The Michigan Wolverines are 3-0. That’s the good news. The bad? Wilton Speight’s offense has proven itself to be pedestrian. It failed to score a touchdown in Saturday’s 29-13 win over Air Force, repeatedly settling for field goals off the foot of freshman kicker extraordinaire Quinn Nordin.
This is becoming a disturbing trend for the Ann Arbor faithful.
Michigan has made 10 trips into the opponent’s red zone this season. Only one has culminated in a touchdown. Speight is 1-for-13 passing in these situations. His sole completion lost a yard.
The Wolverines are 57th in scoring, 61st in total offense, and 74th in passing. Both of Speight’s interceptions have been returned for scores. The senior signalcaller is completing only 54 percent of his passes in a system meant to facilitate the tight end and capitalize on defenders biting on play-action. Losing Jake Butt is proving to be quite problematic.
All of the issues are not, however, on Speight. Questions surrounding the offensive line continue to persist. Michigan and Harbaugh have hung their hats on being able to win in the trenches but this unit is yet to prove capable. The eight sacks allowed don’t fully paint how hectored Speight has been on dropbacks.
With leading receiver Tarik Black due to miss an extended period after having foot surgery, Speight has lost his best weapon. A date at Purdue now looks far more tricky than it did in the preseason. Michigan State will come into town with revenge on the mind what looks to be a significantly improved side.
In short, the defense can only be relied upon for so long before it comes back to bite Michigan. It’s worth wondering if coach Jim Harbaugh has a solution. For all Speights’ struggles, he won the job over John O’Korn. There is no young stud on the bench waiting to be discovered.
This is Speight’s team for the foreseeable future. Harbaugh, for all his convention-bucking and aggressiveness off the field, has taken a conservative approach to his quarterback situation to this point. I believe it’s out of necessity, not loyalty. If O’Korn had proven himself the better option, he’d have already assumed the reins.
It is fair to ask why, in year three of Harbaugh’s celebrated leadership, Michigan does not have a reliable, dynamic quarterback. The convienent excuse that these are Brady Hoke’s players is not fully satisfying. Harbaugh’s inability to develop at the position is somewhat surprising.
The sky is not falling around the Big House. Speight –or any Michigan quarterback — need not be a gamebreaker. There’s no shame in effective game-managing. Not converting in the red zone is not part of that process.
It does not appear a savior is coming from off the sidelines. Michigan will cook with Speight as the main ingredient. Harbaugh, celebrated as a masterful chef, will have to make it work until he can get a premium brand in his cupboard.