Michigan offensive coordinator discusses quarterback Wilton Speight's progress. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno insulates himself from criticism that comes from outside the walls of Schembechler Hall and said his players, despite being in the thick of the social media era, do the same.
Starting quarterback Wilton Speight already has received his share of criticism through the first two weeks of the season. The seventh-ranked Wolverines are 2-0 and face Air Force on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
Drevno spoke to reporters Wednesday before practice and was asked how Speight handles the criticism. Michigan’s offense had an uneven showing in last Saturday’s victory over Cincinnati.
“To be quite honest with you, I don't know of the outside criticism; I don't pay any attention to it," Drevno said. "So I can't make a comment on that. I know that Wilton comes in here every day and he brings his A-game and wants to be the best and knows the game plan inside and out and leads this team. Very pleased with Wilton.
“We all have things we’ve got to correct. It's not all Wilton. We have got to do better offensively, as coaches, as players and that's what we get paid to do. That's the exciting thing, is when there's things that you can fix that are easy fixes. That's the exciting thing. Keep motivating."
While fans often vent on social media and message boards, places players might visit, Drevno said players and coaches don’t pay attention to any of the conversation.
“We don't make a big deal out of anything from the outside,” Drevno said. “We keep everything inside. It's another day. It’s how can we get better today? How can we lead this team? How can we lead these young people to be great?
“We shut out the outside noise. We just don't pay any attention to it to make it a factor. There's lots of critics out there, there's going to be people critique you and your job and what you do. People are going to critique me and my job, but I know when we walk in here every day we’re giving our best of our God-given ability with a whole heart to be the best. And that's all you can ask of somebody. If you’re giving your best and you’re turning every stone to be the best, that’s awesome.”
Drevno is more than aware this offense is not close to being a finished product. It is the start of the season, after all, so there typically are issues that take time to correct. Beyond that, there is the added layer of a considerable amount of youth and new starters.
“It starts with not having too many guys in the huddle,” Drevno said, as he began to list some of the issues from the Cincinnati game. “The fly sweep, the motions, not fumbling the ball, not giving up a sack — those are all correctable things. A pass set on a guy, not setting too far outside on him. Making sure the depth of the fly sweep, where that depth is. Just being really detailed oriented.
“Those are things we’re really focused on, and we really focus on them every week. And then when it happens in a game, it magnifies, and you put your eyes on it like, ‘Hey, how can we do a better job coaching so they can understand it?’ It’s just coaching up the details and dotting every 'i' and crossing every 't.'”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh after the victory over Cincinnati discussed the coaching patience required with a young team. By no means, he said, does that mean dumbing down the offense, but it means constantly teaching and adjusting to how quickly the players are picking up nuances of the game.
“They’re young which is great, and they’re talented, but every day is a new day,” Drevno said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a fifth-year guy, fourth-year guy or first-year guy, you have to teach it to them like they never heard it before and be dynamic the way you’re teaching it so they understand it. And have them ask questions back to you and then you ask them questions to make sure they fully understand it. It’s a fun group to coach and it’s a talented group to coach. I get excited every day because the talent’s really good.”
Speight is in his second season — and working with his second pass-game coordinator in two years — as Michigan’s starting quarterback. He has had footwork issues that appeared more glaring in the Cincinnati game, and he’s clearly still working on timing behind a new right side of the offensive line and with younger receivers.
Drevno said Speight has been diligent about working on the problem areas. But Speight, he said, is not to be piled on — the entire offense is responsible for how this offense navigates its way through the season.
“Your footwork, your rhythm, your timing from your drop, the progression of the routes, it’s all part of it,” Drevno said. “Wilt comes out every day and tries to work his footwork, his velocity on the ball, the accuracy. All those things we need to work on, it’s not just Wilton.
“We’ve got our heart and soul in this thing to get this thing corrected. We’re working on it.”