Brandon Peters ups ante in Michigan QB battle
Ann Arbor — Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight entered the spring feeling confident and refreshed, his left shoulder injury that hampered him late in the season fully recovered.
But Speight also approached spring practice with no illusions of how Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh handles competition and has not once assumed that because he was the starter last year, helping guide Michigan to a 10-3 record, the job was all his just like that.
Speight was the first to admit after Saturday’s spring game at Michigan Stadium that it was not one of his shining moments. He threw two interceptions — he referenced them several times as “boneheaded plays” — including one returned 100 yards for a touchdown by Jordan Glasgow and was 9-of-26 for 78 yards with no touchdowns for the Blue team.
The team’s only touchdown pass came on an 11-yarder from John O’Korn to early enrollee freshman Tarik Black.
Meanwhile, athletic Brandon Peters, who redshirted last season, was sharp most of the game and helped guide the Maize to a 31-29 victory that was sealed by a 31-yard field goal by Kyle Seychel with no time left before 57,418.
Ty Isaac scored on a 28-yard run for the Maize team, and Karan Higdon had 12 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns for the Blue. Quinn Nordin made a 48-yard field goal for the Blue.
Peters was 9-of-17 for 160 yards. He had one touchdown pass, a 55-yarder to Zach Gentry, and he also ran 12 yards for a score. He had one interception that was returned 32 yards by Brandon Watson for the touchdown.
“You hear coach say at the banquet (last December) that he thinks I will be one of the best quarterbacks in the country next year, but then the next day he’s saying, ‘I’m throwing out the balls. Whatever happens, happens,’” Speight said referring to Harbaugh. “That’s how he works, and that’s what we’ve all embraced and accepted.
“I’m sure today’s showing won’t really help that. There’s going to be all kinds of buzz going on, but hey, it’s part of being coach Harbaugh’s quarterback.”
Of course there will be buzz that Peters should become the starter. And there will be buzz about how inconsistent Speight played.
“He had a great day, but the two bonehead decisions I threw those picks today,” Speight said. “It’s part of it. It’s part of being the Michigan quarterback. There’s a lot of eyes, and there’s going to be a lot of criticism, a lot of praise.”
Harbaugh did not speak to reporters after the spring game to share his insights.
The Wolverines still have four spring practices remaining. They will practice once next week and then leave Saturday for Rome, Italy, for a trip that will include sightseeing and three days of practices.
Speight certainly expects to improve these final four practices, but he said he also expects more of the same quality play from Peters, with whom he is close.
“Peters played a tremendous game today,” Speight said. “He’s been doing well all spring, since the first practice. Really, the bowl practice last year is when he kicked it into high gear. That’s how he’s been looking all spring. It’s encouraging for all of us.
“He made quite a few throws today that were elite throws. That’s the Brandon we’ve really seen since he got here last year. He can make any throw and has the poise to stay in the pocket and do what he needs to do. That’s really the Brandon that came from Avon High School in Indiana.”
Speight explained his poor throws that resulted in the interceptions.
“I see like a little window that probably isn’t doable and I still trust my arm too much to try and fit it in there,” he said. “I definitely needed to eliminate those today. I really had been all spring, but I just try to get out there, and the scoreboard and everything, I was trying to make a play for the team and probably should have thrown it away. That’s just something I’m learning from and moving on.”
Peters is soft-spoken and said Harbaugh has been on him to be “louder” at the line of scrimmage.
He studied the plays all week and said he was comfortable during the game and never felt any nervousness. On his interception, he said he didn’t see the corner coming down when he made the throw.
Does Peters feel he can win the starting job?
“I’ve just been trying to get better every day,” Peters said. “Competing is one of the biggest things right now for me. That’s all I can do, and the rest will play out. Every day is a competition for the top spot. Nothing’s guaranteed. Every day I’m trying to get better, work on the things I need to work on to get better at what I need to get better on.”
Overall, he took away mostly positives from his spring game performance.
“The strongest part was I was on point with my reads,” Peters said. “My reads were pretty good all day except for that interception.”
Speight and the quarterbacks are adjusting to new pass-game coordinator Pep Hamilton, who replaced Jedd Fisch who held the job the last two seasons before moving to UCLA as offensive coordinator.
“It’s just one day, but in saying that, I feel very good about how this spring went, the chemistry I have with coach Pep,” Speight said. “Obviously, you saw a little bit of maybe lack of chemistry with the younger guys, missed some receivers out there today that will get ironed out. We still have four practices left this spring, and we’ve got all summer to figure it out before camp, so I feel good about it.”
Speight and Peters were only a few feet apart as they spoke to reporters after the game. While they are competing for the job, there’s no sense of hard feelings. They are supportive of each other.
“We’re great friends,” Speight said. “He’s a really cool guy. If my stress level’s ever getting too high just get around Peters because he’s one of the most low-maintenance, chill dudes of all time. Playing last season and getting experience the season before that, I’ve tried to help him out and stuff. I try and help him but we all help each other. This is a new offense for everybody, so we’re all learning the same timeline. (Freshman quarterback Dylan) McCaffrey will come in in June and will be a little bit behind but the three, four of us will help him along.”
Speight is seasoned enough now to know that no one’s job is ever secure, and he knows he has something prove after his showing in the spring game.
“I saw a quote from Tom Brady very recently that was like, ‘I’ve got to be in there every day because I don’t know who’s going to come in and maybe taking my job,’” Speight said. “Obviously, not comparing the two of us, but you have to have that mindset of, ‘Wow, at any moment this lifelong competition of the quarterback battle or whatever you have in your life, you have to be on your toes all along.”