Not long after Michigan’s spring game wrapped up Saturday afternoon, quarterback Wilton Speight leaned back in his chair at center stage on top of a raised platform inside Michigan Stadium and fielded questions about his day. Speight’s backup, redshirt freshman Brandon Peters, stood several feet below him in the corner of the same room with another group of reporters.
Their spots were a good representation of the Wolverines’ pecking order at quarterback as spring practice begins to wind down. Speight remains comfortable in his growing role as the team’s leader despite Peters pushing him with a better statistical day in his first Big House performance.
“He made quite a few throws today that were elite throws,” Speight said when asked about his understudy. “That’s really the Brandon we’ve been seeing since he got here last year. He has an arm that’s capable of making any throw, and [he’s] poised to stand in the pocket and do what he needs to do.”
Peters finished 9-of-17 with 160 passing yards and a 12-yard rushing touchdown in his first “start” as college player. His first throw of the day was a strike that resulted in a 55-yard touchdown pass to Zach Gentry, a former quarterback who switched to receiver in search of some playing time. That’s looking like a smart move for Gentry. The crew of quarterbacks Jim Harbaugh has assembled in Ann Arbor is deep and getting deeper.
In a small sample size, Peters looked the part as much as Speight and redshirt senior John O’Korn -- both of whom have a full season of starting experience at the college level. Meanwhile, incoming freshman Dylan McCaffrey, one of the country’s top quarterback prospects in the most recent recruiting cycle, watched from the sideline. He’ll join the team this summer.
Speight said he’s sees the growing list of competitors nipping at his heels as a positive rather than a threat. He’s hung on to a quote from former Wolverine Tom Brady during the past couple of months to drive home that point.
“I saw a quote from Tom Brady very recently after the Super Bowl that was like, ‘I’ve gotta be in there every day because I don’t know who’s going to come in and take my job,’” Speight said. “Obviously I’m not comparing the two of us, but you have to have that mindset.”
Speight completed nine of his 26 attempts Saturday. He had a chance to display some increased quickness (he says he’s down to roughly 235 pounds after dropping nearly 20 pounds during the winter) while under constant pressure early in the afternoon. He also threw two interceptions -- mistakes he blamed on trying to force balls into windows that were too small.
Those are decisions that Speight said he has been eliminating for most of spring practice thus far. A couple of missteps didn’t do anything to shake the confidence that helped Speight lead the Wolverines’ offense to a 10-win season during his first year as a starter in 2016.
Peters said the command and control that have helped Speight excel are the areas of his own game that need the most work. Harbaugh and company have been pushing him to speak up since he got to campus last year.
“That’s probably my biggest thing I need to work on as far as getting things executed,” he said. “Making sure everyone hears me, they line up right, and we get the play going as fast as possible.”
The Indiana native said he "of course" would like to take over the No. 1 job, but his focus remains on competing on a daily basis. He was happy with how well he read the defense -- save for one interception -- on Saturday and thinks he has made big strides in seeing the field and his footwork in his first year at college. Throwing the deep ball has been one of his biggest strengths since high school, and that showed again this weekend.
Nonetheless, it remains a safe bet that Speight will be the face of Michigan’s offense and its steady rudder when the team starts next fall against the Florida Gators in Texas. Saturday’s spring game didn’t change much there. It’s more clear now, though, that the growing stable of arms waiting in line has what it takes to push him.