Interview by Sam Webb
Story by Josh Henschke
A lot is to be expected from Wilton Speight in his second year, more than likely, as the starting quarterback at the University of Michigan. Speight made consistent strides throughout the spring and summer to be named the starter and played well leading up to a shoulder injury that hampered his play.
With Jedd Fisch moving on to UCLA, Speight will have a new passing game coordinator this fall in Pep Hamilton. Hamilton brings a bevy of experience with him to Ann Arbor, including working with marquee names like Andrew Luck while at Stanford and the Indianapolis Colts.
Hamilton has been around plenty of quarterbacks and one of the bigger skills he feels a quarterback must possess is awareness.
“The one thing that you look for when you are evaluating quarterback is their ability to make good decisions," Hamilton said. "A big part of that is managing bad plays. When the ball is snapped, his decision making instincts are such that if #1 is not open, the first read in his progression, if that guy is not open, there are some quarterbacks that will try and throw him open. You have quarterbacks that understand then hey, it is first down, let’s get a completion and let’s get to second down with the ball. Wilton showed a tremendous awareness with regards to understanding situations and an ability to manage the pocket and to manage bad plays.
"I think that is a talent that goes somewhat unnoticed in some cases and folks get caught in stats and things that don’t translate into winning football games."
With U-M heading into spring practices at full speed on Saturday, the coaching staff are eager to work with their players. For Hamilton, he's seen the amount of work Speight has put into learning so far this offseason.
Now, he's ready to see him take the next step.
"Wilton is a winner and I think more time on task he has, the better that he is going to play and he’ll perform at a high level over the course of the entire season, as long as he is able to stay healthy," Hamilton said. "He is up in the football offices right now with Mason Cole watching film and studying the playbook. It is really important to him and I’m excited. I’m excited to see him take on this challenge of not just playing good, not just being a good quarterback but being a championship quarterback because there is a big difference in good quarterback play versus winning quarterback play. Winning quarterbacks play great situational football."
Hamilton will be spending a great deal of time with Speight, as well as the other quarterbacks on roster, to hone his skills with situational football. Hamilton specifically says that will be an area of expectation of Speight to learn this spring and leading into fall practices. There are many facets to the game of football and a quarterback must be prepared for all of them.And that's exactly why Hamilton was brought to Ann Arbor in the first place.
"In those situations, when it is third and eight, defense is going to play man coverage and they’re going to blitz the heck out of you. You have got to have the poise, the vision and the wherewithal in the pocket to stand in there and execute under duress. When it is third at goal at the eight yard line, you’re down in the red zone that window of opportunity is ever so small. You’ve got to stay in rhythm, you’ve got to see the right things and you’ve got to make the appropriate throw. When it is a two minute situation and we got to drive down and score a touchdown to win the game, hey we’re going to roll the ball out and see what he has. Those are situations that as much as you try to recreate them in practice. Well I was going to say quarterbacks don’t get hit in practice but that’s not always the case with Coach Harbaugh (laughter). The quarterback may be live in practice at times.
"My point is, third down quarterback play, red zone quarterback play and then in two-minute situation, leading us down to score touchdowns. Those are the things that we’re going to expect Wilton to improve on and master going into the season.”