Would he serve as a bridge? Or would Wilton Speight just be in the way?
Michigan’s already curious quarterback situation got even more curious late last week when the Detroit Free Press’ Nick Baumgardner was told that Speight, Michigan’s starting signal caller in 2016 and to start the 2017 season, would be open to returning to the Wolverines in 2018 if incoming Mississippi transfer Shea Patterson was forced by the NCAA to sit out the upcoming fall.
Speight, who appeared in 21 games for Michigan from 2015-17, graduated in December and announced after the season his intent to transfer out for his final year of eligibility. A decision on Patterson’s immediate eligibility likely isn’t coming until later this month, at the earliest.
Depending on the respective statuses of Patterson (coming in) and Speight (going out), the Wolverines’ options behind center remain relatively untested, with redshirt sophomore Brandon Peters, redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey and true freshman Joe Milton having made, collectively, six collegiate appearances.
Apparently, the door’s open.
But here’s the question: Should Speight walk back through it? Former Michigan and NFL running back Chris Howard and Land of 10 writer-columnist Sean Keeler took turns weighing in …
Q: IF SHEA PATTERSON ISN’T ELIGIBLE FOR 2018, SHOULD WILTON SPEIGHT COME BACK TO MICHIGAN?
CHRIS HOWARD: YES
There’s a cliché’ that says, “Everyone’s favorite player is the backup quarterback.”
Wilton Speight has lived this in the literal sense throughout his college football career at Michigan. He won the starting job in 2016 and Michigan fans were in an uproar. This was not the guy they wanted. How could Wilton Speight, a quarterback recruited by fan favorite Al Borges, be better than John O’Korn, who was Freshman of the Year in the American Athletic Conference at Houston? O’Korn was the better athlete, he had the better arm, and blah, blah, blah, blah.
Still, Speight won the job — and as a first-time starter, Speight had, in my opinion, an impressive season. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes and threw for 18 touchdowns against 7 interceptions with a 139.8 passer rating. Hate all you want, but those are good numbers. Then, 2017 started off rocky and ended with a season-ending injury, capped off with a season-ending announcement of transferring.
I was disappointed when Speight decided to transfer because I saw a story like the one Tom Brady’s playing out. Tom was never really embraced by the fan base early on (of course, they’ll never admit to that now because he’s the GOAT). They had their hearts set on the new shiny toy in Drew Henson. Brady was booed off the field against Syracuse. The stadium would erupt in cheers when Henson entered the game. Sound familiar?
When I compare Wilton to Tom, I’m not suggesting that they possess similar talent but more the fact that they both seem capable of taking the criticism and the slights, and harnessing them into a chip of bitterness and an urge to prove everyone wrong. Tom Brady used that feeling of rejection to drive him, and I think Wilton could do the same.
If Shea Patterson isn’t eligible and the opportunity presents itself for Wilton to return to Michigan, he should take it. If you’re Wilton, you’ve gotten a chance to see what Brandon Peters brings to the table, and you shouldn’t be all that impressed or scared to compete with him. We still won’t know what we have in Dylan McCaffrey until we see him in the spring game. You know the system and you’re a veteran. You’ve played in some big games, and you’ve got all the motivation you’ll ever need.
Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see Wilton come back and lead Michigan to a magical season and ride off into the sunset with Kool Moe Dee’s classic rap song How You Like Me Now playing in the background.