Chip Kelly picks Michigan transfer Wilton Speight as UCLA's starting QB

Chip Kelly will have a familiar name at quarterback for his first game as UCLA’s head coach.

Kelly announced Thursday that Wilton Speight, a graduate transfer from Michigan, will start when the Bruins host Cincinnati in the season opener on Saturday. Speight opened the past two seasons as the starter for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.


Speight beat out two mobile quarterbacks

When you think of a Chip Kelly offense, Speight does not fit the mold. Saying Speight is immobile would be putting it kindly, but he proved during his time at Michigan that he can be a pretty efficient passer.

A fifth-year senior, Speight beat out Devon Modster and Dorian Thompson-Robinson to top the quarterback depth chart. Modster was the backup to first-round pick Josh Rosen in 2017 and showed flashes when starting the Cactus Bowl while Rosen was sidelined. Thompson-Robinson, a 6-foot-2 dual-threat, is a top-50 recruit who is considered the Bruins’ quarterback of the future.

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Though both Modster and Thompson-Robinson could potentially run the ball in the way that some of Kelly’s quarterbacks at Oregon could, Kelly has said many times that he won’t force any specific offensive style onto his new roster. During his time in the NFL, Kelly had (some) success with immobile quarterbacks like Nick Foles and Sam Bradford. Perhaps Speight will fit in the same way.

“Every team has a different dynamic, and I think it’s based upon what your personnel is. Our job is to put our players in position to make plays,” Kelly said at Pac-12 media days. “Exactly how [the offense is] going to look, I’m not sure how it’s going to look.”

Wilton Speight takes a snap in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Air Force in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

Speight has plenty of experience

When Michigan began the 2016 season with a 9-0 record, Speight threw for 2,538 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 61.6 percent of his passes.

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But after that, his play fell off. He struggled mightily and broke his collarbone in a loss to Iowa, but returned two weeks later against Ohio State. He threw two costly interceptions in a double-overtime loss. He also struggled in the bowl loss to Florida State.

Despite the late-season struggles, he beat out two other challenges to reclaim the starting role entering 2017. He started the Wolverines’ first four games, but suffered a serious back injury against Purdue on Sept. 23 and missed the rest of the season.

For the year, he threw for 581 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 54.3 percent of his passes.

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