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Quarter Century of Quarterbacks for Utah Football

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Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 football season grows closer and closer, and with every season armchair analysis begins. The position that is almost always the focal point of the team, and often a small sample of how good a team will be, is how good the team is at the quarterback position. This season, Utah has two returning starters at the position; Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson, who both have their own skills and attributes. Utah fans have had a sample of what both can do. Wilson is a three year starter, and will go down as one of the top winners at Utah. He may answer his critics, and have the type of season that will be memorable for Utah fans. Why type of quarterback will people consider Wilson and Thompson? Average, Above Average, or Excellent?

The 90s

The Utah Football Renaissance is debatable, but all will agree, extreme changes happened with the hiring of Ron McBride. He took over a team ranked dead last in defense, and quarterback Scott Mitchell, who rewrote Utah's record book, entered the NFL Draft after his coach Jim Fassel was fired. McBride's first two quarterbacks were Mike Richmond (Mitchell's 1989 backup), and JC transfer Jason Woods. Both had started in 1990, but neither separated themselves. Despite an improved defense, Utah finished the year 4-7. One would probably say that Richmond and Woods were Average.

The following season, Frank Dolce rose to the top of the depth chart, and played well for the Utes. In Dolce's two seasons as the starter, he threw for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also led Utah to a 6-5 season his senior year, and seemed to be over with a loss at home to BYU. The next day Dolce and the Utes found out they were headed to the Weiser Lock Copper Bowl, and would take on Drew Bledsoe and Washington State. Dolce went toe to toe with Bledsoe, and the Utes came up three points short. Dolce now is heard doing analysis for the Utah Football broadcasts. For his time quarterbacking at Utah, I say looking back, Dolce was an Above Average quarterback.

Dolce's backup was Mike McCoy. A transfer from Long Beach State, after they dropped their football program. McCoy's first start was a horrible one in 1992, subbing for the injured Dolce vs UTEP. UTEP won their only game of that season in Rice Stadium that day. McCoy had a good junior year in 1993.  A winning season included a victory over BYU, breaking a four year losing streak to the Cougars, and an invite to the Freedom Bowl vs USC. Despite a loss to a USC team loaded with NFL talent, McCoy and the Utes had a better 1994.  McCoy lead the Utes to a 10-2, and a second straight victory over BYU. After defeating Arizona in the Freedom Bowl, the Utes finished ranked No 8 in the country. McCoy had a sniff with the Packers, but ultimately found his way into coaching, and now is the Head Coach of the San Diego Chargers in the NFL. McCoy with his wins and play was an Excellent quarterback for the Utes

Brandon Jones was McCoy's backup, and was penciled in as the starter in 1995 but Mike Fouts, nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, eventually took the starting job, and played well in his two seasons at Utah. He helped the Utes get a third straight victory over BYU, and a share of the WAC title in 1995, and an eight win season in 1996. Brandon Jones was Average, and Mike Fouts was Above Average.

Johnathan Crosswhite played OK for the Utes, but eventually got passed up by freshman Darnell Arceneaux, a highly touted freshman out of Hawaii. Arceneaux helped the Utes win in Provo in 1997, but an injury cut his 1998 season short, and Crosswhite finished the season as the starter. Crosswhite was pretty Average.

TD Croshaw traded starts the following season with Arceneaux, because Arceneaux had quite a few health issues. Croshaw got the victory over BYU, and handed the ball off a lot to Mike Anderson.  Arceneaux, because of injuries almost deserves an incomplete, but the now St Louis High (Hawaii) head coach, was ultimately an Above Average quarterback, and TD played well at times, but was pretty Average.

The 2000s

Lance Rice finished off the 2000 season as the starter, after he replaced both Croshaw and Arceneaux. Rice started the following season, and had some good and bad moments. He was the quarterback in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl victory over USC, but there was a lot running that game. Rice was supplanted halfway through the following year by Brett Elliott. Rice was pretty much an Average quarterback

Brett Elliott was given a shot to replace Rice in 2002, and he did. The team finished below .500, and Ron McBride lost his job. Elliott was the starter in 2003, but a broken arm at Texas A&M sidelined him, and Alex Smith took over as the starter. Elliott transferred to Linfield College, and played well at that level. So much so, he earned a spot on the San Diego Chargers roster. He probably would have been better at Utah had Smith not taken over, and was an Above Average quarterback.

Alex Smith doesn't need a whole lot of explaining. He took over for Elliott and had a good 2003 season, and a top 25 finish. Smith had an excellent senior season, and led the Utes to an undefeated season. The first pick in the NFL draft, and he may go down as one of the greatest Utah has ever seen at the position. Smith was an Excellent quarterback at Utah.

Brian Johnson was a great quarterback for the Utes. While he was hampered by injury over his four years, his mind was his best attribute. Learning under Alex Smith, Johnson, despite being 18, played well his sophomore year, but his season ended with a knee injury. He ultimately led the Utes to an undefeated season in 2008, and was the 2009 Sugar Bowl MVP. Johnson, who is now the QB coach at Mississippi State, was an Excellent QB for the Utes.

Brett Ratliff had great moments, and average moments. Had Brian Johnson not been at Utah, he like Brett Elliott may have been a better quarterback at Utah. Oklahoma Transfer Tommy Grady also cut into Ratliff's playing time. Ratliff has a good win over BYU and a great game vs Georgia Tech in the 2005 Emerald Bowl. Ratliff found his way onto a couple NFL rosters, and was an Above Average quarterback for the Utes.

Oklahoma transfer Tommy Grady came in with a big arm and big stature. He never really panned out, but will probably be remembered for his first pass being a pick-6 at UCLA, but then torching the same Bruins the following season in Salt Lake City. Grady ended up as a QB in the Arena Football League, but was a pretty Average QB for the Utes.

2010-present

Terrance Cain transferred in from Blinn CC as a 4-Star JC quarterback. He never really lived up to that rating, but was a pretty good runner, and adequate passer. He lost his starting job to Jordan Wynn, but finished up his career as the starter in the Las Vegas Bowl loss versus Boise St. He was a pretty Average QB for the Utes.

Jordan Wynn had all the skills to be a good quarterback. Mentally he had good knowledge of the game, but his body couldn't keep up. Shoulder injuries ended his career early. Had he stayed healthy, and played like he did in his Freshman year, he may have been better. He's now the QB coach at Hawaii, and was a pretty Average QB for Utah.

Jon Hays was an emergency QB brought in by Norm Chow. Chow could see how the Utes were lacking depth, and brought him in after his school, Nebraska-Omaha, dropped football. Hays became the starter after Wynn's injuries sidelined him in 2011. Hays did not seem to be a Pac-12 QB, but he was adequate. With a lot of help from John White IV's running game, Hays lead the Utes to victory in the 2011 Sun Bowl. White was the MVP, but his spectacular pinpoint pass to DeVonte Christopher lead them to overtime. Hays was out of his league in the Pac-12, but almost needs more credit. Hays is the QB coach at Blinn CC. One might see him as average, but for what he had to do, I'll say he was Above Average for what he was asked to do.

It will be interesting to see how Wilson and Thompson make their mark in their final season at Utah. Will their senior year's make or break their careers, and push them to excellence in the history of Utah Football?