UM mailbag: Night games, Speight’s feet, secondary thoughts

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight runs with the ball toward the end zone in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati.

Wilton Speight, eye rolls and Air Force filled the mailbag, but let’s start with a question about a Michigan Stadium night game this season.

Question: Have you heard anything for potential night games this season? I know MSU and Minnesota were mentioned over the summer. Any update? -- @realbeerbaron

Answer: Still nothing definitive on that front, and there might not be until 12 days before either kickoff -- MSU is drawing nearer and nearer -- because of the way the new TV contract works. Those are still the two games that are potential night games, and Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel recently said Michigan has agreed to host three night games in the next two seasons. Frankly, looking ahead to 2018, it looks like there are two better night-game TV options from among this group -- Nebraska on Sept. 22, Wisconsin on Oct. 13 and Penn State on Nov. 3. So with that in mind, it seems the Michigan-Michigan State game on Oct. 7 fits the bill.

Also consider that Miami-Florida State was originally scheduled to be the primetime game on ABC that night, but with rescheduling, the time and network are no longer set in stone. Perhaps I’m showing a regional bias here, but looking at the rest of the college games that day, Michigan-Michigan State looks awfully appealing, while in Week 10 there are games across the country that likely have more appeal than Michigan and Minnesota -- no offense to the Little Brown Jug.

If TV is going with setting the game time 12 days earlier, then we should probably find by Sept. 25 or so, maybe the weekend before.

Question: Wilton! What has happened from last year to this year? -- @Theonly2nd2none

Answer: I’ve been considering this a lot lately, and … I think because so many of the pieces around Speight have changed, he has had trouble adjusting. Yes, he’s a second-year starter. Yes, he went through the spring with a lot of these young players and spent the summer working with his receivers.

But Michigan’s receivers haven’t always run perfect routes, they also haven’t always been open, and that right side of the offensive line remains a work in progress. This is not to absolve Speight of responsibility, but to point out it’s not all him. He has to be better, but it took him a good three weeks or so last year to figure out the timing with some veteran receivers.

Question: Thoughts on Speight overthrowing the ball? Play of secondary? -- @bakingmom14

Answer: Speight has had some footwork issues; that was apparent last week against Cincinnati. But I think he’s feeling some heat. I don’t think he’s comfortable yet with the protection from the right side, and that could be contributing to him not setting his feet on throws. It’s there. We’ve all seen it, even this year, but I believe the timing will eventually materialize, as it did last year.

As for the secondary, I kept hearing in the days after Mike Zordich made those critical comments and the start of opening game week that the talent there is real. It sure looks real now.

Michigan defensive back Lavert Hill scores a touchdown after intercepting the ball in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati.

Question: I think the DBs are not the weakness projected. What have you seen? Am I missing something? -- @JohnJAndersen1

Answer: Nope, John, you’re not missing anything. See above to answer your question in part. The group was considered a “weakness” because of all the youth and departure of an All-American. And then there were the Zordich comments. Those did what they were meant to do – light a fire under the corners. Those who had gone to practices in camp told me the athleticism in this group is phenomenal and would not be a weak link on the defense.

Question: What stands out to you about the football schedules that came out for 2018 and beyond. What do you like and dislike about them? -- @HBWolverinesfan

Answer: What stood out to me first was Michigan playing Notre Dame on Oct. 26 in 2019. Just so weird to see that in the middle of the conference schedule. And 2020 appears to be a brutal schedule. The Wolverines open at Washington, have Virginia Tech (will Josh Jackson still be QB?), Wisconsin and Penn State at home, before traveling to Michigan State and Minnesota.

Question: Do programs need blowouts for player development? i.e. Get young players game experience -- @bongioronmd

Answer: They definitely help. I sure thought they’d get an opportunity last week against Cincinnati to work in some of the young guys, even Brandon Peters, but that didn’t happen. The goal, of course, is to win, and you’re going to play your best players to achieve that. That’s why a lopsided score is so important to give these young players a chance, and not just in mop-up time.

Question: Michigan will beat Air Force if … What must the defense do or offense do to make sure they beat Air Force IYO? -- @AndrewBuris

Answer: Defensively, I think Michigan has to be disciplined and step back from all-out blitzing. They have to focus on stopping the run, but there are so many ways the Falcons can get that done, so they have to play disciplined, plain and simple. As for Michigan’s offense, Air Force will try to take away the run and challenge Speight to throw. This could be an important game for him.

Question: How do we keep Dr. Blitz and rest of assistants from being poached at end of season? -- @zybowskipjr

Answer: I have a feeling Dr. Blitz is sticking around here as long as he’s wanted. I think Tim Drevno is itching to be a head coach, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name pop up on some coaching lists after the season.

Question: Do you have any idea when JH will freak out on the sideline? I kinda miss those days. -- @itsthedanno

Answer: It’s so funny you said that, because last week during the game I got a text from our photographer, David Guralnick, who mentioned how calm Harbaugh had been on the sideline. He’s due, right? As one of the players mentioned this week, though, there is a new rule that coaches can draw a 15-yard penalty if they step onto the field to argue a call. It’s probably killing Harbaugh, but he’s abiding by it. We can keep hoping for a sideline freak out, though.

Question: Why hasn’t Michigan worked in McDoom? Did I miss an injury report? -- @speens8024

Answer: You didn’t miss an injury report, and don’t expect to get much on injuries from Harbaugh. As for McDoom, I’ve seen him around the building and he looks fine. He had a carry for four yards in the opener.

Question: Is Jim trying more to groom QBs for NFL or trying to win games at UM? Recruits like Speight might work in NFL but not in college! Too slow! -- @jbjbgoblu

Answer: He’s grooming players for the NFL, quarterbacks included, but his primary task is winning games at Michigan. He has identified Speight as the best candidate for the job. Speight lost 23 pounds in the offseason and has shown he can move out of the pocket. He looks slower right now because the offense isn’t quite clicking.

Question: If Wilton has a so-so game this week, will Harbaugh roll his eyes when Wojo asks a QB question? -- @KrollRon

Question: Over/under on number of Speight turnovers before Wojo does an eye roll at Coach? -- @DPep1892

Question: Have @bobwojnowski and Harbaugh made up yet over some G&Ts or some whole milk and steaks? It felt like hearing your parents argue as a kid. -- @ZGrubes

Answer: Gotta combo all the Wojo-Harbaugh eyeroll questions. Let me be clear – that Harbaugh eyeroll to Wojo was one of the finest work moments I have experienced. I have slowed down that video like the Zapruder film, and I did detect an amused look, albeit brief, from Harbaugh. Wojo was probably taking the eyeroll hit that Harbaugh has wanted to give every person who has questioned him about Speight. The thing is, Wojo was merely asking if competition continues for the quarterback job on the same level as during camp and then he was looking for an update on Brandon Peters. Wojo didn’t think twice about the eyeroll, but for the record, I am so happy I got it on video!

Question: What type of binoculars you use?! -- @1stSergeantUSAF

Answer: Too funny. Use them all the time to see who’s dressed for the game, etc., but Harbaugh was in a mood on Monday and didn’t like the focus on specific players who were not available the last game. He’s not the first coach to get snippy about that and won’t be the last.