With the end of the football season, one of the shortest seasons in sports, a funny thing happens. People begin to predict and project what will happen the next season. Often times, the off season speculation can consume fans attention as much as the week-to-week goings on of the regular season. The 2014 season is over, so let the 2015 speculation begin! The Utah quarterback position is one that will hold the interest of many Utes fans in the coming months.
The first shoe has dropped, as senior quarterback Adam Schulz, who started the last few games of 2013, with the injuries to Travis Wilson, has decided to transfer to Houston. The transfer seems to be a good move for Schulz, as he went from No. 2 on the depth chart to the No. 5 QB for most of last season.
Senior Travis Wilson finished 2014 with a strong performance in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, earning MPV honors for the bowl game. Wilson was the starter for most of the season, and an injury to Kendall Thompson all but assured Wilson the starting position to close out the year. Wilson will go into spring ball as the early favorite for the top slot. Regardless of the injury to his head or hand in 2013, Wilson's throwing motion was still awkward, his sidearm sling that got passes batted down too often than one would think for a 6-7 quarterback never got corrected. Wilson's athleticism does make him a sneaky dangerous dual-threat. His sometimes recklessness and apparent disregard for his own health, make some think of him as one play away from ending his career (as with the neck injury during the Michigan game). With three years under his belt, though, his experience and strong arm may give him the edge to take the starting job.
Senior Kendall Thompson showed everyone flashes of what he could be. His athleticism is very apparent, and his ability to run in the read-option is better than Wilson's. He's the type of QB that could provide a dangerous running threat, but the little we saw of his passing leaves one to wonder if he could start the majority of games in the Pac 12 and get Utah to a bowl game. Also coming off an ACL tear, Thompson will be questionable for Spring, possibly fall. Thompson, while also an upper classman, may not have shown enough last season to push him back in to the starting roll he held twice. Thompson may enter the fall with more questions to answer than when he transferred in last year.
Conner Manning, despite one brief appearance, was not really given the opportunity to prove what he had to offer last season. Only some garbage time in the rain versus Arizona, and a pick-6 was the little we saw from him. Not really a good sample to use, but it may conjure up memories of another freshman that got a few plays in 2002 vs San Diego State, only to throw a pick-6, and not see the field much the rest of the season. That was 2004 Heisman Trophy candidate Alex Smith. Not to say Manning is like Smith, just an interesting coincidence. Manning doesn't appear to be the type of spread quarterback Utah wants. Manning is more of a pocket passer, but without knowing who the offensive coordinator will be, he can't be ruled out just yet. Often considered the best passer of the group, an offense could be tailored to Manning's strengths.
Brandon Cox was another quarterback to see limited action. Cox had a drive toward the end of the Idaho State game that ended with a touchdown. Cox seems to be the type of quarterback that would be perfect. If Utah intends to run a spread attack, a 6-2 dual-threat quarterback, who did score with his feet on the one drive he had last year, seems to be a good fit. The left hander seems to have an adequate arm and solid running ability. Cox's hard work impressed coaches, and he made his way to No. 3 on the depth chart for most of last season. Cox could push his way further up the depth chart if his skills improve in spring ball and over the summer.
Donovan Isom is a big quarterback who threw the ball all over the field in high school in Louisiana. He is the great unknown. The real question, is he as good as some think he is? If so, he could find himself moving up the depth chart fast. Cox and Manning really could have pushed for more playing time with Wilson's inconsistent play, and Thompson's injury. If Manning and Cox couldn't get to the No. 1 spot last season, maybe Isom, the 6-3, 233-pound redshirt freshman, plays his way close to the top of the depth chart during spring ball and puts himself in good position prior to fall camp.
Chase Hansen was convinced to stick around for one year before leaving on his mission, a move that didn't work out as planned. Hansen may have seen action in 2012, but a shoulder injury sidelined him before the season, and he left for an LDS mission right after the season was over. Mainly to dispel any rumors that Hansen would be going to any other school, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham met Hansen at the airport when he returned from his mission, and the head man took Hansen and his family straight to the new practice facility. Whittingham assured Hansen he would have a shot to play quarterback. Hansen is the type of athlete that could play a variety of positions, but quarterback is where he will start in spring.
Hansen, if he can return to his high school form, could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the quarterback position at Utah. A Parade All-American quarterback out of Lone Peak High School, the 6-3, 220-pound Hansen will have every opportunity to make the job his this spring. (Fans may remember his freshman spring game when he ran for
The quarterback position is probably about as deep as it has ever been at Utah. The intrigue of who will start this season will be on the minds of many over the next few months. Speculation will run rampant, and there is a possibility that one or two quarterbacks may transfer. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham himself said he expects a transfer or two.
Here's how the depth chart may look like at the end of spring camp:
No. 1 - Wilson
No. 2 - Isom
No. 3 - Hansen
No. 4 - Thompson
I think Cox or Manning may be the odd men out, and one of the two will transfer. Wilson will have every chance to keep his starting spot. Isom will be "that good" and will push for the number one spot. Hansen will work his way up the chart, but might eventually move over to defense. Thompson, despite his athleticism, won't see a lot of time. If he could recover well from his knee injury, it would be good to see him as a situational quarterback. He was Christensen's guy, and that could be a strike against him.
With all this, one has to consider that many starting quarterbacks in college football got injured last year, and having multiple quarterbacks who can start is nothing but good for the Utes. And may the best quarterback win!