Pep Hamilton's reason for turning back to college after his most recent four-year stint in professional football is simple.
"I want to win a national championship," Hamilton said Thursday night as Michigan approached the halfway point of its spring practice schedule.
The Wolverines' new passing game coordinator said he developed a larger appreciation for developing young players and watching them grow as he bounced between the NFL and college football. He said winning a championship at the college level would be "different, without a doubt" than chasing a Super Bowl.
To get into that conversation in the near future, Hamilton will need to lean heavily on Wilton Speight, Michigan's second-year starter at quarterback. Hamilton works closely with head coach Jim Harbaugh in developing quarterbacks. Hamilton and Speight both said they're jelling smoothly in a relationship that has been strictly business thus far.
"The first time we met, he shook my hand and then we went straight to the board," Speight said. "He said, 'OK, what are you going to do against this look and this look?' We just jumped right into football. And his big thing is, we'll get to know each other as time goes on."
Hamilton first saw Speight at a high school lacrosse game in Virginia while the coach was recruiting one of Speight's teammates to play defensive line at Stanford. Hamilton remembers thinking the 6-foot-5, scrawny high school junior was far more athletic than first look would lead you to believe. Hamilton said his quarterback easily passed the eye test when he first watched film of him after taking the Michigan job.
"I thought that he had above-average physical stature for the position," Hamilton said. "He can function from the pocket. He has great field vision and he can deliver the ball under duress. I thought that was an extreme positive, and there are some things we have to work on."
Hamilton's experience with Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno -- all three worked together for one season at Stanford -- has made for a smooth blending of playbooks. Hamilton said the offense will look similar to an updated version of what the Cardinal did when they all coached together.
The concepts in the Michigan passing game have remained largely the same. The one difference, players say, is that Hamilton has given a lot of the calls new names that are "catchier" and easier to remember than in the past. That could prove to be an important adjustment for an offense that will be as young as any of the other Big Ten title contenders -- especially at wide receiver.
Michigan's top three pass-catchers from the 2016 season have graduated. That leaves a majority underclassmen group of receivers to battle for playing time. Speight said rising sophomores such as Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom have done a good job of following in the footsteps left by outgoing seniors Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh. Early enrollees Tarik Black and five-star recruit Donovan Peoples-Jones are oozing with "raw talent," Hamilton said, but still have a lot of work to do before they are ready to consistently win battles in man coverage.
For Speight, the turnover is the price of doing business at Michigan.
"I think when you're at Michigan, that's kind of the standard," he said. "When Coach Harbaugh is going to bring in an assistant, it's not going to be some guy off the street really quickly. It's the best of the best, the top option. That's what we got with Coach Pep when [former passing game coordinator Jedd] Fisch left for UCLA. That's the good and bad thing about being at Michigan. You're going to have a carousel of assistant coaches climbing the ladder, but Coach Harbaugh is going to keep reloading."
Like his new coach, Speight's goals for 2017 are simple and lofty. He said he plans to continue to solidify his status as a team leader, but he also has his sights set on establishing himself as the best quarterback in the Big Ten by season's end.