The Michigan Wolverines defensive line is a source of questions heading into the 2021 season, but there are some known commodities. Fifth-year defensive lineman Jess Speight is one of those figures and will factor into the rotation this season even if just in a depth role.
Here is a look at his Michigan career so far and a snapshot of how he might fit this season.
The story so far
Speight, whose brother Wilton spent time in Ann Arbor from 2014-17, is a former walk-on and joined the program ahead of the 2017 season. Speight spent much of the first two seasons of his career as a member of the scout team and played in one game during the 2018 season. He was also named a co-recipient of the Scout Team Player of the Year Award on offense.
Speight transitioned full-time to the defensive line and earned a scholarship ahead of the 2019 season. He would appear in seven games in 2019 and started the team’s Citrus Bowl game against Alabama.
He appeared in all six games last season, starting two and earning his third varsity letter with the program.
Outlook for 2021
Speight stands at 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, according to his player profile on the team website. The staff likes him given his earned scholarship and the role he played the last two seasons. Right now, it seems like he might be on the outside looking in for a prominent role but could still be a valuable member of the rotation as a depth piece.
Speight’s outlook likely depends on how far Donovan Jeter and Mazi Smith have come along in their development this offseason, as well as how players like Julius Welschof and Christopher Hinton fill out the rest of the rotation. It is hard to project anything more than limited rotational snaps for someone who only has seven total tackles to their name over 14 games.
Speight will factor into the back end of the depth chart and continue to make an impact on special teams. That is his role and one that the coaching staff knows it can count on. Seeing him in a much bigger role than that means he either took a massive step forward or other players were unable to live up to their billing ahead of him.