Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight will move on to play his final year of college football as a graduate transfer and can play immediately.
Now the quarterback competition at Michigan seems to be focused on two young players, redshirt freshman Brandon Peters, who made three starts this season before suffering a concussion that prevented him from playing in the regular-season finale, and freshman Dylan McCaffrey, who redshirted this year.
Speight, the Wolverines’ starter last season and the first four games this season before suffering three fractured vertebrae that prevented him from playing the rest of the year, revealed via social media on Sunday his plans to move on. He was among 33 fourth- and fifth-year seniors honored during “Senior Day” on Saturday before the Ohio State game.
“Thank you, Michigan,” Speight wrote in an Instagram post that he also shared on Twitter. “These past 4 years have been nothing short of spectacular. Enrolling in January of 2014 as a kid from Virginia I didn’t know what to expect. Four years later I leave a Michigan Man.”
Speight, who was cleared to throw in practice the last two weeks but could not take contact, thanked the Michigan fans who stuck with the team “through thick and thin” and thanked former Michigan coach Brady Hoke who gave “a kid with no offers a chance” for recruiting him to Michigan.
And Speight thanked current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
“For coming in and making me a better man and a better quarterback,” Speight wrote. “For understanding this decision of mine and always having my back no matter what.”
Speight, who was 204-of-331 for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns and had seven interceptions last season, said he does not know where he will transfer. He was 44-of-81 for 581 yards and three touchdowns and two interceptions this season.
“I’ll use these next four weeks to figure that out,” he wrote. “I’m excited to keep pursuing my dreams in a new jersey, but will forever root for the boys wearing the winged helmet. Go blue!”
After the injury at Purdue, his parents, Bobby and Martha, detailed in an interview with The Detroit News that they did not feel the potentially serious injury was being treated with the necessary urgency by the Purdue staff. Harbaugh has said that in light of the Speight’s story, the Big Ten is working to make a policy for injury care among the league football programs.
Speight never revealed the nature of the shoulder injury he suffered at Iowa last season that held him out of the final home game and may have affected him in the final two games. He did not have a stellar spring game earlier this year, but he returned for preseason camp this year in what Harbaugh called a “dead heat” with O’Korn and Peters and won the job again.
“It’s a competition every day,” Speight said last August. “You talk to guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning — every day is a competition. It doesn’t matter if you’re fifth string or returning starter. I prepare the same way every day, and that’s to be the starting quarterback at Michigan. That’s how I was as a fifth-string quarterback, and that’s how I am now as a starter.”
Speight has been among the more engaging interviews during his Michigan career. He often poked fun of the scene seen around the world when, on HBO’s “Real Sports” during a Harbaugh feature, there was footage of Harbaugh chewing out a very tall player, blurred to protect the innocent. The piece was shot during Harbaugh’s first spring in 2015.
There was only one quarterback that tall, and it was obviously Speight.
“I’m just telling you the right way to do it,” Harbaugh said, hollering at the tall, blurry player. “If you want to look at me with that look, go (expletive) look somewhere else.”
Speight laughed about it last season with reporters.
“Obviously, (the relationship has) come a long way since that HBO special, telling me to transfer somewhere else or go somewhere else,” he said. “All my buddies joked, 'Yeah, they blurred out the number, but you're the only 8-foot quarterback in the country.' So it was easily identifiable as me. We've, obviously, come a long way since then, but it's something to look back and laugh about."
At that point, he was not considering leaving.
"No, at that time, no," Speight said. "He was kind of taking shots at everybody, trying to get all the softer guys out because he was new and wanted to come in and make a statement. Transferring after he said that didn't really cross my mind. Obviously, I didn't like hearing it or having it on HBO for the whole country to see, but that never really crossed my mind. It just made me work harder."
Going forward, Michigan has talented quarterbacks in Harbaugh recruits, Peters and McCaffrey. Pass-game coordinator Pep Hamilton last Monday on the “Inside Michigan Football” radio show said he wanted to build for the future off the final two games, including the bowl.
“Ideally, we want to go, ‘Let’s win our next two games and go into the offseason with an established quarterback. This is our guy, and then we can build around that quarterback and get Tarik Black back on the field, get Donovan Peoples-Jones in great shape and get him ready to go and develop that timing and continuity,’” Hamilton said.
And now, Speight is not part of that process.