Speight: I'll lead the way with new Michigan receivers
Ann Arbor — As Michigan embarks on spring football practice, returning starting quarterback Wilton Speight is eager to flex his leadership muscles.
Speight, in his first year as starter last season, led the Wolverines to a 10-3 record. He played the final two games of the season, Ohio State and the bowl game against Florida State, with an undisclosed injury to his left shoulder suffered late in the Iowa game that kept him out of the Indiana game the following week.
“I’m excited this offseason to take the next step in the leadership role and lead the team,” Speight said Friday night after the first of Michigan’s 15 practices, that will conclude with the final three in Rome, Italy.
“It’s a little bit easier in terms of being able to step in and say, ‘Hey, this is what we should do, this is what we need to do out on the field,’ when the younger guys maybe aren’t up to speed on what a certain play is or what I really want.”
Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh and Jake Butt, Speight’s go-to receivers last fall, are moving on to the NFL. There are some veterans like Moe Ways and Drake Harris who haven’t played much, and Eddie McDoom and Kekoa Crawford, freshmen last season, who are ready to step in.
There also are early enrollee freshmen Donovan Peoples-Jones, who offensive coordinator Tim Drevno on Friday described as “locked in,” and Tarik Black. Ian Bunting and T.J. Wheatley are also back at tight end.
“I think toward the end of the season I knew at all times where Darboh was going to be where Jehu was going to be, where Jake was going to be,” Speight said. “Ian was right there, too, so the learning curve with the tight ends, Ian is going to bring those guys along. We’re starting fresh with the wide receivers. Moe Ways, Drake, Kekoa, and Eddie, DPJ and Tarik and the rest of the guys are stepping up to the plate so far and had an unbelievable day one.
“It’s not like, ‘Oh, I hope we can mature and get to the point we need to be.’ It’s more, ‘OK, I’ve got to get to the point we need to be and do all the right things to show this is the way we do things.’”
Speight also is getting adjusted to new pass-game coordinator Pep Hamilton, hired from the Cleveland Browns to replace Jedd Fisch who moved to UCLA to become offensive coordinator.
“It’s been a couple months but it’s been a great experience,” Speight said of working with Hamilton.
“He obviously knows a lot about football. The best thing is, there’s not much transition or change between he and coach Fisch. Both know a ton about football. They’re football rats. They’re on the film all the time. I notice a lot of similarities (and) that’s nice for me.
“They’re both unreal coaches. I loved learning from Jedd. Every day I was a sponge because the knowledge he brought was incredible. I’m happy for Josh Rosen (at UCLA) to learn from him. At the same time, I’m also pumped to see what coach Pep has in store.”
Speight said he is his healthy now and became coy when asked specifics about his shoulder injury last fall.
He was asked about the limitations the injury created, then what the injury was and then if he had any minor surgery to clean up anything in the shoulder.
His memory apparently has left him.
“It was so long ago,” he said, smiling. “I’m trying to remember, but I can’t recall.
“Feel healthy, very healthy.”
While Speight enters the season as the favorite to earn the starting job again, he has learned from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh to never assume.
“Any time you’re on a football team, basketball team you can’t get complacent, you can’t get comfortable,” he said.
“Coach has told that to me and he said that to (veteran offensive lineman) Mason (Cole). Essentially no job is ever safe if we don’t win games -- there’s going to be a coach waiting to be the next Michigan coach. That’s the mindset you have to have.”