The Ballad of Wilton Speight

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Wilton Speight
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - SEPTEMBER 23: Michigan Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight (3) warms up before the college football game between the Purdue Boilermakers and Michigan Wolverines on September 23, 2017, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The End of an Era

After months of speculation, the ballad of Wilton Speight comes to an end. Speight the Wolverine that is. He announced his transfer to UCLA via Instagram Thursday evening. For a while he left the possibility of a return to Michigan open. The status of much-heralded Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson remains in limbo. However, with that deliberation entering its fifth month, Speight decided he could wait no longer and opted to head to Los Angeles.

It is not yet confirmed by UCLA, as of this posting, whether Speight has been admitted to the graduate program. The school does not give special allowances to athletes. Washington Huskies graduate transfer K.J. Carta-Samuels had announced he would be going to UCLA last month, but he was reportedly denied admission into the graduate school and will be playing for Colorado State instead.

Wilton Speight arrived in Ann Arbor in 2014 and redshirted his first season. The following year he got only a few snaps under center. In 2016, Speight beat out John O’Korn for the starting job. Though showing flashes of greatness throughout the season, the offense struggled at times and had to be bailed out by the defense. The season was capped off by a loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl where Speight threw an interception that sealed the loss. In 2017, after being injured in week 2, Brandon Peters took over and appeared to be the future of the program, leading to Speight’s decision.

For his career in Ann Arbor, Speight was 257 of 437 passing for 3,192 yards with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and a 58% completion rate. His only full season was that 2016 junior season.

The fact that Speight decided to move on from Michigan is of no surprise given the situation. Going to a new school means a learning a new playbook. Eventually a decision had to be made so that he could learn the new system. Waiting too long would seriously impact his chances at starting and would likely hamper any NFL hopes Speight may possess.

A Good Fit?

The decision to join UCLA seems odd at first glance. The Bruins hired Chip Kelly as head coach in December. Our reports out of Los Angeles suggest he is sticking with something similar to his Oregon blueprint. Speight however, at six feet six inches and 240 pounds, is a typical “pro-style” quarterback. He does not appear to be an obvious fit for a typical Chip Kelly quarterback.

However, Speight does have experience under his belt. UCLA redshirt sophomore Devon Modster had limited duty last year behind Josh Rosen. Freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson won’t be in camp until Summer. Speight’s experience however gives him the potential to learn an offense quickly and Kelly could certainly make adaptations to the playbook to suit his style and ability if/when he is needed. The UCLA wide receivers coach, Jimmy Dougherty, worked with Speight in 2016, when he was Michigan’s passing game coordinator under Jim Harbaugh.

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