If you’ve paid any attention to Utah football over the last five or six years, then I don’t need to remind you how much of an issue depth at quarterback has been. Welcome to 2014 where quantity won’t be an issue anymore. What about quality?
Utah started at least one player who didn’t have a football scholarship after his DII team cut the program entirely. I think we all loved Jon Hays heart but he just didn’t have the tools to compete at the PAC-12 level.
The Utes also started a redshirt sophomore who walked onto the team as a freshman. Again, Adam Schulz has some ability, but I think most would agree it’s not enough to be a successful PAC-12 quarterback.
So how did we go from the dire straights of calling DII’s Nebraska-Omaha for a quarterback to now having potentially eight, yes eight, quarterbacks to choose from this Fall? Coach Kyle Whittingham and co. have certainly decided, through recruiting and transfers, to never be stuck in that situation again. So we have quantity. Is there any quality? Let’s take a look:
Travis Wilson: Utah got some good news this week when Wilson was cleared for non-contact drills. They get their starter back from last year who was very good at times (vs. Utah State – 17/28, 302 yards, two TDs) and not good at all at times (vs USC – Passed for just 51 yards, two turnovers). Wilson battled injuries in 2013 that contributed to some of the poor play. Quality PAC-12 defenses should also get some credit, however, and those aren’t going away anytime soon.
Adam Schulz: Schulz was the man who spelled Wilson throughout the course of 2013. He’s back in the mix as a redshirt junior. Schulz played in six games last year completing less than 50% of his passes with six TDs and five INTs. His best game may have come against Washington State despite having two interceptions returned for touchdowns which left his team in an insurmountable hole. Schulz did complete 21 passes for 347 yards and three TDs. Again, you have to be impressed with Schulz’s heart but if he’s a Ute at the beginning of the season, I’ll be surprised. It seems there are too many logs in the way.
Connor Manning: Manning almost had his redshirt season burned late last year when Schulz was ineffective and Wilson’s injuries prolonged. We don’t know much about the redshirt freshman other than he broke Matt Barkley’s single-season passing records in Orange County. The kid can certainly spin it and, for obvious reasons, was the most likely of the three true freshman to step in and replace Wilson/Schulz.
Brandon Cox: There was some prevailing thought that Cox would have a package of plays specific to the dual-threat quarterback last year but instead he redshirted. May not be as accurate in the pocket as some other quarterbacks but certainly has the potential to turn broken plays into big gains. Could play another position if too many logs get stacked up in front of him.
Micah Thomas: Another athlete trying to play quarterback at Utah. He was clearly the third best QB of the incoming freshman last season. If he’s still throwing balls during the second week of spring practice, I’ll be surprised. Could make a significant impact at wide receiver or on defense in the secondary.
Jason Thompson: Along with Wyoming’s former head coach, Utah also snagged the man in line to play quarterback after last year’s signal caller bolted early to the NFL. The word is he’ll participate in spring practice but the university is still trying to determine if he’ll have to sit out a year due to transfer rules. There’s some prevailing thought he may not have to. Thompson is another athlete who could play on either side of the ball. Some think he may not get a crack at QB at all and play safety instead.
My prediction for the post-spring depth chart: 1-Wilson 2-Manning 3-Cox 4-Schulz
Thomas and Thompson will not be QBs at the end of spring camp.
Kendal Thompson: The transfer from Oklahoma comes in with the same hype as the last signal caller Utah picked up from the Sooners, Tommy Grady. The two are very different, however, in that Grady was a pure pocket passer and Thompson is another QB of the dual-threat mold. Most pundits close to the situation seem extremely high on Thompson’s athletic ability and his arm. If the hype-machine is close to accurate on this one, he’ll challenge Wilson for the starting job come this fall. The challenge for this Thompson will be if he can pick up the offense fast enough to compete with Wilson who will have a chance to work with Dave Christensen and the playbook in the spring.
Donovan Isom: Isom is a big athletic quarterback with a lethal arm. He’ll arrive this summer and all signs point to a redshirt. Isom is certainly the quarterback of the future depending on how he stacks up with the likes of Connor Manning, Brandon Cox and Chase Hansen which is another log that Utah will have in the mix come 2015.
My predicted depth chart for Idaho State:
1-Wilson 2-Kendal Thompson 3-Manning 4-Cox 5-Isom (Redshirt)
Adam Schulz will be the starting quarterback for Weber State.
I think Travis Wilson will take advantage of the head start and hold off Thompson as long as he’s healthy. Both should get playing time against Idaho State. Thompson will be a very worthy backup if Wilson goes down, however. Another hand injury or concussion could spring Thompson into the starting role which he may never relinquish.
Agree or disagree? Hit me up on Twitter @matthugie