Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo, Matt Charboneau and special guest Chris Howard break down the weekend games: Michigan vs. Minnesota and Michigan State vs. Penn State. Detroit News
Of course it would make sense to begin the Michigan mailbag with questions about quarterback Brandon Peters, and I’m all for making sense of things now that the final month of the regular season is about to begin on Saturday.
■ Question: Why the hesitation to praise Peters? But not for McCaffrey? Is he that much better or is it something else? Motivation? It’s confusing. — @greenstflyer
■ Question: What’s Harbaugh’s problem w/Peters? If it’s really a “meritocracy,” Peters would’ve played much sooner. Seems like a personality conflict. — @Kelebration
■ Answer: Went with the question bundle, because these felt related. It is interesting that there really was never that much chatter from Jim Harbaugh or his staff about Peters and his development. My hunch early on this season is Harbaugh was annoyed — refer to the eye roll he gave my esteemed colleague Bob Wojnowski when he asked a benign question about the then-third stringer — that people would want to talk about a third-string quarterback when the starter was still working to get in sync with the offense. He talked about him quite a bit in Chicago for the Big Ten kickoff when he surprisingly announced that Wilton Speight, John O’Korn and Peters were in a three-man heat for the starting job.
Saying he “likely” will start and it’s “51 percent” after steering closer to the sun last Saturday after the game when Harbaugh said he was looking forward to seeing him get the starter’s snaps, is a way to say, “Hey, if you’re not performing in practice, remember, there are no guarantees.”
Peters would’ve played much sooner if he was ready. It was nothing regarding a personality conflict — Harbaugh is smart enough to know that even if there was a personality conflict, if Peters gave Michigan the best shot to win, he would play. Peters had a handle of the offense, to be sure, but he wasn’t taking backup snaps until Speight was injured and that has improved his game immensely. He is still a long way from being a finished product.
■ Q. If you were Harbaugh, would you give McCaffrey a thought? — @Chad_Chadley
■ Q. So when Peters struggles in the first half when can we expect to see Dylan burn his redshirt? #thatguy
■ A. Oh, #thatguy … can you see me shaking my head? I think you’re only half-serious, at least I hope so. They do not want to burn that redshirt. He apparently is doing a heck of a job with the scout team, but he is listed at 6-foot-5, 199 pounds, and that seems generous in terms of weight. He needs to get a bit stronger, so, no Chad, I don’t think he’s a consideration to get on the field unless in a dire circumstance.
■ Q. Does JH subscribe to the theory that the starter can’t lose his job because of injury or could the Speight era be over? — @jimUMfan
■ Q. Do you think Wilton Speight will get his starting job back this year? — @sooweede
■ A. First, they have to see how Speight does with his next bone scan and see if he’s ready to play this year. He will need time to get the rust off, but it’s not like he has been doing nothing. He wants to play again. Now, where this potentially goes is obviously based on how Peters progresses. The Minnesota game Saturday night will be a really good test and on the road at Maryland. I don’t think Harbaugh subscribes to that theory — you have to earn your way, as he said this week when asked by Peters had not started earlier. If Speight is full-go, it will be interesting to see if Harbaugh weighs his experience in big-time games, especially on the road, as a factor in making that decision.
■ Q. Do you think Drevno’s return to the sideline is Michigan’s way of admitting there was problems with the play calling? — @sampez18
■ Q. How big a difference does having Drevno on the field during games make for the OL? — @Rajlakra
■ A. Not sure if it was an admission of that, per se, but it does play into that. With offensive coordinator Tim Drevno on the sideline, as he was last season, it gives him a chance to get a feel for the players and the game and helps him making adjustments. He’s using more and more younger players, and it seems a logical move to have him down there with them to make their transitions to game action smoother.
■ Q. Just looked at forecast for Saturday PM. How hard is it for players from warm climates to adjust to playing in cold rain and (eventually) snow? — @GailVanBrimer
■ A. Gail, they don’t seem to pay attention to that during games, but they do talk about the cold they feel when they’re walking on campus, which is pretty funny. I’ve spoken to players across the years who have played in crummy weather games, and typically they say they don’t notice whether it’s really cold. They sure enjoyed the snow at the end of the Indiana game last year!
■ Q. Very few are giving us a chance against Wisconsin. As far as I know they haven’t played anyone tough, so why do you think that is? — @RajLakra
■ A. Raj, haven’t seen those comments but wouldn’t doubt that Michigan will be a big underdog in that game. Heading into the season, I thought that could be the big road game they might be able to win. It seems like they’d match up better for Michigan’s defense, so for that reason I’d give Michigan a shot. However, as everyone knows, that’s a tough place to play.