The Utah Utes Football team practiced at Rice Eccles Stadium for the first time this spring and many eyes were on the backup quarterback spot. Travis Wilson has a lock on the one spot right now with his experience (despite still putting a few passes low or in the dirt today) with Kendall Thompson likely to contest him for the two spot in the fall. However, most fans want to know what the future will be for the Utah Utes’ quarterback position after those two graduate at the end of the season. To that regard, I’ve compiled a few quick thoughts on each of the backups and their performance today below.
Connor Manning got a lot of the early backup snaps in live scrimmage. He has a nice throwing motion but, for some reason or another, his completion percentage does not appear to be very high. It also seems like the Utes are looking to run more pitch option plays (think of the offense we saw them run in the opening minutes of the Oregon game last year with Kendall Thompson at the helm) which does not bode well for him since most defenses will not take a run threat from him seriously. After Thompson went down last season he was penciled in at the two spot and the coaches are still investing a lot of snaps in him, but I just don’t see it.
I think Cox is clearly more athletic than Manning and, like Manning, he has been in the Utah system for three years now so the experience is there, which is promising. He ran the pitch option really well and showed off some of his shiftiness in open space. His passing seemed decent despite a few tips that ended in interceptions. The problem here is that there is not a lot of chatter coming from the coaches on him, which may point back to the more intangible qualities that are required to play the position.
Chase Hansen got less live snaps than the previous two mentioned quarterbacks from what I could tell, but he made them count. I only noticed one pass that he threw short and was incomplete. All the others were completed and on target, albeit perhaps not always a perfect spiral. What I noticed from him that I really liked is that when his first read wasn’t there he very clearly went through the rest of his progressions. On one occasion the left side of the field was covered so he shifted to the right and found the open guy. On another occasion he went through both the left and the right reads and eventually had to check down to the running back. This may change when things speed up, but seeing a quarterback go through all the read progressions is refreshing, considering Travis Wilson typically only reads one side of the field. Something we didn’t get to see much from Hansen today was his ability to run with the ball. His senior year in high school he rushed for nearly 1500 yards so I expect that when read progressions break down he should be able to get himself out of trouble with his feet, similar to how Cox or Kendall Thompson would play.
Isom had visibly less snaps today than the other three quarterbacks. He ended his first possession in a pretty glaring interception and got limited live reps after that. Based on the coaches calling him out in interviews as being behind at having a command of the offense, I would expect that he will not get many snaps going forward this spring as they start to decide which quarterbacks they really want to invest snaps in.