It’s a tough job but someday has to do it right? Somebody HAS to go watch Utah football in July-like conditions one day and December-like conditions the next. Somebody has to take a look at the current crop of Quarterbacks because we all know that Utah will only go as far as their Quarterbacks can take them. Since somebody had to do it I’ve gone through many “hardships” to get some answers, because well Ute fans need to see progress, and like now.
Yet another year without a bowl game meant an extra month without Utah Football. Its been a LONG 3 months since Trevor Reilly intercepted a pass to seal a victory over Colorado and boot the ball into the stands. Even longer since we saw Travis Wilson play a football game, left only to speculate would we see it ever again. So March couldn’t come fast enough for Utah Football fans and with Spring Camp approaching the halfway point and the first scrimmage here is what has been happening at the most important position on the field.
It’s crowded, and that’s a good thing. Since the Sugar Bowl run, which is now an ever fading memory, Utah has REALLY struggled to find health and consistency at the Quarterback spot. While not the only reason for inadequate seasons the last few years it is easy to comprehend that improved Quarterback play would go a long way in increasing the Utes chances of returning to at the very least a bowl game. With that in mind who are the cast of characters playing a role in Spring Ball and how have they fared so far? Lets take a look at each individually.
This picture perfectly shows what Brandon Cox is all about. Of the QBs currently taking snaps he is by far the best runner. This does help in some regards as new OC Dave Christensen has said in interviews this Spring that his Quarterbacks need to posses the threat of mobility in order for the offense run at full capacity. But a QB that can only run will never really cut it against big-time competition (cough . . cough . . TDS . .cough) so Brandon is trying to improve his throwing game. It is clear from last years Spring practices to this year Brandon is a better passer. He has better arm strength, better touch on deep throws, and reads the defense better. So here comes the but . . . .But Cox is still not consistent enough in practices. He will have a really good portion of practice where at times he looks like the best QB out there; in week 1 he even had the best practice day of any QB out there. But until he can show he can do it everyday while still improving than he will be stuck where he is on the depth chart because Utah Football cannot handle anymore inconsistency from the Quarterback position.
That other record-setting Manning Quarterback! Ok in all fairness he is not related to THOSE Manning brothers but he came to Utah last year highly decorated. As a junior he broke Matt Barkley’s single season passing record in the high school football hot-bed of Orange County. He also is 2nd in career high school pass yards to Matt Barkley. After redshirting last season, Connor is hoping to show his Air Raid skills at the college level. Watching Connor in practice is impressive. He rarely throws a bad pass. The thing that most stands out is how quickly he goes through the pass progressions, by far the best of any Utah quarterback. At this point there seems to be 2 major issues holding Connor back from making that leap up the depth chart. Remember how Dave Christensen mentioned his QB needs to be able to run, yeah well Connor doesn’t really do that very well. He can escape a pocket if he HAS to but has not yet shown the ability to really force the defense to play for him taking off. The other is his size; he is just plain and simple not very big. This may worry Ute fans with flashbacks of Jordan Wynn having very good talent but is just not big enough to play at this level of the sport. What will be really interesting to see is Connor get more time working with and against the 1s in practice. If he gets those and can show that he can take a hit and still keep his polished passing game, he could move up the depth chart.
Adam Schulz is who is he is. After Wilson was sidelined last season for the head issues we were able to see Adam in live game action. He had some nice moments, showed a ton of heart, but also had some bad moments. He hasn’t done anything in Spring Practice so far to change many minds. He makes good throws, has a cannon for an arm, and it appears his teammates play hard for him. But it is still yet to be seen if he can lead a PAC 12 team to extended success. He doesn’t do anything poorly but whenever you watch him the feeling you get is that he just isn’t cut out to be a starter at this level, like perhaps he has reached his ceiling and isn’t going to improve much beyond his current level. But, he has shown to be a capable back-up, and at Utah we know eventually that guy is going to see the field.
Ute fans were thrilled when just 2 weeks before Spring camp opened the news broke that Travis Wilson had been cleared from his cranial issues to resume non-contact football drills. More than anything it was nice to hear that a young kid did not have to give up his dreams of playing football so abruptly. But if fans expected Travis to pick right up without any ill effects of the missed time they are sorely disappointed. Through 7 practices Travis has shown a fair amount of rust on his game. This was especially true the first week. Since than Wilson is showing increased awareness of when to make a play and when it may be best to throw it away or even take a sack and move on to the next play. Wilson has been very accurate in throwing tight balls into coverage in 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 drills. He has not been as crisp in live 11 vs 11 work but has shown when, given time by the O-line, to make the right read, whether that be a pass or taking off, using his baby giraffe running skills to gain plenty of yards.
When Travis was cleared both Coach Whittingham and new QB coach Aaron Roderick stated that Travis would enter camp the starter. While far from perfect Travis has been the best Quarterback so far in camp and the further he gets away from the time lost due to his injury the more consistent and dangerous he looks. With his struggles it needs to be remembered that his reps are mostly against the 1st team defense while the other Quarterbacks are going against the backup defenders. The 1st team secondary has played rather well and their is a significant drop-off between them and the backups. So when Travis doesn’t perform as many would like to see remember that sometimes the defense steps up and makes really good plays too. So barring a HUGE leap from one of the other options Travis will leave Spring camp the starter.
Alright it’s only been 7 practices and what can we really learn from that? The answer is . . . honestly not much. But that has never stopped any fan from jumping to conclusions and it shouldn’t stop you now. So just jump right in! Come to the remaining scrimmages. Make your own QB assumptions. Why not? You have just as good an idea as anybody else at this point. But all that really matters is that we get to talk about and enjoy Utah Football again!