Michigan Football Recruiting: Coach's Corner -- Wilton Speight (QB Commit) -- A Closer Look

Posted at 8:00am — 3/3/2013

Michigan Football Recruiting: Coach’s Corner — Wilton Speight (QB Commit) — A Closer Look

The hurrah’s, or the say what’s, are both premature at this stage for determining the future success of one Wilton Speight, a recent Michigan commitment.

What spawned this writing was a recent email from Coach Bt to the author describing how he had gone back and “reevaluated” young Mr. Speight in light of the minor initial uproar due to lack of star power and the expectation other “more worthy” quarterbacks would get the coveted Michigan offer.

Well, about a week ago, some good time was spent looking at all the film available through various sources. Below is a summation of Wilton sprinkled with some quarterback coaching philosophy and observations.

Michigan had a tough choice, and an important choice, in selecting a quarterback for the 2014 class. Whether or not Wilton will be the only quarterback offered by Michigan may or may not yet be determined by the staff. Always remember that things can change and change fast.

When starting any conversation about a future Wolverine, the author prefers to start with important constructs related to football, but sometimes undervalued. Wilton attends the Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia, a private school with a long history of success. Throughout the school’s publications, and on-line sites, character and leadership are constantly and clearly communicated as points of emphasis for attendees. The end result is expected leadership, true leadership, not word-speak. Wilton, according to one source, has about a 3.0 average, a figure that must be advanced upward when comparing what a typical 3.0 student is across the nation.

So, right off the bat, Michigan has a commit that matches what the university desires in student athletes. Never discount the importance of such constructs.

Football wise, a viewing of Wilton’s film indicated many positives, and as usual it is somewhat hard to pick up obvious negatives viewing only distant highlight films. At least the highlight films did not contain the type of music or verses that entices the author to throw a computer down the rabbit hole.

Wilton’s sophomore film stood out. Critics complain about arm strength and apologists claim this will come with age and collegiate level coaching. Some point to footwork as a cure-all.

There are many facets of Wilton’s play the author asserts as noteworthy. First off, Wilton (again, this is highlight film) throws a very catchable ball. We all continue to see numerous guys that like to thread every pass as a blistering seed on a frozen rope, the end result being passes that bounce off hands, or take off over the receiver’s head into the waiting hands of a good, disciplined free safety. Wilton will need to throw some seeds later on, but his combination of touch and accuracy reminds me of many successful quarterbacks that did not have the wow factor but got the job done. Ricky Stanzi is one example that comes to mind. Stanzi ended his career with excellent fundamentals.

Second, Wilton does a really superb job in the pocket. He is deft at avoiding the rush by stepping up, rolling out, or wriggling out of a defender’s grasp. While such a trait may not be instinctive, some guys have this quality and some do not. Web folks immediately compared Wilton to Big Ben Roethlisberger. The comparison about movement in the pocket is not unreasonable. Wilton hangs in the pocket until a choice must be made, and the choices on highlight film appear to be sound. Many times his pocket decisions culminated in finding scrambling receivers downfield for big plays.

Third, for a guy that is 6’ 6” Wilton is a good athlete. It is not unreasonable to think that Wilton could run the inside and outside reads a few times a game as a change-up. His listed speed is 4.7, and his cutting skill is at least average for a guy that big.

Fourth, Wilton can really put air under the ball and hit his receivers in stride. To do this a quarterback must master the old skills of nose-point and release-point, something frozen rope guys are not good at.

Quarterback fundamentals are discussed below as upper body and lower body. Just like the great psychological debate of the mid 20th Century, environment or heredity, quarterback coaching is now argued in upper and lower body skills.

Lower body skills are getting much discussion lately, namely the golden goose of all mundane technique talk, footwork. The author does not subscribe to this lower body coronation. The ball is thrown with the elbow and hand, leveraged by the shoulder, regardless of foot-work skill.

For some an alternative path to improved quarterback play starts with the upper body, but not at all dismissing the lower body as an either/or choice as with the geneticists and environmentalists, whose engaged inquiry and conclusions were based on one choice over the other. Lately, most rational souls have concluded that both factors are important, and so now the argument is which factor has the greatest importance, or effect. So it is with quarterback play, upper body or lower body, which is the true key?

Here is a brief summary of upper body quarterback skills and Wilton’s perceived proficiency, mildly evaluated from limited film from an angle afar. First hand, close up observation beats this type of “evaluation” every time. This will be followed by a very short summary of lower body skills.

When evaluating upper body skills of a quarterback, some discrete traits can be closely allied with baseball and some cannot.

The position of a football needs to always have the lower point down and away from the body at about a 45-degree angle. The lower point should never be turned above the higher point closest to the body. Even on Denard’s recent picture one can see a perfect example of this. It is hard to see to what degree young Wilton accomplishes this, but such a skill is taught routinely and easily.

Elbow position is critical to a quarterback, the elbow needs to be in front of the body, at least a few inches after the backward motion, and the wrist must be in proper position. This skill is somewhat like a dart game champion. The goal is to form a consistent and natural arm slot and release. In short, the leading elbow throw is like a swing pendulum. The elbow is meant to be shoulder high, but it is the angle/slot of the forearm and wrist at release that may be more important. The elbow path needs to be circular. If the plane is flat, a sidearm slot will develop. Good slot position, combined with the ball coming off the fingers properly creates a nice spiral and better speed.

The wrist is the second critical cog in upper body mechanics. Good wrist mechanics and grip help to achieve the ball coming off the index finger correctly. This in turn leads to a good wrist “flick” whereby the wrist pronates outward with the palm facing away from the face and the thumb points downward.

Wilton is decent at these upper body skills. He is working with a national level quarterback coach. His arm speed is somewhat slow, but he is merely a high school junior. And big guys have longer throwing arcs, which can accelerate the perception of slowness.

Lower body skills appear to need more work. Footwork, footwork, and footwork, is the cry for quarterback development. Some buy this creed and some do not. One such skill is rocking. A quarterback like a baseball hitter needs to transfer weight, shifting from back to front. How much the weight ratio should be on the backside then transferred to front side is simply placed into a best guess ratio. Many place the ratio at 60-40, back side. The shoulders should turn and many times a coach wants the quarterback to finish his slot ahead of the intended target, a technique that leads the receiver. The lead foot should open up and finish just past the body midline, that is, maybe an inch or two to the opposite side of an imaginary line in the middle of the body. Rocking helps with balance and creates force derived from push-off. The rocking motion is not near as noticeable as with hitting, but still a reality.

Wilton throws best when he steps into the ball: better accuracy, better speed, and a common sense conclusion. He frequently throws flatfooted off his back foot, sometimes it seems to escape trouble. His motion may or may not contribute to what looks like a slightly slow arm release.

In short, the author agrees with Coach Bt. There is more to like than a quick surface look may indicate. Big, smart kids with an upside are limited in numbers. He has a big frame and should gain strength with normal age maturity. Do not discount the possibility of Wilton Speight getting playing time in the Big House.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu

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