Speight clings to Michigan QB job, battle not over
Detroit — Wilton Speight is the No. 1 quarterback on Michigan’s depth chart coming out of the spring, but this is not a done deal according to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh, who along with most of his coaching staff, minus Pep Hamilton and Greg Mattison who were out recruiting, was at the Horatio Williams Foundation to speak to Detroit high school coaches Wednesday night. Several of the coaches did breakout coaching sessions.
Before speaking to the high school coaches and giving them the lowdown on many of the Detroit products on the team, he spoke to a small group of reporters about where things stand with the quarterbacks after last Saturday’s spring game at Michigan Stadium.
Speight, the starter last season, threw two interceptions in what he called bonehead plays, including one returned for a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Brandon Peters looked composed and performed well in the outing, and John O’Korn, Speight’s backup last season, also is in the mix.
“It will always be (a competition),” Harbaugh said. “Over the course of the whole spring practice, Wilton is, on our depth chart, he’s No. 1. But it’s a meritocracy. By your effort and by your talent you will be known. That’s a good thing for our football team.
“When we get into (fall) camp, and we go through camp, yeah, somebody that stands out and it’s undeniable, that’s what we’re looking for, that one guy. Probably eight, nine, 10, 11 practices is about the range in there where you make up your mind on something like that. It’s always going to be that meritocracy on our football team.”
Harbaugh said he was impressed with Peters’ composure during the game. Peters said he had studied the plays all week and felt comfortable with everything and was not nervous during the game.
“I thought he did extremely well. I think this gives him confidence, should anyway, the way he was able to perform and really assert himself as the leader, as the quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “Really, John O’Korn does that the best of anybody that’s on our team, I thought, this spring. Somebody that has to win at practice, in a spring game, in games, in drills. That’s what the team wants from their quarterback, somebody who leads the team, is assertive, is decisive.
“All that is still generating right now, but the quarterback that will do anything for his teammates to help win a ball game. I’m looking for that. That’s an area Brandon is in the process of growing to. I think the way he played will help him in that confidence. We’ve got three good guys that will be battling for that position.
Receiver Eddie McDoom and offensive lineman Jon Runyan left the spring game with injuries, and Harbaugh said both suffered ankle injuries.
“Nothing broken, not long-term (issues),” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see if it’s a week or more.”
Runyan will be traveling with the team to Rome when the Wolverines depart Saturday. The trip is optional, Harbaugh said, and McDoom has chosen to go home to Florida to visit his family.
Harbaugh encouraged all of the high school coaches if they run into fullback Khalid Hill (Detroit East English) and offensive lineman Michael Onwenu (Detroit Cass Tech) to tell them to watch their weight.
He said Hill has gained weight and Onwenu, who said earlier this spring he’s working on dropping pounds, is too heavy.
“I don’t know where he’s eating,” Harbaugh said of Hill. “He’s finding somewhere else to eat other than our cafeteria because he’s gained weight. I say it to his face, too. He’s got to get the weight down. He’s too heavy right now. It’s affecting his vertical jump, it’s affecting his 40-yard dash times.”
As he spoke about Onwenu, the heaviest player on the team, he mused he’s 350 or 360 before offensive coordinator and line coach Tim Drevno chimed in.
“He’s 372, coach,” Drevno said, drawing laughter.
“He’s another guy who needs to watch his diet and slim down, because fat is the enemy of speed, we all know that,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh told the high school coaches that he hopes Michigan can set a record for most players taken in the NFL draft, breaking the record of 14 set by USC.
“Michigan could break that this year,” Harbaugh said. “I truly believe we will.”
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown during his breakout teaching sessions with the high school coaches, while showing a play during the Ohio State game last fall: “Against this team we had 22 tackles for loss. Twenty two, that’s a lot. I still have a stake that I pull out of my chest every day, but that’s reality. We all deal with that, right? Wins, losses, they just make you tougher.”