PM ^

I'm with you on the eye test. His td/int ratio is great on paper, but he has got lucky on a handful of bad decisions. There were times during the Wisconsin and Colorado games where he either threw late and almost got picked, or went to a WR who was double covered. I am hoping this bye week gives Harbaugh and Fisch the needed time to clean some of those things up and we see Wilton take off in the second half.


October 10th, 2016 at 2:10 PM ^

I feel the same way about Speight and am confident in his ability to improve enough over the course of the rest of our season. 


However, can you imagine how good we would feel if we had another year of Rudock? Not to be greedy, but oh daddy would that be something.


October 10th, 2016 at 2:22 PM ^

I feel if late season Rudock was still on this roster, this offense would be damn near unstoppable.

I believe Speight can get better too, but I think his arm strength may not be what this team needs to take them to the next level. Speight has what it takes mentally to be the starting QB, no question. He even can evade tacklers in the pocket well. There is just something missing with some of his throws that leave me not 100% confident.

I feel like he will be challenged hard for the position next season.


October 10th, 2016 at 6:36 PM ^

Not sure if arm strength is exactly the issue. Guys with less strength can still be accurate, and Speight has thrown the occasional gorgeous deep ball. 

He's not consistent with it, though. I suppose arm strength COULD affect his ability to sling darts when not properly planted, and cause him to overthrow passes. But I don't know. His accuracy is an issue. 

I agree that he will be challenged next year. Not that he can't improve--he already improved quite a bit to get to this position, and guys like John Navarre have demonstrated that year-over-year growth can yield real improvements. But this year he kinda is what he is, and what he is makes decent decisions and protects the ball and sometimes throws balls into the turf five yards in front of the receiver.


October 10th, 2016 at 2:04 PM ^

It's true that Speight's numbers look fine right now.  I think the concern is that he hasn't had to do anything in volume.  It's much easier to put up good YPA numbers and completion percentages when you're out in front of every game and throwing 15-20 times.  

Where Rudock was really impressive in the second half of last year was shouldering the load of the offense and throwing it 30-40 times a game while remaining efficient.  There will be games where Speight is asked to do that this year (maybe just one game), and there's where my confidence in him is still a bit shaky.


October 10th, 2016 at 2:14 PM ^

I agree.  I'm just trying to explain why, though the numbers are similar, I still think Rudock was performing at a much higher level late last year than Speight is now.

I also think it's unlikely we steamroll opponents with running against OSU, in the B1G championship game if we make it (maybe Wisconsin again), and in the playoff or bowl game.  Speight's going to have to perform when asked to do more than he has so far if we're going to win those very difficult games.


October 10th, 2016 at 7:00 PM ^

but once we come up against better defenses, we won't be able to be one dimensional. As good as it was against Wisconson, we still only gained 150 yards and needed a long pass to get to 14 points (yes, yes, 3 missed FG caveats).  14 or 20 or even 23 points almost certainly won't be enough against OSU and/or playoff teams.  Were fortuntate that Wisconsin's offense is atrocious.

Blue In NC

October 10th, 2016 at 2:50 PM ^

Also interesting to me is that Speight's pocket presence (usually an attribute for experienced Qbs) is solid whereas his accuracy (rumored to be his strength) is what has faltered a bit.  Not what I would have expected.  Also, he seems to throw relatively accurately on the run (again, not what I expected).


October 10th, 2016 at 4:47 PM ^

RE: It's true that Speight's numbers look fine right now.  I think the concern is that he hasn't had to do anything in volume.


I don't think the numbers really show this though:


  2016 Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rat
1 Hawaii 10 13 76.9 145 11.2 12.3 3 1 231.4
2 UCF 25 37 67.6 312 8.4 10.6 4 0 174.1
3 Colorado 16 30 53.3 229 7.6 8.3 1 0 128.5
4 Penn St 21 34 61.8 189 5.6 6.1 1 0 118.2
5 Wisconsin 20 32 62.5 219 6.8 6.1 1 1 124.1
6 Rutgers 6 13 46.2 100 7.7 9.2 1 0 136.2
    98 159 61.6 1194 7.5 8.3 11 2 145.0


2 games where he didn't throw the ball more than 30 times: Hawaii and Rutgers. Otherwise, over 30 attempts per game. Our run game, as others have pointed out, has been stronger this year too so we aren't relying on our QB to bail us out as much.

I'm really excited to see what a week off will do for Wilton. His numbers so far have been good-ish while the eye test hasn't been as promising. We'll see what the product on the field in 2 weeks.


October 10th, 2016 at 2:03 PM ^

This is an apples to oranges comparison.

Rudock was on campus for 3 weeks before the Utah game. Speight's been in the system for a year and a half now.

On the opposite side, Rudock had two years of starting qb experience. Speight has 6 starts.

The only thing they have in common is being coached by the QB whispherer. I'm confident Speight will improve, but I'm not basing it on Rudock.