Utah Football: Handicapping the QB Battle

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

2013 starter Travis Wilson returns to the field after being sidelined with complications related to a concussion. Backup Adam Schulz also returns for his junior season, but both Wilson and Schulz could be seriously challenged by redshirt freshmen Connor Manning and Brandon Cox, as well as incoming freshman Donovan Isom and Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson.

With the 2014 college football season now less than 100 days away, we at BlockU.com thought it would be prudent to explore the depth charts of every position on the field. We will discuss the players, their skills, their weaknesses, and predict the impact they'll have for the Utes this season. With so many questions remaining to be answered at quarterback this season, we thought it would be prudent to begin our depth chard exploration with the most important positions on a college football field.

Travis Wilson: Junior 6'7" 240
Wilson will undoubtedly get the best crack at becoming the starting quarterback for the Utes this season. He has (by far) the most starting experience on the Utes roster and has proven that he has the skills to play with some of the better quarterbacks in a very talented Pac-12. Wilson is very accurate on short to mid-range routes when he has a clean pocket to work with, and although he's shown the ability to escape pressure and earn tough yards on the ground, he has made plenty of mistakes when the pocket collapses. With relatively few weapons at wide receiver to work with last year, Wilson was able to throw 16 touchdowns. Unfortunately he also threw 16 interceptions, including a career high six picks thrown to UCLA last October.

The main concern for Wilson this season is his health. He missed five of the last six games of the season, including the final three games of the season to a concussion that later revealed a damaged blood vessel in his brain. After being re-evaluated during the off-season, Wilson was cleared for non-contact team activities. In the spring game Wilson threw for 116 yards and a touchdown in five offensive series. His return to the field isn't yet certain, but for Utes fans who have been begging for a healthy Wilson to return, it's a hopeful sight.

Adam Schulz: Junior 6'1" 210
While Schulz has the remaining starting experience behind Wilson, it's doubtful that he will contribute anything on the field for the Utes this season. Schulz performed admirably in Wilson's absence during the tail end of the season last year, but time and again he has shown that he just doesn't have what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the Pac-12.

Schulz throws a fantastic long ball, which was on display in the spring game when he threw a 46-yard strike down the middle to receiver Dominique Hatfield for a touchdown on the first offensive series. Schulz finished the game completing nine of his 13 pass attempts for 110 yards and the Hatfield touchdown.

Unfortunately for Schulz, the current Utes roster is full of young, talented quarterbacks that I'm sure offensive coordinator Dave Christensen would rather put on the field in case of sloppy play or (god forbid) another injury to Wilson. Schulz just may be the odd man out, and no Utes fan would blame him for transferring.

Conner Manning: Freshman (RS) 6'1" 190
Manning, barring injury or movement in the depth chart during fall camp, will most likely be the primary backup to Wilson this season. While Manning has yet to prove himself on the field at the collegiate level, in high school, he more than proved that he can be an elite passer. In his junior year at El Toro High School, Manning broke former USC quarterback Matt Barkley's single season passing record, throwing for 4,219 yards with 41 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. As a senior, Manning threw for 4,062 yards with 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
In the Red-White Spring Game, Manning completed nine of his 12 passes including a 10-yard touchdown to tight end Westlee Tonga. He finished the game with 86 passing yards

Brandon Cox: Freshman (RS) 6'2" 200
Both Cox and Manning came into the Utah program last year looking to beat each other out for the backup quarterback spot as true freshman. After red shirting last year, they are once again looking to compete for the same spot.

Cox is an incredibly athletic quarterback that could score just as many touchdowns with his legs as with his arm. In his junior year at Pasadena High School, Cox led the league in passing with 2,697 yards and 26 touchdowns through the air. He ranked fourth in the league in rushing with 562 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.

Cox had mixed success in his spring game performance. He completed five of his nine passes for 126 yards and ran for a touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions on the day. While Cox is still raw, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the field when the Utes could use a spark of athleticism in the offense.

Kendal Thompson: Junior 6'1" 199
Thompson is a recent transfer from the University of Oklahoma. When former Sooner's starting quarterback Blake Bell moved to tight end and was replaced with backup Trevor Knight, Thompson thought it would be better for him to transfer rather than compete with incoming freshman Justice Hansen for the backup role.

Thompson didn't see much of the field during his time at Oklahoma. His lone highlight came in a game against Iowa State where he completed two of his four passes including a 44-yard touchdown pass. While he hasn't proven much on the field yet, Thompson is an upperclassman that is used to competing at the highest level of college football. Thompson will battling the two redshirt freshman (Manning and Cox) for the backup role behind Wilson or may even challenge Wilson for starters reps.

Donovan Isom: Freshman 6'4" 240
Isom was a three-star recruit coming out of Destrehan, LA. During his recruitment, Isom also received interest from Cincinnati, Louisiana Tech, Miami, Tulane, and Southern Mississippi. During his senior season at Destrehan High School, Isom threw for 1,768 yards and 16 touchdowns while also running for 477 yards and eight touchdowns.
With the bevy of quarterbacks at Dave Christensen's disposal, it's doubtful that Isom will see any playing time this year and will probably redshirt, but be sure to keep an eye on this big, talented quarterback for years to come.

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