Interview by Sam Webb
Story by Josh Newkirk
Last spring Wilton Speight was an afterthought in Michigan's quarterback competition in the eyes of most Michigan fans. The consensus expectation was that John O’Korn would eventually win the starting nod. Speight had other plans. He took the pole position in spring camp and never surrendered the lead. Speight went on to win nine of his 12 starts for the Wolverines in 2016 and into spring ball this year as the clear cut No. 1. The challenge for him now is making the improvements necessary to take his game to the next level.
“I think the biggest thing is him understanding the defenses, understanding the coverages, understand fronts, (and) understand the pressures. Being able to understand what creates a problem, the weaknesses of the defense and really starting to think as a coach,” U-M offensive coordinator Tim Drevno said.
Drevno says one advantage Speight has already is that he'll be working with first year quarterback coach Pep Hamilton. He comes to Michigan after coaching last season with the Cleveland Browns.
“(Hamilton) has developed some great quarterbacks and especially, and with Pep being within the system, he understands, which is really good. The understanding the reads to the passing offense, that is a key thing, where we are going with it, being precise with it,” Drevno continued. “Throwing the mid level balls, the short…what the defense is giving you and being able to take it, I think is key for Wilt. Not always taking that big shot down the field is a key element and he has been doing great. He just keeps doing what he is doing and great things are going to happen.”
And while Speight is no doubt the day one starter, much is expected of redshirt freshman, Brandon Peters, says Drevno, who noted Peters’ growth in just one year in Jim Harbaugh’s system.
“The biggest thing I think for Brandon is that he loves to compete,” Drevno said. “He is always trying to win drills. That guy will bust his tail out there. He has got the want to. Now settling in, year two going into it, just the understanding of it, I think he’ll get it.
Drevno further added on Peters: “Having a conversation and looking in his eyes and things that his time is coming and he needs to keep pushing it because he is very talented. I go back to last year in the spring game, I think we’re getting rushed off the goal line and he comes spinning out of there and he throws a comeback onto the boundary and he was a true freshman at the time. He should have been at his prom and I stood there and said to myself, wow, he is a 17-year-old young man, he is in the Big House for the first time and he makes a play when there is no play to be made. You’re like, this guy has got something, I knew when we were recruiting him, but you wanted to see it live and that is one thing that you look for a quarterback is to make play when there is no play to be made. He did that. There is a bright future for him.”
Winter Conditioning Stars
Several players have made significant gains in strength and conditioning over the past couple months, and a few in particular have caught Drevno's eye.
“Michael Onewnu has," said Drevno. "He has really made big strides just in terms of their competing and doing everything at a full bore. One young man that really sticks out to me is Donovan Peoples-Jones. He has got a laser beam focuse. He is lock jawed and he is ready to rock. I’m really excited to see him and what he does. It is really important to him that he wants to do it at a high level. He has got some DNA in him that is special, very, very special. Rashan Gary! (laughter).”
“I think Ian Bunting, he’s making strides out there. It is exciting. He loves to compete. They’re all doing good. You can see this one heartbeat. We’re pushing them in the right direction. This team wants to be good and they're just saying to the coaches, lead us, help us. These guys like football. They really like football. They’re into it. You come out there early in the morning and they’re ready to go and guys are ten minutes early, rolling out and stretching before the stretching even starts. They’re programmed and their excited about the opportunity that is coming.”
Stay tuned to The Michigan Insider for word on the impressive development of some of the young offensive linemen, Cesar Ruiz's impact on the center competition, and more. In the meantime, to hear Tim Drevno's breakdown for yourself, press play below.