UM’s Speight still feels ‘sting’ from loss to Ohio State

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight and the Wolverines are nearly a month removed from the double-overtime loss at Ohio State, but he’s still simmering.

Speight suffered an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder two weeks earlier, late in the loss at Iowa, and missed the game the following week but returned to face the Buckeyes.

He had two interceptions and a fumbled snap in the 30-27 loss.

Michigan is preparing to face Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.

“The Ohio State (loss) is going to sting,” Speight said this week. “We could blow out Florida State and be 11-2 and we could go next year and be 15-0 and win a national championship, and I’m still going to think back to that game. That’s just one that doesn’t go away no matter how successful or unsuccessful you are down the road.”

Speight said he could not have imagined missing the Ohio State game, although no one has ever specifically detailed the extent of his injury.

“All I know in football, you get injured and you get banged up, and you owe it to your teammates because that’s what a good teammate does,” Speight said.

Khalid Hill returning to Michigan, staffer Tuioti leaving

“It’s not about saying, ‘Oh, this might risk my future.’ I want to play in the NFL, and I know I was putting myself at risk versus Ohio State, but you don’t come this far with your teammates starting the first year in January, and do the offseason sprints and the workouts at 6 a.m. and get all the way through spring ball and camp to say, ‘I’m not going to fight for you guys.’ ”

He would not say whether he wore any type of shoulder harness or protective device during the game, only that the equipment team “took care” of him.

“Getting better every day,” Speight said, when asked where he is now physically. “I don’t really know how to explain where I was in terms of the Ohio State game and so I don’t really know how to judge it and explain where I am now. I just know that it feels better and better every day.”

Speight did get time to rest, about two weeks, and that has helped his progress. He helped lead Michigan to a 10-2 record, but that final regular-season loss is hard to shake.

“It was good to relax the body and regroup, but there really wasn’t a calming down with the way we lost to Ohio State and the sting,” he said. “It really hasn’t gone away, and it won’t until the bowl game. I don’t know if that’s the coach (Jim Harbaugh) coming out in me, because I know he says the same thing, but he’s right — the sting doesn’t go away until you can take it out on the next opponent.”

While many of his teammates have filed paperwork with the NFL to get feedback on where they would be projected in the draft and how they could improve, Speight said that while he considered it, he realized he can rely on the Michigan staff. That includes Harbaugh, an NFL veteran quarterback, and pass-game coordinator Jedd Fisch, who has coached a number of quarterbacks in the NFL.

“If you look at where I was when they came in and where I am now, it’s night and day,” Speight said. “In my opinion, if I keep listening to them and their feedback, good things will happen.”

Veteran receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson are moving on, and Speight said the younger receivers, like Eddie McDoom, Kekoa Crawford, Drake Harris and Moe Ways are performing well in bowl practices.

“All those guys are well aware that guys like Donovan Peoples-Jones are coming in in January and they’re willing to fight for a spot,” Speight said, referring to Cass Tech’s Peoples-Jones, the No. 1 player in Michigan who committed to UM last week.

Knowing that Michigan is losing so many seniors and veterans, Speight said his next step is to become a team leader.

“You look around, it’s going to be a younger team, and I’m one of the older faces now, as weird as that is to think about — it seems like I just stepped on campus,” Speight said. “But I want to take the leadership role and do my best to be the guy not just the wide receivers look at or the offensive line, but a safety or a cornerback or a long snapper. I want to make that a focal point this offseason.”