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Column | A steady Speight will win Michigan quarterback race

Michigan QB Wilton Speight had the third-highest QB rating in the Big Ten, second-highest completion percentage and went 9-2 as a first-year starter. Photo: Andy Shippy | FanRag Sports
Photo: Andy Shippy | FanRag Sports

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Regardless of how the general public feels, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh knows how to select his quarterbacks.

He played the position in the NFL for 11 years and also spent some time playing for some legendary coach at some high-profile college.

He knows quarterbacks — and better than most.

On Friday, Harbaugh, who’s entering his third year as the Wolverines head coach, narrowed down his options for 2017, tabbing 2016 starter Wilton Speight and backup John O’Korn as the top two candidates through the first two weeks of practice.

They’ve separated themselves, he said. One will be the starter during the season opener Sept. 2 vs. the Florida Gators at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

In 2016, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Wilton Speight had Heisman-like qualities. In spring 2017, PGC Pep Hamilton referred to Speight as the “face” of the program. Photo: Andy Shippy | FanRag Sports

As for redshirt freshman Brandon Peters? He’s hovering around the third spot. Despite dazzling during the spring game and becoming a fan favorite to hop over last year’s starter, he just hasn’t been able to keep up with Speight, who went 9-2 as a first-year starter, and O’Korn, who was the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year while with the Houston Cougars.

“It’s just a process for him. He’s competing hard and doing good …,” Harbaugh said while surrounded by reporters.”But I think that the two guys have created a little bit of separation.” 

A nice showing during a single, very controlled and scripted spring scrimmage fueled all kinds of wild and inaccurate speculation, both from the public at-large and some media members. He was next, they said.

Book it, they said.

Well, they were wrong.

Sure, Harbaugh mentioned O’Korn, who was unimpressive during a 20-10 win over Indiana, as a potential lead man — but let’s be realistic here: It’s Speight, and it’s always been Speight.

Two weeks ago, the redshirt junior was put on the Maxwell Award preseason watch list, having been recognized among the top quarterbacks in the nation.

The 6-foot-6, 223-pound Virginian has what it takes to lead the Wolverines into Big Ten contention, so let’s lay to rest any countering argument. The numbers can’t be ignored, and neither can his body of work.

Speight’s physical prowess will be a major component to success.

But his mentality will be even more important.

And it hasn’t changed since he earned the job last fall.

WATCH: Harbaugh discusses Speight’s mentality at 3:35

“I’d say it’s the same. He’s really been … really from last training camp, he’s been a very, very even-keeled guy,” Harbaugh said. “I think that’s his personality. He has emotional moments, in a good way, but I think since last year at this time, I think he’s been a steady guy.”

Steady in the eyes of his head coach, and steady in the eyes of the guys who go after him every day during practice. Bryan Mone, a senior, has noticed Speight’s straight-line approach to running the show and has no worries about the potential starting quarterback.

“I feel like Wilton is doing really well; he’s doing great things for the team,” Mone said. “He’s competing for that starting spot. Just going against him every day, I see him improve.”

Is it an attitude thing? Something else that’s aided Speight’s consistency?

“It’s both attitude and just like, carrying the offense,” Mone added. “It’s just nice watching him carry the offense.”

Follow Adam Biggers of FanRag Sports on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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