Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters admitted he was the spring game’s third choice.
Which worked out better than he could have imagined.
With last year’s starter Wilton Speight and backup John O’Korn drafted to the Blue team, Peters was the only scholarship QB on the Maize side and he made the most of it, playing almost every snap Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
The redshirt freshman looked smooth from start to finish, throwing a 55-yard touchdown pass to Zach Gentry in the first quarter and leading the game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth, setting up Kyle Seychel's field goal for the Maize team’s 31-29 win as time expired.
“Today was one of my good practices,” Peters said after the sharp performance (9-for-17 for 160 yards, one passing and one rushing touchdown) sullied only by an interception where he threw late and off one foot. “I’m getting better. I’ve gotten 10 times better since last year. I’m just going to keep improving.”
The backup quarterback (or the third-string) is always the most appealing figure to fans, who like to imagine there’s a better option than the starter.
Peters' impressive day was in front of 57,418 fans. He hopes to challenge Speight for the starting job – after all, this is a Jim Harbaugh team where nothing’s promised.
Speight struggled Saturday, completing 9-for-26 passes for 78 yards with two interceptions, the last of which was returned 100 yards by Jordan Glasgow, who was playing the Viper position.
“There were times I was trying to make a play when there probably wasn’t a play to be made but there was obviously times when I was having to improvise,” Speight said, referring to the pass rush. “So we’ll have to look at the film.”
It was only three days earlier that Harbaugh raved about him, saying Speight was atop the depth chart.
So while Saturday was the show, it was one of the first 11 practices. There are four more remaining this spring, one Tuesday in Ann Arbor and then three to finish in Rome, Italy.
“As a veteran I hold myself to a standard that I shouldn’t make those mistakes, but they happen and you learn from them,” Speight said.
Though Speight is entering his fourth year and Peters has never played in a college game, they’re able to help each other.
As Peters had to absorb everything as a true freshman last year, Speight guided him.
Peters unknowingly returns the favor, as a calming influence, who Speight calls “the most low-maintenance chill dude of all time.”
Speight’s performance last year, leading Michigan to the 10-3 record earned him the credibility with the team and his coaches.
“He made quite a few throws today that were elite throws,” Speight said. “That’s the Brandon we’ve really seen since he got here last year. The arm is capable of making any throw and the poise to stay in the pocket and do what he needs to do. That’s really the Brandon that came from Avon High School in Indiana.”
Peters was proud of his composure. But his greatest trait Saturday was his accuracy. Throwing into tight windows, he consistently put the ball in the ideal spot, giving the inexperienced receivers a chance. On multiple occasions, those became big plays.
To catch Speight, Peters figures, for him, it’s about “being vocal and making sure everyone knows what’s going to happen.”
Entering Saturday, most Michigan observers figured they knew what was going to happen at quarterback.
Saturday alone won’t change who takes the field first for the Sept. 2 opener against Florida in Arlington, Texas as Speight has a comfortable lead and recieved another rousing endorsement from offensive coordinator Tim Drevno.
But it’s clear now that, along with O’Korn’s day (3-for--6 for 60 yards passing, 22 yards rushing and a touchdown), Speight won’t hold on by default.
“It’s for sure a competition,” Peters said. “Nothing’s guaranteed.”