Spring football has come and gone for the Utes. The Red and White game marked the end of 2015 spring ball and the end of the very first phase of the college football season. During the spring, some players switched positions, coaches made evaluations and the depth chart was tweaked. The quarterback position, which had a log jam at the end of last season, was thinned by the transfer of Adam Schulz and Jason Thompson's switch to safety. The coaching staff has made it clear the starting quarterback spot is up for grabs. With that, here is a look at how the quarterbacks are doing heading into the fall.
At this point the quarterback group is split into two groups. The first group consists of Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson. Both are seniors, both have started in big games for the Utes and both have delivered memorable wins in pressure packed situations. Utah's starting quarterback on September 3rd will be one of these two guys.
Thompson, still recovering from an ACL injury, did not participate in spring ball, so it is hard to say exactly where he fits in the quarterback equation currently. Thompson will be back for fall camp and popular thought is he will push Travis Wilson for the starting spot. Wilson performed well enough in spring ball and did nothing to lose his starting position. Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick recruited Wilson and the two have a good relationship which only helps in Wilson's quest to retain the starting job. Still head coach Kyle Whittingham made no bones about the starting job still being open after spring ball, saying Wilson would have to continue performing well through the fall to remain the no.1 quarterback. Thompson will get a fair shake to see what he can do coming back from injury and it's likely Utah fans will again see both on the field this season for the Utes.
The other group consists of Chase Hansen, Brandon Cox, Conner Manning and Donovan Isom. Heading into spring, no one really knew what Chase Hansen would look like after being away on his mission for two years and none of the other three had seen extensive playing time in their careers. Spring provided an opportunity for these four to create some separation between each other.
The clear winner of this group was Chase Hansen. The return missionary impressed the coaching staff and solidly claimed the no. 2 spot behind Wilson during spring ball. The dual threat quarterback was a known quantity as runner, having played running back in high school before switching to quarterback, but there were still questions about his throwing ability. Hansen seemed to answer many of those questions during spring ball and showed an ability to make plays. Due to a minor injury on his pinky finger, the coaches held him out of the Red and White game.There are still some questions about his arm strength, but his play making ability might give give him a real chance to push Thompson for the backup spot come Fall.
Brandon Cox and Conner Manning seemed to battle it out for the next spot behind Hansen for much of fall camp with Isom bringing up the rear. Despite competing for the same spot, Cox and Manning are two completely different quarterbacks. Cox is a true dual threat and probably the best pure athlete at the quarterback position. His throwing accuracy has not been good however, and he struggled throughout spring ball throwing interceptions and struggling to connect with his receivers. Manning is a prototypical pocket passer. He has a strong arm but has also struggled with accuracy. Anyone who watched the spring game was able to see Manning is not ready for the spotlight, as he threw three picks and should have had two more, if not for drops by Brian Allen and Evan Eggiman.
Donovan Isom got some much needed reps during spring ball after redshirting last year. The guy has a cannon for an arm and good mobility. Isom's talent is obvious when watching him play, but he hasn't quite put it all together. Like Manning and Cox, Isom has struggled with accuracy, and in the spring game threw for only 15 yards on 15 attempts. Isom will need to sit and learn for another year but the future looks bright for him.
Come Fall, Wilson, Thompson and Hansen will receive all the reps leaving Cox, Manning and Isom on the sideline watching. With the accuracy struggles, it would not be surprising to see Brandon Cox make a position change at some point in the next year. He is athletic enough, he could make a difference at a couple different spots on the field. As for Manning, his style of play doesn't seem suited to the spread style offense Roderick runs. It would not be shocking if Manning decides to leave the program in search of opportunites that fit his strengths better elsewhere. Hansen will have an opportunity to take big strides in fall camp to not just push for a backup spot this year, but to also take steps toward becoming the front runner for the starting spot next year. In the meantime, we'll wait for fall camp, where more questions regarding the quarterback spot will be answered.