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Analyzing The Quarterback Controversy of Speight vs. Peters

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And a discussion about chicken wings might crop up somewhere, too.

NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game
Wilton Speight talks to Jim Harbaugh about milk probably
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of talk this offseason is centered around whether Brandon Peters will supplant Wilton Speight as Michigan’s starting quarterback. Personally, I’m on team Speight because I really like saying the name “Wilton”. Honestly, there aren’t enough Wilton’s in the world.

Hi, I’m Seth Galina, I coach quarterbacks for a college in Montreal, Quebec under former Michigan legend Renaldo Sagesse.

Even though I am a hardcore LSU fan and you can find a lot of my writing on And The Valley Shook, I’ve actually been to the Big House twice (vs. Ohio State in 2011 and Penn State in 2014). In 2014, walking around campus before the Penn State game me and my friends saw a bunch of people playing flip cup and beer pong and other alcohol related activities in front of a frat house and not being a from a college town we decided to go inside the frat house because none of us had ever been inside one before. Anyways, we’re walking around the living room and this dude comes downstairs and is all like, “uhh what are you doing here?” so we explain our curious intentions and he responds with, “uhh well this is where I live so can you please get out of my house”. Now I tell people that I’ve been kicked out of a frat at the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor is also the first and, hopefully, last time I will ever eat at a Buffalo Wild Wings. Look, there are shitty sports bar establishments everywhere but I feel like BWW is at the bottom of the barrel and my friends and I still still joke about that awful place to this day. Ann Arbor really has a soft spot in my heart.

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Alright, enough about my hatred for the BWW mango habanero wings and on to some football:

I’ve watched a ton of the big homie Wilton in the past few months and I’ve actually come away pretty impressed. I think what often happens with quarterbacks and their subsequent fan bases is that we forget how hard it is to play the position. I wrote recently for RollBamaRoll about Jalen Hurts and how for quarterbacks to be successful at the collegiate level, they need to be proficcient in at least one of these 3 subsequent categories:

1- Be an elite option runner

2- Be capable of making reads and going through progressions consistently

3- Be accurate with the football consistently.

Wilton is obviously never going to tick off #1 and that’s fine but does he check off the other 2? I believe he is pretty darn good at #2. You look through his film against the better defenses from 2016 and it really stands out how often he’s throwing to the correct receiver. What gets him in trouble is #3. He’s not very accurate. I think a lot has to do with his throwing mechanics but accuracy is also mental thing.

I felt that the first quarter against Wisconsin showed a great slice what I’m talking about. Either that, or I’m cherry picking clips to prove my point which I’ve been known to do at times. You be the judge.

Here’s a deep sail concept against what obstensibly is a Cover 4 look from Wisconsin. The wide receiver and the middle slot back have vertical routes which are the first 2 reads by Speight. The fade/go route is covered by the off corner and the vertical route (I can’t tell but its either a post, seam or corner route) by #2 is covered by the safety to that side and it’s being trailed by the nickel corner. This tells Speight that there is going to be room to throw that deep sail route to the inside slot/tight end. The timing is really nice and this is actually a pretty accurate throw.

A quick game double out concept shows my first example of the accuracy issues. The read is correct. On this quick pass, we want to throw the out route by the #1 receiver if we get an off corner (cover 3, cover 4, etc.). 3 steps and throw the ball. If we had a squatting corner we could get the ball to the #2 in the hole inside of said corner but in this case, the off corner dictates the ball go outside. With the corner looking inside based on his technique, if he breaks on the throw of the ball, he’s going to be coming down inside of the route because he’d have to flip his hips all the way around and then point toward the sideline to break outside of the route. We have to throw this ball to the sideline to prevent that corner having a chance to make a play on the ball.

We’re going to throw a sluggo (slant n’ go) to our isolated receiver and it looks to be cover 1, so I’d say this is a pretty good place to go with the ball. You’ll see the middle of the field safety come over and make a play on the ball. Wilton has got to put it on the outside and let his receiver adjust to it. Now, the reason that safety is allowed to come over the top and be near the receiver is because Michigan hasn’t paired the sluggo with a backside seam route to hold the safety. Makes it a little bit easier for the QB but the receiver is still open here.

A shallow cross concept that Michigan runs a lot of. Speight is reading whether an underneath defender (in this case the strong safety who spun down) covers the dig/curl route by the outside receiver in the bunch set. That player drops deep opening up a hole to throw the shallow cross and Speight just puts it behind him. Simple as that.

This one is a well put together throw on slant route for a nice completion. Speight always has the option to throw the go route on the outside, but he doesn’t like the alignment of the corner pre-snap. At the snap, he eyes of the middle of the field to hold that Mike linebacker from shifting over to the field side and then bangs in that slant route on the money.

And now the flipside. A play action deep crosser concept that Speight reads well but underthrows his target. He wants to get the ball to the deep crosser and he does that by reading if the corner jumps on the comeback route to the short side. He does and Speight knows he can throw the crosser to the first pylon. This should be a touchdown, everything is good up until the ball.

On this quick flat route concepts by full backs and tight ends, we often are going to read it short to long. The flat route is covered immediately so Speight works the intermediate sail route. Again, it’s a good read but the ball placement needs to be a bit more outside.

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I think those 7 throws are a pretty big glimpse into what you get from Wilton. He’s really a solid quarterback who is going to get in trouble because he doesn’t have the biggest or most accurate arm.

The major problem with his mechanics is his lack of follow through. He uses all arm and even though his elbow comes through nice and high, the power that he starts generating when he pushes off his back foot is stopped when his front foot plants down. The hips never finish their rotation forward.

Moving onto Brandon Peters, there’s no doubt that athletically, he is miles away from Speight. Mechanically, it’s a pretty sweet motion. Elbow is nice although he does slash a little in his follow through. Love how much energy he creates by squatting on the back leg and his front leg lands softly before popping up allowing the transfer of weight from back to front to move along. He has a bit of a lean to his left but it’s not horrendous. Overall, pretty good.

Here’s the problem with backup quarterbacks, though: you can’t ease them onto the field with a rotation. Backup defensive linemen play all the time because you give them a series here and there and generally a 1-tech, for example, isn’t the focal point of your defense. You can’t quite do that with quarterbacks. This is why Mitch Trubisky didn’t start until last year. You’d imagine that UNC knew he was pretty good but to supplant an experience starter like Marquise Williams would have been a leap of faith by that coaching staff that clearly they didn’t want to take. Speight is solid and is such a known factor that it would probably take a lot for the coaching staff to go to Peters, at least for game 1.

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Let’s take a look at a few throws from Peters at the spring game where he had a really good day.

First off, his deep balls were surprisingly accurate. Anytime type of go/fade/post route is going to be hard to get consistent with and he was pretty good on more than a few of them which was nice to watch.

The interception:

Just want to get this out of the way because I don’t think this is necessarily his fault. The concept here is designed to look like mesh/shallow cross but everyone is actually setting a pick for the underneath receiver. He really has one read on the play and it’s the receiver he ends up throwing to. Maybe you’d like him to throw it earlier, before he feels pressure, or just throw it in the dirt, but he’s not expecting the corner to be sitting there. He sees #1 trailing his receiver so he thinks it’s man across the board and doesn’t periph the corner. It’s a tough play and yes, he does have to see in front of the receiver, but we tell quarterbacks to go out and make plays and then when they try to make plays instead of throwing the ball away we yell at them for trying to make a play. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Some nice intermediate and short throws:

The cornerback runs with the vertical route by the outside receiver so he comes down to the comeback route by the slot for a nice completion.

Just like Wilton against Wisconsin, we have a go + slant combo to the weakside. The blitz opens up the middle of the field, the receiver needs to win inside, he does and it’s an easy completion.

Fade + Out combo. The read is whether the corner runs with the vertical of #1 or he squats in the flats. He bails so the slot has to win outside, he does, easy completion.

Deep crosser like Speight against Wisconsin. The vertical to the 1 receiver side takes the top off the coverage, so Peters comes down to his crosser for a completion.

The pre-snap motion tells Peters that it’s probably man coverage when the linebacker moves inside with the tight end. Once he sees the blitz vacate the underneath zones, he knows his receiver is going to win the match up and he delivers a nice ball.

At this point, about 4 months before kickoff against Florida and before summer camp starts, I would still bet on Wilton being the starter. Brandon Peters is probably a better NFL prospect and his upside is tremendous but there are over 10 games of film on Speight so he’s the known commodity. If there were a couple preseason games, I might think differently but I can’t imagine the coaching staff would go into a big game against a top defense with a first-time starter at quarterback. Jim Harbaugh would have to be really confident in Peters, which would mean Peters is able to handle blitzes and stunts and everything else, or at least has shown a lot of consistent play-making in practice. But we’ll see - I wouldn’t put it past him, based on what I saw on Saturday.